7 steps to determine your enneagram type
How do you determine your enneagram type? It is interesting that not a lot of sites offer a clear step by step appraoch. To be clear although these seven steps are relatively simple, not every aspect is easy. But it is very rewarding! So, if you follow these seven steps you should be able to get quite far in establishing which enneagram type you are, or even be quite certain. And, If you are not sure you can always get an enneagram coach to help you figure out your enneagram type.
What is the enneagram in short
The enneagram is a psychometrics model which can help you understand better who you are, in the sense of what your personality is. So knowing which enneagram type you are helps:
- To become aware of your patterns. Being aware gives you the option to do things differently compared to what you are used to.
- clarity of key issues between you and a significant other if you know their type (typically your partner, your boss, child, parent etc).
- And what I consider to be most important: it can give you a clear direction where your main personal growth and development lies.
Of course, the enneagram is just a model, incapable of capturing you or anyone else fully. But it does provide remarkable insights in my experience. For more on the enneagram and book references, check out my site.
The 7 steps you can take to determine your enneagram type
Step 1 do an enneagram test
This is perhaps an obvious step, however it is indeed a good start. The best test I know is called the Riso-Hudson-Enneagram-Type-Indicator (RHETI), it costs a small amount of money (USD 12 last time I looked) and takes some time to complete. But it will give you a first indication which types your personality is most likely to be. Of course, if you do not want to spend the money, you can use any other test. Please be aware: a lot of people think the test determines which type they are, but this is definitely not the case! It is really the first step, the start of your journey.
Step 2. Dig deeper into your most likely types
When you have done the test, there are probably 2-3 types which stand out. You are most likely to be one of those types. However, it is good to read a high level description of all the types (I recommend the book by Helen Palmer for the high level overview) to see if you are in the right direction. If you are, then you dig deeper into those types. Yes, this takes time, but it is actually an interesting journey: How do you tick! By reading deeper into the types you ask yourself questions like: ‘Ok, is this how I do things?’, or, ‘is my behaviour motivated by this or by this?’. You will recognise something in yourself of all types, but the type which represents your personality should be roughly an 80-90% fit with the (full). The best book to dig deeper into your type, and determine which enneagram is Helen Palmer, the enneagram. As a bonus this book describes the strengths and weaknesses between two enneagram types, which is amazingly accurate. Of course, if you want to spend less money look at the best site I am aware of of Riso and Hudson.
Step 3. Find your main driving force or motor
Each type has what the enneagram calls the core ‘sin’. Personally, I really do not think the word sin is helpful, but it originates from the Christian tradition (Jesuits) through which the enneagram came to us. A better way to look at it in my mind would be to see it as your main driving force. This main driving force or motor, is the key determinant of all these steps which establishes most fundamentally which type you are. The rest in the description is relevant, but less essential. As a nine, my main driving force is officially called laziness. But that is in fact a confusing interpretation as nines can work very hard. It is more like inertness in the sense that ‘mass is inert’. So types nine are slow to get started with something, but once they are moving, they are also slow in stopping or moving to the next thing. So it is more a slowness to change whatever the nine is doing. For me that is very accurate, which is e.g. why I am late a lot more often than I am comfortable with.
Step 4. Ask for feedback
So once you are this far it would be good to ask feedback to the ones closest to you. Of course they only see your behaviour, and your enneagram type is also determined by what drives your behaviour which really only you can tell. Nonetheless, it can give you valuable input to confirm you are in the right direction.
Step 5. Find your irritation point
Every Type for their growth is related to another type. The type to which you want to move to realise your growth is usually in your irritation zone. You can find this in the picture of the enneagram following the arrows (I use the 9 as example). Your growth lies in the line which connects your suspected type with an another enneagram type flowing against the direction of the arrow. Easy to remember as it is more difficult to grow than to fall back in distress which is the line flowing in the direction of the arrow (see step 6). So e.g. for me as a type nine (‘peacemaker’) type three (the ‘winner’) is in my irritation zone. As the nine needs to grow to the healthy part of type three. For the nine the key is ‘action’ (nines are at a deep level worried that things will cost too much energy e.g. conflicts, so that is why they are resistant to change towards a new activity). Action is what type three is great at. The irritation that I have as a nine with type three is the emptiness in showing off success, like a big car, a big house, a beautiful wife. And also boasting! Of course, to some extent that bugs a lot of people, but the nine can be seriously annoyed by this; which in itself is rare for a nine. Your irritation point can help you find or confirm your type.
Step 6. How do you feel and act when you are not at your best
Every type also has a relationship with another type reflecting how they are when they are not at their best, or, put differently, when they are in distress. This is the type which is connected to the type you suspect you are, if you follow the direction of the arrow. The thinking being that it is easy to fall back into the level of your distress. If in distress, you revert to the less healthy part of another type. So for me as e nine, when I am in distress then the 9 can fall to the less healthy part of type 6. This means that whereas normally the nine has a very positive trusting assumption about people, the nine becomes more suspicious. And can think that certain people are out to bring damage to the nine. This is very interesting as I recognised this in myself because of the enneagram, whilst I was researching which type I might be. The book that describes these levels of health best is ‘the wisdom of the enneagram’ by Riso and Hudson.
Step 7. The wings
The wings are the two enneagram types next to the enneagram type you suspect you are. You can be either a relatively pure type, e.g. more or less 100% type 7. But in my experience most people are significantly influenced by one of the wings. So as an example for me, I am type 9 with a strong type 1 wing. This is my perfectionist side, and the structured part without which I probably would never have made it (a long time ago…) to RA (Dutch CPA). Type 9 with a strong 8 wing (the boss) would be a different more assertive energy, even though the essence is still type 9.
So with these steps you should be able to determine your type. It may take some time (it took me 6 months J) but in a way the journey to find your type is more valuable than knowing which type you are. As in that journey you really get to learn how your personality functions. Please be aware that all types are equal. You may like certain names, or certain types more. But there is no single type better than the other. A common mistake is to think you once were one type, but now you are another type. That is not possible, you remain your type. Of course, depending on where you are in your development (see step 5 and 6) you can be more like the type you are growing towards, or like the type you fall back to when in distress. Also here, all is equal, you are where you are. Of course, when you are fully developed, so when e.g. the nine has fully developed towards the three, there is more happiness and balance in your life. As a check you can also review this site on misidentifications helps you figure out which is which. If you are not sure after these seven steps which type you are, then it is helpful to contact a coach who is well versed in the enneagram, and of course one that you have a good click with.
Next step: how do I achieve this growth once I know which enneagram type I am?
If you know which type you are, then if you want to achieve the happiness and balance you long for, the best way is to find support. This can be done via training and/or coaching. Coaching has the great advantage of being tailored to you, whereas this is challenging if not impossible for any trainer to achieve in a group. In my experience, surprising as it might sound, most enneagram trainings focus on describing the types, and focus a lot less, if at all on the path of growth once you have found your type!
For me the most important things in developing towards your growth types are increasing your level of consciousness (what do I do, why do I do that, how do I become more aware of what I am doing and when I am doing it) and processing the parts in you that are unconscious. Regarding the unconscious part, e.g. for a nine anger is a key emotion, but a type nine who has not worked on his/her growth will categorically deny ever being angry. Anger is something the nine completely suppresses). So for a nine processing your anger will be extremely valuable. Similarly anger is underlying the driving force for the types one (ones will have a hard time admitting that, as anger is not ‘perfect’ in their minds) and eight. Shame is the key emotion under the types two, three and four. Whereas fear is the key one under types five, six and seven.
Hope this helps, if it helps please give a reaction! If something is unclear, also please give a reaction, then I can improve.