The Enneagram is more than a personality system. In fact, it isn’t really a personality system because personality refers to behaviors and traits that are persistent and measurable. Enneagram type is far more than behavior and traits. Enneagram type includes many other factors such as drives and motivation, patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and more.
If the nine types were personality, these measurable behaviors and traits would also need to be unique to each type. And they are not! Several types exhibit very similar behaviors and traits, but for different reasons.
The nine types actually represent nine distinct aspects of the human ego. Getting your type ‘right’ is essential given that deep psychological and spiritual development is directly connected to type. From my experience training professionals who work with the Enneagram, here are five of the 10 key reasons people get their types wrong.
Insufficient knowledge of the Enneagram
People who are trying to self-type or people trying to type others simply do not have the knowledge base and skills to do this effectively. The Enneagram is not a simple system, it is a dynamic one with multiple layers.
Misunderstood, old or incorrect concepts
Some people have typed themselves or been typed decades ago when many aspects of the modern usage of Enneagram were not fully uncovered, not that we aren’t still learning more about the types and the system. Or perhaps someone learned the Enneagram recently, but was using an older book or learning from someone who had learned it long ago, perhaps incompletely.
Focusing on what and not why
For newcomers, this is the biggest issue related to mis-identification of type. People focus on specific behaviors – for example, “Which type works hard?” or “Which type cares about what people think of them?” These questions fall into the category of what, and what will never get to accurate typing. The key thing that matters is the why behind the what. Why does a person work hard or why do they care what others think.
Lack of self-awareness
If a person is not very self-aware, it is very difficult for them to answer questions accurately about themselves. Their self-inquiry is stunted and limited, making accurate typing challenging.
While subtypes – the three versions of each type based on the catalytic intersection of the most activated basic instinct and the type’s passion – are not new to the Enneagram, we are learning more and more about them. Many of the subtypes can be easily confused with another type, so without sufficient subtype knowledge, mistyping occurs.
The second part of this blog covers the remaining five reasons for mistyping.
Primary reliance on tests
Overlays (family, culture)
Teachers telling type
Teachers not guiding
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. firstname.lastname@example.org