The Enneagram, a profound way of understanding people from all cultures, describes the nine fundamental architectures of human beings. Although the Enneagram is often referred to as a personality system, it is far more than that. As you’ll learn, the Enneagram is also more than character structure. Both personality and character refer to persistent features of human behavior. The nine Enneagram types represent nine distinct aspects of the human Ego.
Personality exists in the domain of empirical psychology. Research and theory from the field of psychology defines personality as traits and behaviors capable of being measured. They include factors such as introversion, ambition, agreeableness and sociability. All these can be both observed and with some degree of objectivity, measured.
The nine Enneagram types are not nine sets of distinct traits or behaviors. In fact, several Enneagram types may have some similar traits and behaviors. As a key area to consider, take being hardworking or being sociable-relational. These traits may appear similar. However, the motivations driving these traits are fundamentally different.
Ones seek a perfect world and work diligently to improve both themselves and everyone and everything around them.
Strengths | strive for quality | organized | perceptive | honest
Development | reactive | critical | opinionated | impatient
Ones search for perfection and avoid making mistakes. Symbolized by this simple and elegant tree, Ones are rooted and grounded, upright in a variety of ways, and they are also prudent a self-contained, and more structured than flexible.
Discerning and judging, quality-focused and responsible, organized and resentful, Enneagram Ones structure their worlds and exert self-control in order to ensure that they, others around them, and their environments align as closely as possible to their refined and precise ideals and standards of excellence. Ones don’t really believe that true perfection is possible, but they do believe what matters most is that people are constantly working on improvement toward these ideals.
All Ones have an internalized set of high standards, a long series of expectations about how they and others should behave, as well as how activities should be structured and executed. All Ones, however, do not necessarily share the same exact standards. In addition, some Ones worry in advance about meeting their standards and getting everything right; some Ones perceive themselves as closer to perfect than the rest of us and view themselves as role models of excellence; and some Ones direct their standards of perfection to others by constantly trying to improve them!
The One’s interpersonal style is normally clear, precise, direct, and exacting, using carefully chosen words and phrases expressed in a seemingly polite manner. They are both self-controlled and spontaneously reactive, amused and skeptical, playful yet decidedly serious, and gracious, yet prone to flares of irritation or outbursts of anger.
While we can all be perfectionists at times, with high standards and a tendency to criticize both ourselves and others, for Ones, the search for perfection and the avoidance of mistakes is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Twos want to be liked by those they want to like them, try to meet the needs of others, and attempt to orchestrate the people and events in their lives.
Strengths | empathic | supportive | motivating | warm
Development | accommodating | indirect | angry when unappreciated | overextending
Twos search for appreciation and avoid feeling unworthy. Symbolized by this gift they continuously want to offer others, the gifts that Twos give contain something they believe the other person wants or needs: attention, resources, time, an object the other admired, a poem or a kind word, advice, or even a surprise.
Optimistic, generous, and emphatic, Enneagram Twos focus on the needs and behavior of others far more than on their own needs and desires; they develop an intuitive ability to know how to best support others in achieving their dreams or in minimizing their suffering. It can be misleading to think that all Twos want everyone with whom they come in contact to like them. A more accurate understanding is that Twos want, and even expect, the people they want to like them to respond favorably, but care far less – if at all – whether people they dislike find them appealing. What is true of almost all Twos is that they can become extremely distressed when someone whose opinion or affection they care about perceives them in a negative way.
Most Twos appear warm, are good listeners, and offer advice that they hope and expect others will take. Some Twos appear vulnerable, even childlike as if needing protection; other Twos exhibit more assertiveness, focusing their efforts to help or move groups or institutions in a forward direction; and other Twos derive their sense of value and importance by being desirable and indispensible to special individuals in their lives.
Twos tend to engage with others in a consistently warm way, usually asking questions of others more often than talking about themselves. While most Twos have well-developed interpersonal skills, they can also become self-effacing and uncomfortable when the focus is primarily on them.
While we can all be thoughtful and want others to value us, for Twos, the search for appreciation and the avoidance of feeling unworthy is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Threes organize their lives to achieve specific goals and to appear successful in order to gain the respect and admiration of others.
Strengths | energetic | entrepreneurial | confident | results oriented
Development | competitive | abrupt | overly focused | selectively disclosing
Threes search for success and avoid failure at all costs. Symbolized by the target, Threes take steady aim at their goals, develop a plan for hitting the bull’s eye, and then do everything they can to hit their mark.
