Type 4s and 8s are very similar and very different. To be more precise, a specific subtype of 8, the 1-1 subtype, can look very much like the 1-1 subtype of type 4. The reason for this potential confusion is that 1-1s 8s are highly emotional, just as 1-1 4s are, and both 1-1 8s and 1-1 4s can be highly territorial, possessive and competitive in relation to what they think and feel belongs to them. The other reason 4s and 8s can be confused is that both are part of the Enneagram “intensity” triad. This means that in general, 4s and 8s (along with 6s) tend to be more intense that the other six Enneagram types.
Here are some differentiating questions that you might find useful. Two caveats for the questions to work effectively: (1) the question only works if the person has narrowed down the possible types to these two only and (2) once the question is asked and the answer is offered, it really matters that the guider/teacher/coach understands the meaning of what is being said.
Question approach | getting what you want
Do you think you can’t really have what you want or do you believe you can go after and take whatever you desire?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s start from a place of anticipating that their desires will be frustrated. They may know what they want, but their operating assumption is that they usually can’t have this. Some 4s desire something and get paralyzed instead of going after it, while others may go after something aggressively, but often don’t get what they want to their satisfaction.
Type 8 | 8s usually know what they want and believe they can simply go after it directly and take it. In other words, they expect to get their desires fulfilled and so they, in a sense, grab what they feel they need. Of course, they may not always get the object of desire or their need met, but more often they do.
Question approach | making decisions
When you make decisions, is it more from your heart or primarily from your gut?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s almost always make decisions from their heart – the Emotional Center of Intelligence – and if they use a backup, it is usually their minds or Mental Center of Intelligence. It is possibly but unlikely that some 4s would say they make decisions from their guts, but if you ask more questions and upon more reflection on their part, 4s often say decisions come initially from their Emotional Center.
Type 8 | 8s almost always say that they make decisions from their guts, and they are quite emphatic about this. Decision making is something they pride themselves in doing swiftly and strongly. Like 4s, 8s might use their Mental Center as a back-up, but rarely the Heart Center.
Question approach | tuning into other people
Do you tune into how others are responding to you and care about this or do you not care much about it, even if you might be good at reading other people?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s are extraordinarily sensitive to the responses of others, even if they sometimes read these responses incorrectly. And 4s do care about the reactions of others a great deal and will admit this.
Type 8 | 8s can be excellent readers of other people, and some 8s are not. However, reading others is not a pre-occupation with them. And most 8s, unless it is their personal domain or unless they are keen on developing another person, don’t truly care nearly so much as 4s about what is occurring inside the psyches of other people.
On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 4 and 8 to read about how they are similar and different. This section may stimulate additional differentiating questions you can ask. Click here to be directed to this section.
Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of six best-selling Enneagram-business books, is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach. She provides certification programs for professionals around the world who want to bring the Enneagram into organizations with high-impact business applications, and is past-president of the International Enneagram Association. Visit her website: TheEnneagramInBusiness.com. firstname.lastname@example.org