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Differentiating questions | helping people distinguish between type 4 and type 9

Enneagram types 4 and 9 don’t usually cause confusion when people are trying to identify their Enneagram type accurately, but it does happen occasionally. The most common reason is when a 9 has a particular affinity for the more robust emotionality that goes with type 4. Because 9s merge with people with whom they feel an affinity – that is, they lose themselves in the energy and character of the person with whom they are merging – the 9 could mistake him- or herself for a 4.

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 | emotionality
In your emotional life, even if you don’t show it outwardly, are you highly intense and dynamic or are you mellow and low key?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s, no matter what subtype, have an intense, dynamic, intricate, and robust interior emotional life. Some 4s express most of this externally, some keep their emotions more to themselves, and other 4s are a combination of external and internal expression of feeling. However, the emotional structure of 4s is the same: dynamic and intense.

Type 9 | 9s keep their emotions at a temperate range at almost all times, whether or not they express their feelings externally. In other words, 9s do experience a range of feelings, but most of their emotions are in the low intensity range. If, on occasion, 9s have more intense feelings, it often takes them a long time to recognize this.

Question approach | deep talk or small talk
When you engage with others in conversation, is your preference for – and are you adept at – deep, meaningful, and authentic conversations, or do you prefer and are adept at small talk or schmoozing in order to develop rapport?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s prefer the deepest and most real conversations possible, often getting bored or feeling ill at ease with small talk. When engaged in small talk, 4s often don’t know what to say and have difficulty connecting with other people in this way.

Type 9 | 9s are the masters of schmoozing. Most 9s can talk about just about anything for quite a while. Doing so relaxes them, puts them and others at ease, and establishes rapport. 9s can also engage authentically, but for the most part, they don’t do so with great intensity.

Question approach | lamenting or being optimistic
When something doesn’t go as you’d hoped, do you lament about this in your conversations as a way to share your feelings or do you keep your feelings more to yourself and turn to a more optimistic view of what has occurred?
Listen for this
Type 4 | 4s like to share their feelings, displeasures, and disappointments with others. Doing this helps 4s more clearly identify what they are experiencing and, it helps them to feel both supported and understood by others. Eventually, 4s may take a more optimistic perspective, but not initially.

Type 9 | 9s rarely lament when things don’t turn out the way they’d hoped. They may talk about the situation with others, but they tend to do so more in a descriptive way than in a lamenting manner. With something quite troubling, a 9 might lament internally but rarely is this shared except with very close friends and family.

On my website, TheEnneagramInBusiness.com, there is a special section titled “Enneagram Style Differentiators,“ where you can click on types 4 and 9 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. ginger@theenneagraminbusiness.com