High energy, confident, and achievement oriented, Enneagram Threes focus on results they believe will bring them the respect of others and on efficient and effective plans for accomplishing these goals. As a result, they create a persona of confidence and success, but often at the expense of being completely genuine. They lose touch with their deeper feelings and sense of who they really are, confusing their “public” image with their real selves.
Although all Threes share a success orientation and constant need to have goals and plans, there are also differences among them. Some Threes are highly self-reliant, strive to be the model of a “good” person, and create an image of being authentic and having no image; other Threes create an image of being high status, having prestige, and being important as a result of their ability to perform and their credentials, position, and high-influence friends; and some Threes focus more on creating an image of being extremely attractive in a highly masculine or feminine way, having less need for visibility and a greater desire to support the success of important people in their lives.
The Three’s interpersonal style is one of having strong, deliberate, and confident stage presence. They convey their ideas in a well-conceived and highly self-assured way, have strong social skills except when they are stressed – at which times they can be cold and abrupt – and often appear as if they were born to give public presentations.
While we can all be results-oriented and have difficulty differentiating between what we do or how we try to appear and who we really are, for Threes, the search for success and the avoidance of failure is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Fours desire deep connections with their own inner worlds and with others and feel most alive when they authentically express their feelings and experiences.
Strengths | inspiring | creative | introspective | expressive
Development | intense | self-conscious | moody | guilt-ridden
Fours search for deep experiences and emotional connection and avoid rejection and feeling not-good-enough. Symbolized by the jigsaw puzzle piece, Fours perceive themselves as a puzzle, trying to figure out why they feel so different from others and what makes them unique.
Individualistic, emotionally sensitive, and creative, Fours seek deep meaning, authentic connections, and they tend to idealize that which seems unavailable, being especially attuned to what is missing in their complex worlds. Focusing on their internal experiences as a way of understanding and finding meaning, Fours seek to be deeply understood and want to be perceived as unique, special, or different.
Although all Fours have a special connection to suffering and have robust, complex inner lives full of nuance and symbolism, some Fours are hyper-active and risk-taking, silently enduring their suffering as a badge of virtue; some Fours are hypersensitive and more despairing, wanting to be accepted unconditionally for who they are; and some Fours exhibit a flair for the dramatic and engage in extreme competition with others in hopes of winning and taking center-stage, thus minimizing their sense of not being good enough.
The Four’s interpersonal style combines an abundance of self-referencing speech – that is, the extensive use of words such as I, me, my, and mine as well as personal stories – and they often use emotion-laden and metaphoric language. It is as if their own inner worlds are the center of the universe, or at least, the center of their universe.
While we can all suffer at times and almost everyone wants to be understood, for Fours, the search for deep experiences and connection and the avoidance of rejection or feeling not-good-enough is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Fives thirst for information and knowledge and use emotional detachment as a way of keeping involvement with others to a minimum.
Strengths | analytic | objective | systematic | expert
Development | secretive | detached | autonomous | under-emphasize relationships
Fives search for knowledge and wisdom and avoid intrusion and loss of energy. Symbolized by the light bulb of mental knowledge, Fives try to accumulate information from which they can gain insight.
Emotionally detached, private, self-controlled, and highly independent – autonomous may be a more accurate description – Fives have an insatiable need to know, particularly about areas that interest or concern them. Fully understanding how everything works and fits together helps Fives believe that they are on the path to wisdom, but just as important, accumulating knowledge helps them feel prepared for the inevitable surprises they would prefer to not experience. The quest for privacy is a constant among Fives, although the areas they consider private vary widely. Some Fives like to share their knowledge, while others consider this proprietary. Some Fives are highly private about what they do in their spare time, while others consider their age, marital status, and other such personal information to be in the confidential realm.
All Fives automatically detach from their feelings in the actual moment of an emotional experience, reactivating some of these feelings later, at a more convenient and private time. Fives also compartmentalize or isolate aspects of their lives from other parts. However, the content of what Fives compartmentalize can differ widely. Some Fives compartmentalize their work life from their home life; others keep their friends separated from one another; and other Fives keep themselves isolated from other people.
In addition, most Fives are extremely wary of intrusions on their physical space, their time and energy, and demands for intense interpersonal interactions. Some keep extremely controlled boundaries and are attached to their seclusion, coming out for more engagement at specifically selected moments; others are more outgoing and social – though the content of their conversations tends to be information and facts that interest them – and are so drawn to lofty ideals that they can lose interest in everyday life; and some Fives engage primarily with the few others they completely trust and with whom they feel a special bond.
