Lately, I have been running around campus asking for everyone’s numbers. No, it is not because I am a senior and am looking to get a last-minute “Ring by Spring.” I am asking for people’s numbers in reference to the Enneagram, my new favorite personality test.
For some reason, we are obsessed with learning more about ourselves through online tests. I’m not referring to the ones that tell you what type of pizza slice you are or which Disney princess you’re most like. Whether it is the Strengths Finder or the Myers-Briggs, it is always fascinating to learn more about personal strengths, weaknesses and leadership abilities.
The Enneagram test is designed to explain passions, virtues and fixations and uses a circular shape filled with triangles to explain the connection between the number types. The Enneagram aims at self-awareness, not just self-promotion. It exposes bad habits, potential addictions and predictable negative responses. It is based on where your attention goes and what you think about the most. This test does not just highlight your strengths, but it studies your inner emotional outlook on life.
Here are the basics of understanding the Enneagram test:
There are nine basic personality types in this test. Enneagraminstitute.com gives each number a label, such as the “Individualist,” the “Peacemaker” or the “Enthusiast.” These labels are just an easy way to sum up the core traits of the number type; you are not confined nor reduced to that specific title.
A higher number does not equal a higher ranking or make you a better person. The Enneagram uses numbers to designate each of the types, because numbers are unbiased and neutral. So, if you are a Type 9, it does not mean you reign over a Type 2. As you study the Enneagram further, you see that there are levels of development, ranging from healthy, average and unhealthy. The Enneagram refers to periods of growth as integration and periods of stress as disintegration. For example, if you are a Type 4, during a healthy level of development or integration, you are similar to a Type 1, but during disintegration, you are more similar to a Type 2. This is really where the circle diagram comes into play to help better understand the connection between the types.
When you take the test and discover your number, you will also find that you have a “wing” as the Enneagram calls it. One of two types adjacent to your number is your wing, adding another layer of elements to your personality. You and your best friend could both be Type 7s, but have different wings, either a 6 or a 8, and have very different characteristics.
The Enneagram has found its way into many leadership classes and even seminars in churches. Ian Morgan Cron, Christian author of “The Road Back to You,” a book dedicated to the Enneagram journey and the host of “Typology,” an Enneagram podcast, believes in the power of using the Enneagram test to strengthen leaders, inside and outside of the church.
According to the Enneagram Institute, people do not change from one basic personality type to another. Whereas with the Myers-Briggs and Strengths Finders, it is common to identify different strengths or traits as time passes. I personally found that from freshman year to senior year, I had multiple changes in my results in both the Strengths Finders test as well as the Myers-Briggs.
“Once you know your type, you owe it to yourself and the people you love (or don’t love, for that matter) to become a kinder, more compassionate presence in the world,” Cron writes. Cron encourages his readers to take the test not just to know more about themselves or have something interesting to talk about at dinner parties, but to use this information to love others better and view them as unique gifts from God with different perspectives and capabilities. Cron also states that the Enneagram differs from Myers-Briggs in that it does not just classify you or push you into a certain group, but it instructs you on how to move forward, apply your gifts and acknowledge your weaknesses.
A common pushback I hear from my peers about personality tests is that it simply puts people into boxes, but the Enneagram’s purpose is to do the exact opposite: It is designed to get you out of your box and acknowledge personal fixations and habits. I encourage everyone to at least try this test—which may be because I am a Type Two, the “Helper”—but either way, the Enneagram is insightful and encouraging. If you don’t believe me, take the test for yourself and find out.