To help clients, friends, program participants, family members and even strangers on an airplane identify their types more accurately, I have found that certain characteristics help people do this better. Of course, this comes only after they have learned about the system and the 9 types and are narrowing down their options, often choosing between two or three types. It is also helpful when they think they are a type that may not actually fit them.
Here are some defining questions to illuminate the characteristics for each type, along with some commentary that may be helpful as you discover (uncover) your own type and/or assist others in doing the same:
Do you have an ongoing voice or message in your mind that criticizes you when you make any errors whatsoever or warns you in advance that you are about to make a mistake and is this voice “on” at least 85% of the time or even more?
Note: It is the fact that this voice is chronic rather than sporadic and that it points out mistakes, errors and wrong-doings so easily and repeatedly that differentiates this quality from the rest of us, who may also have a self-critic that is active. Many Ones say they even have this voice in their sleep-states. It serves as a protective guard as well as an internal critic and rarely affirms.
Do you have a sense of a balloon in your heart area that gets really big (inflates) and feels great when (1) you have a positive interaction with someone with whom you have or want to have a relationship, or (2) when you give advice or orchestrate something with others and it goes really well, or (3) when you have worked on behalf of others and they are deeply appreciative? And does that balloon get deeply deflated when the opposite of the above three factors occurs or when your intentions get misinterpreted in a negative way?
Note: This is the somatic and emotional experience of “pride,” the passion for enneatype Two, so it would be an experience that is very familiar to them if they are Twos.
Do you believe you are only as good as your last performance or work effort so that you must constantly prove yourself and impress others through your “can do” results-orientation and your ongoing demeanor of competence?
Note: This question gets at both the “vanity” (the type fixation) and “deceit” (the type passion) without using these words because these words can be challenging for Threes to accept about themselves when first learning the Enneagram.
Do you have the inner experience of always feeling different from others in a way you can’t exactly define and are not sure if your difference makes you deficient or superior to others, as if you came through a conveyor belt of humans where everyone looks the same, but one (that is you!) has an invisible difference that can never be fully understood, addressed or rectified?
Note: This addresses the existential angst of Fours, the question of “Who am I” that is related to their passion of “envy” (the continuous comparison of self to others).
Do you chronically and automatically disconnect from your feelings and your body, moving instantly into your mind so that you no longer experience your feelings or you body, almost as if you have vacated most of yourself, then go off at a later time and sort some of your feelings mentally, but not emotionally as well?
Note: Many people who experience minimal feelings or just some feelings and who are intellectually oriented can think they are Fives, but are not. For example, Threes push feelings aside, but still have them. Nines push most feelings down quite deeply, but their feelings are still there, just at a low volume. Sevens disconnect from sadness by moving into pleasurable possibility planning, but don’t disconnect from joy and do experience some anxiety and anger. The almost complete disconnection and vacating of everything but the mind is what distinguishes Fives from other types.
Are you intense and constantly questioning or planning for every possible contingency you can imagine, believing you can only relax when you have figured everything out and do you engage in what others might perceive as risky behavior (often, but not always, physical risk) as a way to assure yourself and/or confirm that you can handle just about anything?
Note: Sixes, unless they are very phobic or highly counter-phobic, can be difficult in terms of asking just one question because they are so complex and so different from one another depending on their subtype (self-preserving, social or one-to-one), but the question above is a good start!
Do you believe that anything (emphasis on anything) is possible if you just put your mind to it, that no one (emphasis on no one) has the right to restrict you, and that there can never be enough options?
Note: This is a good starting question, one that can be followed with a question about how they experience the ability to focus and be still, since Sevens find both very difficult.
Do you feel it is absolutely your job to protect people from injustice, think the world is divided into the strong and the weak (and you are among the strong), and have trouble finding people who are big enough and strong enough to support you?
Note: The above question is far better than asking about revenge (the fixation for Eights) or lust (the passion for Eights) since both words do carry a negative connotation, not something desired when trying to assist others in finding their type.
Do you have great difficulty even feeling your anger much less expressing it, like mediating differences between and among others, and have ease getting others to speak but difficulty expressing your own opinion, especially early on in a conversation or meeting?
Note: This question gets at behavior and, to some degree, their inner experience dealing with conflict, which is a good place to start with Nines.