The Five’s interpersonal style is highly self-contained, with little animation in either their voice tone or body language. They may appear forthcoming about giving information and others less so, but all Fives appear remote to some degree. Some Fives may be engaging in a way that attracts others and others less so, but all Fives make it obvious that there are clear boundaries about what they will discuss and how they will discuss it.
While we can all be emotionally detached and many people enjoy interesting information, for Fives, the search for knowledge and wisdom and the avoidance of intrusion and loss of energy is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Sixes are insightful, prone to worry, and create anticipatory scenarios in order to feel prepared if something goes wrong; some engage in risk to prove their fearlessness.
Strengths | loyal | collaborative | persevering | problem solving
Development | worrying | tolerance of ambiguity | analysis paralysis | martyring
Sixes search for meaning, certainty, and trust and avoid negative scenarios from occurring. Symbolized by the question mark inside the mind, Sixes question everything as a way to feel prepared for every contingency.
Sharp-minded, insightful, and loyal, Sixes are issue identifiers and problem solvers, with a mental-emotional antenna that is finely attuned to anticipate problems before they occur so that alternative paths and contingency plans can be created. This is done to ensure the best possible outcome and prevent the worst from happening. Although the above description applies to all Sixes, Sixes are complex individuals who run the gamut from phobic Sixes, who are overtly and palpably fearful, to counter-phobic. Sixes, who often mask their fear by taking dramatic risks – often, but not always, physical ones – that adrenalize them and prove to themselves and others, at least for the moment, that they are not fearful. Many Sixes display characteristics of the phobic and the counter-phobic Six.
All Sixes worry as a habit of mind, although some Sixes call it instantaneous anticipatory planning or problem solving, and other Sixes do this so naturally that they no longer notice it. There are also key differences among Sixes. Some Sixes deal with their concerns by becoming warm, inviting, and by developing strong and loyal social alliances as a way to feel safe; other Sixes become extraordinarily dutiful and try to know and adhere to the “rules” as a way to not get in trouble by going astray; and still other Sixes – the highly counter-phobic Sixes – unconsciously turn against their fear with demonstrations of strength as a way to convince themselves and others of their bravery. In reality, most phobic Sixes have some counter-phobic qualities – for example, they can become aggressive toward authority or authority figures – and most counter-phobic Sixes do share their fears and concerns to those they trust or through their non-verbal behavior.
Sixes have a variety of interpersonal styles, but most are warm, loyal, appear genuine, displaying a relative lack of pretentiousness, candid, agile in expressing concerns, and willing to talk truthfully about themselves.
While we can all worry, be insightful, and want to feel well-prepared for the various scenarios life offers, for Sixes, the search for meaning, certainty, and trust, and the avoidance of negative scenarios from occurring is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Sevens crave stimulation from new ideas, people, and experiences, avoid pain, and engage in positive possibility planning in order to keep all of their options open.
Strengths | imaginative | enthusiastic | engaging | quick thinking
Development | impulsive | unfocused | rebellious | pain avoidant
Sevens search for pleasure and stimulation and avoid pain and discomfort. Symbolized by the glass of champagne, Sevens are bubbly and effervescent, trying to enjoy life’s pleasures and positive possibilities.
Spontaneous, engaging, and multitasking to an extreme, Sevens are upbeat, energetic, and need to feel that they have all options possible open to them. Elaborate future planners, dreamers and visionaries, Sevens generate enthusiasm, push boundaries, and avoid painful experiences by conjuring up new ideas, engaging with people or activities that excite them, and by rationalizing negative experiences through a positive reframing of events.
Almost all Sevens have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, as their attention shifts from one idea, activity, or person to the next thing that grabs their interest, and they also have a contagious sense of optimism that comes from a sense that everything is possible. Some Sevens create extensive social networks, a kind of collective surrogate family that gives them the support to make the best of every opportunity; other Sevens restrain their desire to have everything as a way to sacrifice themselves in the service of the group; and still other Sevens are unabashed dreamers, looking to everything new to stimulate and excite them.
Their interpersonal style can be described as fast-talking and even faster thinking, with a mental process that moves 1000 miles per hour and jumps from topic to topic. While some Sevens are quiet, most Sevens say what’s on their minds as soon as they think it. And although their ideas may seem loosely connected to the rest of us, Sevens make these associative connections instantly and share them in rapid fire, using voices filled with enthusiasm and energy.
