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Enneagram typing | most common methods for teaching type

There are many ways to teach the Enneagram system and to help others find their Enneagram type accurately. However, any method used requires the person teaching the Enneagram to know the Enneagram themselves in depth.

The most common methods include the following, accompanied by the pros and cons of each method: lectures, typing cards, interactive activities, type panels, typing interviews, and tests. These approaches are not mutually exclusive – that is, most Enneagram teachers, trainers and coaches use more than one approach, which is highly beneficial.

Lectures are effective if the trainer (1) knows the Enneagram well, (2) can explain the system and types to newcomers in a clear and accurate way, and (3) uses excellent teaching aids, such as PowerPoint slides, to support learning.

The issue when teaching through lecture only is that it requires that the trainer be an outstanding presenter who can maintain a level of excellence for an extended period of time – for example, 4-8 hours. In addition, a lecture-only method requires that participants are capable of absorbing material in a primarily auditory way; the normal attention span for lecture is somewhere between 15-30 minutes. In addition, lecture-only teaching offers only minimal assurance that a majority of the participants can identify their types accurately because there is little opportunity to verify type.

Typing cards
Typing cards are an effective typing method, and we provide two different sets of cards by which to do this: Enneagram Typing Cards and The Enneagram Discovery Deck, both of which are described below. Typing cards do not always give a definitive answer to type, but they do provide people with a kinesthetic way to consider certain types as more likely and to eliminate others. Other forms of typing cards are also available from other providers.

With both of my typing card options, people sort the cards into Yes, No, Maybe, then rank order their Yes pile from most Yes to least. Most people get their actual type in their Yes pile, often as #1 or #2. Most commonly, people find their type as their #1 card or among the top three cards. For this reason, and just as with all typing methods, the trainer or coach needs to know the Enneagram system and all nine types well enough to help the client differentiate between types because of “look-alikes,” wings and arrows of a type, subtypes, and other factors.

Interactive activities
Interactive activities not only engage people, they give people a first-hand experience of themselves. This matters in typing because how people think they are – also called “self-report” – may not be how they actually are. This can be true even for people who are relatively self-aware. Examples might include a somatic exercise where participants are directed to move in space from each Center of Intelligence – Head, Heart, and Body – and to then understand the degree of access they have to each Center. Other exercises would need to follow – for example, belief systems of each type posted on a wall, with participants then moving to the belief system that most aligns with how they think. And then more exercises would need to be carefully stacked upon these.

To construct these kinds of interactive activities and make them effective in helping people identify type, it takes a very savvy instructional designer with deep knowledge of the Enneagram and top-notch facilitation skills to be able to process the exercises.

Type panels
Enneagram type panels are a group of people of the same type – usually 3-6 people – interviewed by a trained Enneagram facilitator who asks the panelists a set of exploratory questions related to that particular type. The facilitator’s questions usually start out as general ones, after which the facilitator asks relevant probing questions related to the panelist’s response. The audience learns about the types based on the “stories” of the panelists and tries to assess which type panel might be most similar to them.

Type panels are an excellent way to teach Enneagram type, but the conditions need to be ideal. First, panels take time – at least 30-45 minutes per type panel – and because there are nine panels, teaching type by this method can take a minimum of two days. Second, effective type panels require that the panelists already know their type accurately. This is not possible if all participants are new to the Enneagram. Third, the group size must be large enough to get 27 panelists, three individuals of each type at a minimum. Finally, the panel facilitator must be well-trained and highly experienced in facilitating panels, as well as know the Enneagram in depth; otherwise, the panel facilitator will not know the best initial open-ended questions to ask each type panel or how to probe for more detailed and illuminating answers.

Typing interviews
Typing interviews involve an experienced Enneagram teacher interviewing another person and utilize specific, systematic questions that illuminate type. Interviews take between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours and may use questions that start with type 1 and end with type 9, or the questions may first focus on the three Centers of Intelligence, asking questions to identify the person’s primary Center – Head, Heart or Body – and then move to which of the three types in this Center is the best fit. These are just two examples of interviewing formats; there are many others.

Because typing interviews are highly personalized, they can be very effective if the interviewer knows the Enneagram well, is adept at developing typing questions, and is an excellent listener. Interviewers need to listen not just for the words used, but also pay attention to the other person’s body language, sentence construction, and more. I also use typing interviews in group settings, but I keep the questions non-invasive and seek to illuminate patterns rather than deeper psychological information.

Enneagram tests
There are five main Enneagram tests currently available, all of which are useful and have limitations when used in Enneagram typing. All five Enneagram tests also have validation and reliability studies to support their levels of accuracy, although they use different measures for this.

Most of the tests give percentages indicating the probability that the test-taker’s highest score is his or her type. Most tests also report the test-taker’s next highest scores and the percentage or likelihood that the second or third highest scoring types are the test-taker’s actual type. The fact that typing-test results are typically not stated as 100% definitive shows integrity on the part of the test creators. If all Enneagram test-takers were highly self-aware, typing-test results would become increasingly more accurate. If Enneagram type were personality or character, measuring these qualities and assessing individuals against them would be much easier. But because Enneagram type is Ego structure, a far more complex phenomenon, Enneagram typing instruments are complex to construct.

This also means that if you are an Enneagram teacher, trainer or coach who relies solely on the test to determine type and you don’t know the system and types well yourself, you won’t be able to help another person sort out the test results for accuracy. In addition, a test-taker, even if the type score is accurate, only learns his or her type, not the other eight types or the system as a whole. For these reasons, it is best to not rely solely (emphasis on the word solely) on tests for accurate typing.

The Art of Typing | This blog is an adapted excerpt from Ginger Lapid-Bogda’s new book, The Art of Typing: Powerful Tools for Enneagram Typing. In it, you’ll find infographics of the 9 different Enneagram Ego- structures, insightful questions and delightful illustrations to help differentiate between types, and other important factors to consider: overlays such as family, culture and gender, Centers of Intelligence, wings and arrows, Enneagram subtypes, and more.

Ginger Lapid-Bogda PhD, the author of seven 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

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