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Enneagram typing | positive outlook triad differentiating questions

The last blog focused on how to use one version of the Hornevian Triads – and there are several versions – in helping people to discern their type. The Competency Triad (1, 3, 5) was covered, so this blog’s focus is on a second triangle or triad within the Enneagram, the Positive Outlook Triad (2, 7, 9). These are the three enneatypes with the most optimistic or positive view of reality, but this common view exists for three different reasons that align and support the ego structure. To use the term Positive Outlook Triad is not intended to mean that these three types are happier than the other six types, nor that they live in a world of gratitude. It also not to suggest that others should aspire to be like these types; a life of true gratitude and deep appreciation reduces stress and increases well-being, but only when it comes from a high-functioning person who is well-balanced, awake, and integrated both psychologically and spiritually.

Below is a review of how people first approach the identification of their type:

In my practice, participants use Typing Cards after giving an initial verbal and visual overview of the system, and sort the cards – which have a graphic, a type description paragraph, two positive and two negative words that go with that type, plus a defining characteristic of that type – into three piles: yes, no and maybe. Yes means this card really describes me well, no means the card doesn’t fit in any way, and maybe means part of the card fits and part of it does not. Then, participants rank order their yes pile into most-to-least accurate in terms of the degree to which it describes them. It happens just enough that some participants have 2, 7 and 9 in their yes pile, and they wonder why, since there is no obvious connection between and among these types on the Enneagram symbol.

I have learned over time to answer this question by explaining the Positive Outlook Triad, offering up some questions for them to consider and answer, and this then can help them narrow down their enneatype. Here’s the simple explanation and intervening questions I ask, and the process seems to work well:

Commentary: “There are several triangles or groupings of three on the Enneagram, and 2, 7 and 9 are part of the Positive Outlook Trio or Triad. What that means is that these three Enneagram types tend to have a very positive or optimistic outlook on life in general.”
Question: “Are you highly optimistic?”
Response patterns: Most 2s, 7s and 9s give an instantaneous affirmative response, both verbally and non-verbally. For example, they often just say yes and with a big smile. They often offer a story from their own life that illustrates their optimism. Others who are not in this triad – and this is rare for people who have selected these three types in their yes typing card stack – will take more time to answer, ask a question to understand more of what is meant, or may say a weak yes but their body language does not match a strong yes. In other words, there may be a verbal or non-verbal hesitancy or lack of clarity.

With people who appear to be in the Positive Outlook Triad, I offer more commentary about the difference in positive outlook for these three types:

Commentary: “Positive Outlook means something different to each of the three types. For Twos, being positive is really a belief in people and relationships, a tendency to see the best in others and a desire to bring this quality out in them. For Sevens, a positive outlook is in the mind, a belief that anything is possible, a sense of why feel bad when you could feel good, and a belief that their job is to create joy and positivity in the world. For Nines, the positive outlook is lower key and less intense, but still positive as they can see both and all sides of a situation, move away from tension and negativity because it stresses them physically.”
Question: “Which Positive Outlook best matches yours?”
Response patterns: Most people who are 2s, 7s, or 9s can easily answer this question, and so their type becomes more clear. The main exception to this has been someone who isn’t aware enough to give a precise answer, but this doesn’t mean the person isn’t in the Positive Outlook Triad. The reason they may well fit into this grouping is that in addition to having rose-colored glasses on, 2s, 7s and 9s tend to not focus on their interior worlds as much as the other six types unless they have done substantial self-development work. Twos focus on other people rather than themselves; Sevens focus on what stimulates them externally, moving from one “shiny object” to the next; and Nines defuse their attention by blending and merging as a way to forget themselves, not paying attention to internal nuances.

Occasionally, a Three may perceive him- or herself as positive in outlook and may also appear this way to others. Many Threes are very positive in a “can-do” way. However, when the description of the particular positive outlook that goes with the three types in this Triad (2, 7, and 9) is explained, Threes do not relate to them.

Summary
Of course there are many other ways to distinguish between and among these three enneatypes; the above process is simply one and it is pretty clear and fast. Communication style, body language, type-based worldviews and motivations, and many other factors also matter. But this is a good start!

In the blog that will follow, I will share the process for helping to differentiate type in the remaining Hornevian Triad, the Emotional Intensity Triad (4, 6 and 8).

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