While we can all be creative thinkers, enjoy the rush of adrenalin, and prefer pleasure to pain, for Sevens, the search for pleasure and stimulation and the avoidance of pain and discomfort is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Eights pursue the truth and justice, like to keep situations under control, want to make important things happen, and try to hide their vulnerability.
Strengths | direct | strategic | protective | big action oriented
Development | controlling | demanding | disdain weakness | intimidating
Eights search for control and justice and avoid feeling vulnerable or weak. Symbolized by the mountain, Eights are solid and often immovable, strong, and difficult to penetrate.
Assertive, bold, and confident, Eights are highly independent, with a tendency to both protect and control people and events around them and a deep commitment to truth, justice, and equity or fairness. Most Eights are excessive in some way, particularly when they feel anxious or vulnerable. Because they strongly prefer to not show this side of themselves to others, perceiving such feelings as signaling weakness, Eights mask their tender side by engaging in excessiveness in a variety of forms: over-work, too much or too little exercise, erratic or unhealthy eating, and other forms of over-consumption, such as incessant shopping or the purchasing of items – often expensive ones – that they don’t really need.
Eights want to get their needs and desires met, want to make big things happen quickly, much akin to moving mountains, and most have a big presence even when they are saying little. Eights can also appear somewhat different from one another. Some Eights are quiet with a low threshold for frustration and an ability to survive and gain control in almost any situation; other Eights are social rebels and protective of others to an extreme; and some Eights are highly emotional, extraordinarily passionate, and enjoy being more center stage.
The Eight’s interpersonal style is assertive, and they use voice modulation and non-verbal behavior for effect and impact. For example, they may use a strident voice, direct eye contact, and move closer to others as a way to take charge or make their point, or they may use a softer voice tone, warm eye contact, and a smile to appear gracious, hospitable, or non-threatening.
While we can all highly value truth-telling and pursue justice, want to make big things happen, and have issues with not appearing weak, for Eights, the search for control and justice and the avoidance of vulnerability is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.
Nines seek peace, harmony, and positive mutual regard and dislike conflict, tension, demands, and ill will.
Strengths | diplomatic | easygoing | accepting | affable
Development | conflict avoidant | unassertive | procrastinating | indecisive
Nines search for harmony and comfort and avoid tension and conflict. Symbolized by yin and yang, Nines try to reconcile oppositional ideas, forces, and perspectives as a way to have all perspectives considered.
Relaxed, easy to relate to, and accepting, Nines perceive and honor multiple viewpoints and are usually excellent facilitators, drawing out the ideas of others so everyone gets heard. While they value harmony, seek comfortable ways of relating, and are often adept mediators of conflict between and among others, most Nines are extremely uncomfortable with conflict when it’s directed toward them and even more uncomfortable when they feel angry with someone else. As a result, Nines keep themselves from doing anything that might generate conflict or create disharmony; they keep themselves from being aware that they are upset; don’t express opinions or preferences that could cause discord or disagreements; and diffuse their attention by engaging in activities that comfort them, rather than focus them on their own desires or priorities. As examples, Nines may do some of the following: watch television for hours, flipping television channels on a regular basis; cut the grass or work in the garden when they have projects at work or home they should be doing; go shopping or walk the dog for extended periods of time as a way of avoiding what they should be doing; or even do the dishes in an overly thorough way rather than have a difficult conversation with someone or do work they don’t feel like doing.
While Nines appear easygoing on the outside, many experience some degree of internal tension, and they are not always as non-judgmental as they appear. In addition, some Nines tend to satisfy their desire for comfort through the satisfaction of their physical needs – for example, eating, sleeping, and/or reading; some Nines submerge themselves in service of group needs by working extraordinary hours, which allows them to forget about their own desires; and other Nines find such comfort in fusing or blending almost completely with other people who are important to them that they lose a sense of themselves in the process.
The Nine’s interpersonal style is agreeable, relatively unassertive, and non-invasive, and they are often able to talk with others about a variety of topics in an easy-going manner. For example, Nines often nod their heads in affirmation or say “Uh, huh,” which doesn’t mean they agree with the other person, just that they heard what was said. Affable and humorous, they express themselves indirectly rather than boldly or directly as a way to create and maintain positive relationships and reduce potential discord between themselves and others.
While we can all prefer rapport and ease to discord, for Nines, the search for harmony and comfort and the avoidance of conflict is their primary, persistent, and driving motivation.