Friday, November 30, 2007

How to determine your Enneagram type: some recommendations

Because I am such an Enneagram enthusiast, I often find myself emailing back and forth with new acquaintances, old friends, etc., to try to help them determine their type.

First, I send them the link to the Eclectic Energies Enneagram Tests. There are two tests there, and I recommend you take them both. The format of the questions is different, and I find them equally illuminating. Results are provided in the form of a list of potential types in their order of likelihood.

After the person sends me copies of their results and we discuss them (usually via email), I send them Riso and Hudson's QUEST. This one's good because it's quick to take, and it doesn't even try to pick out your type: it ranks the nine types into a top three, middle three, and bottom three in terms of likelihood. The prediction is that one of the top three has an 80% likelihood of being your type. This is a good check on the Eclectic Energies results; if, say, Eclectic Energies suggests a type but it's in the bottom tier of the QUEST, it's probably not the one.

After that, I recommend they read my favorite Enneagram book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson. Other good introductions are Personality Types by Riso and Hudson and The Enneagram by Helen Palmer.

The subtext of what I've been saying is that determining your Enneagram type isn't always easy. Some people are able to figure theirs out immediately upon picking up The Wisdom of the Enneagram, but others have a harder time, and there are several people in our Enneagram discussion group whose types are still mysteries to the group.

You'd think it'd be easy to figure out -- you'd just take a test, like with the Myers-Briggs. But it's not that easy -- the Enneagram is not really a science. (Ignore for the moment that there are those who say the same thing about the Myers-Briggs!) In my experience, the MBTI will tell you your type, it'll be correct and it will stay stable over time. But the Myers-Briggs schema consists of continua between four poles. It's obviously much easier to write a test in the forced-choice format for four pairs of opposites than it is for nine types based on 7 deadly sins plus 2! This is why I've never been very impressed with the RHETI (Riso and Hudson's other test), which uses the forced-choice format.

Here's my story of figuring out my own type. It spans the decades:

In 1987, I saw Riso and Hudson's original Personality Types and just had to have the book. (I've always been very interested in both personality and testing.) I read it, and sort of enjoyed it, but didn't much understand it. The types didn't remind me of the people I knew, and I certainly couldn't pick myself out. I wanted to be a 5, cause that seemed like the smart one, but I didn't relate at all to the idea of the withdrawn observer. (My self-image at that time was of someone who was both talkative and needy.) I thought maybe a 4, because it seemed pretty interesting to be the artistic one, but that one was a withdrawn type, too, plus it just didn't feel right. Of all of them, I thought the 7 might be closest, even though I knew that wasn't right either, really, because I was the opposite of a compulsive do-er -- I was more of a compulsive non-doer. I just didn't see any of these patterns in myself or others I knew.

So 12 years pass -- 12 years in which I read every Enneagram book and take every Enneagram test I come across, and get a little better at seeing the patterns in others, and still I don't know my type, although I suspect 7w6. (The RHETI said I was either 7 or 2.) I have a friend named Jeff who likes the Enneagram too, and one day his sister Suzy and I are both hanging out with him on the same day, and we talk about the Enneagram. I told her I didn't know my type, and she says "Oh, you're a 6." I asked how she knew, and she said I just was, and she'd been to an Enneagram conference, and I reminded her of the other 6s, and she'd heard that 6s never knew they were 6s anyway, so if you don't know, it's a good guess. (Pretty good advice, by the way -- if you can't tell, consider 6 or 9.)

Two years later, I met Cindi. We started talking about the Enneagram, and she, too, said "Oh, you're a 6." I asked how she could tell. She said "friendly, funny, nervous." And she's right; I am 6w7.

My reading of profiles of The Loyalist hadn't really evoked "friendly, funny, nervous." That said, the 6 is a particularly hard one to grasp compared to, say, the 1 or the 2. But there's something to the idea that the types can sometimes be easier to identify from the outside. Not only are Enneagram tests just hard to write, but also, you need to see yourself fairly clearly in order to answer the questions correctly. And seeing yourself clearly is why you need the Enneagram in the first place!

Think about it: if you're in the "trance" of your style, and you saw yourself clearly, you wouldn't like what you saw, and you probably wouldn't be choosing those particular strategies. People at the unhealthy levels usually have justifications for their behavior, sometimes elaborate ones, that skew their perspective. [Example from the current news: Lori Drew (the 47-year old woman who pretended to be a 16-year old boy, had an internet flirtation with her 13-year old neighbor that ended in the 13-year old's suicide) thinks: I am a good person, good people don't do bad things, therefore I didn't do anything wrong, therefore why did you attack my Foozball table with an ax? I'm going to the police!]

That's all for right now.

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