What is the Enneagram and Why Do I Need to Know About it?

The Enneagram has been making the rounds in recent years, and I have participated in some trainings and read a few books about it. I find it to be a useful tool or structure for personal and relational growth, and it’s worth looking into. To get you started, I’ll give you a few of my thoughts on it…

First, the name: “ennea” means nine and “gram” means figure. Thus, enneagram means nine-sided figure. The enneagram is formed by the lines that connect nine different personality types. The types are designated by their number as opposed to a name, which keeps each type neutral. For example, a “three” personality type doesn’t elicit any emotional response whereas an “achiever” personality type can have a negative or positive connotation. So, the enneagram is made up of types one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine. A person’s type is their perspective through which they view the world… think of it as a "lens."

I’m not going to take the time here to write about each type because there are other websites that go into excellent detail about them. What I will say is that finding your type is NOT where the enneagram ends – it’s where it BEGINS! The whole point of the enneagram (and what I find most compelling) is that we are not supposed to stay stuck in our type, but, rather, we are to move between all types as needed. This is a dynamic structure that encourages growth and change.

Further, to fully know your own type you actually have to know five of the types. Here’s where it can seem complicated, but stay with me! You have your main number: your "lens." That main number is connected to two other numbers (see the figure). If the main number is the "lens," the two numbers connected to that lens are the modes of operation: a safe mode and a stress mode. So, now you have three numbers to describe yourself. To make it even more nuanced, you have two wing options. The wing is the number immediately to the left and right of your main number. For example, the wings of a type 1 personality are 9 and 2. Now you have five numbers to describe yourself!

Learning the enneagram can feel like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant at first. Don’t be intimidated! It really is a lot of information to take in, so give yourself some time to digest it. You will absolutely need to go over the types multiple times for the information to stay with you. And let me encourage you to stick with it because I believe it’s worth it!

The enneagram identifies more than strengths and weaknesses – it identifies our motivators. When we know why we do what we do we have greater understanding and compassion for ourselves and for others. Ultimately this understanding can lead to change – and that’s really good news! The enneagram provides language to discuss some hard-to-reach subject matter. This is what makes the enneagram worth knowing.

If you are interested in learning more about the enneagram, feel free to reach out to me or to Mat Yelvington who is trained to give the WEPPS enneagram assessment.

Also, Mat and I are leading an enneagram workshop for couples on Nov. 2nd and would love to see you and your spouse there! Click here for more information.

Questions? Feel free to email Mat or me!