Enneagram typing is an inherently imprecise task. We all know of people with significance Enneagram experience, that, after many years, have realized they have been mistyping themselves for years. To find our own type is a journey of discovery. For some it may occur within the first thirty minutes with one reading of Enneagram type descriptions. For others it can take years, with many questionnaires, panels, consultations and much self-enquiry, and still with some lingering uncertainty. There is certainly not a simple, sure-fire way of finding our type.
Questionnaires such as the online RHETI are a good beginning point and will help identify the types that can be definitely excluded. While they are good for identifying what we are not, they are not always that precise in identifying what we are. We are usually left with three or four closely ranked possibilities, and the real journey begins from there. One of the limitations, of course, is that we are answering questions about ourselves and we are not always the most objective observers of our own behaviors and motivations.
In her book, Deep Coaching, Roxanne Howe-Murphy identifies some penetrating behavioral traits for each of the nine types. They are based on behavioral patterns in every day life. In the chart below, I have selected six of her observations for each type. The people whom I have shared these with, have found them to be excruciatingly accurate. I think you will enjoy them.
The chart also organizes the types using Horney's three categories; Withdrawn, Assertive and Dutiful for the vertical columns. This grouping hopefully gives insight into why some types can sometimes feel very similar. For instance, a One and a Six, both Dutiful types, can be mistaken because of their underlying sense of responsibility and obeying the rules.
Behavioural Patterns in Everyday Life
4, 5, 9
(Moving away from people)
Respond to stress or difficulty by moving away from engagement with the world and into an "inner space" in their imagination. Are often experienced as being "pulled back" from the action.
3, 7, 8
(Moving against people)
Respond to stress or difficulty by building up, reinforcing, or inflating their ego. Take over the space and expect others to react. "I am the centre. I am what is important here. Now that I am here, something is going to happen!" (7, 8)
Compliant (Dutiful) Types
1, 2, 6
(Moving towards people)
Respond to stress or difficulty by asking themselves what is the right thing to do. "How can I meeet the demands of what others expect. How can I be a responsible person?" Compliant to the superego. Try to obey the internalised rules learnt from childhood. (1,6)
5, 6, 7
Knowing their environment is safe and stable.
Withdraw into a complex and cerebral Inner Think Tank and the Inner World of Ideas. Happy to pursue their own solitary pursuits
Behaviours of a Five
- Do you find you often withdraw into your mind for stimulation?
- Does your inner world of ideas take more time and energy than engaging with the external world and living your life?
- Do you have difficulty coming to the end of a project or task, as you're not sure that you've covered all the bases?
- Do you find yourself wanting to practice, practice, practice, while being reluctant to give the final performance?
- When engaged with exciting ideas, do you almost forget to eat? To sleep? To take care of daily living activities?
- Do you need to be in the role of the expert? Do you need to know more than anyone else?
"Here I am everybody! Things are going to be more lively now." I must stay up all the time, pushing my energy into the world and keeping others up.
Behaviours of a Seven
- Do you notice your tendency to push your energy out into the world, which might show up as talking fast, sometimes forgetting to inhale, etc?
- Do you find you are always on the go, often over-booking yourself and trying to be in a lot of different places at almost the same time?
- Do you have a difficult time saying 'no' to all the wonderful opportunities that come your way?
- Do you often find yourself in the role of entertaining others and revving up the excitement?
- When you take a moment to slow down, do you notice a sense of sadness or anxiety? Do you attempt to override any inner discomfort?
- Do you spend much of your attention anticipating and planning what is next?
"Things could go wrong here. I can make it safe for everyone? Scanning the environment and working out what needs to be taken care of."
Behaviours of a Six
- Do you frequently ask others for advice on what to to; and in some cases ask many people for advice about the same situation?
- Do you have a tendency to change your mind frequently? Do you sometimes feel pulled between diametrically opposed answers such as 'yes' and 'no'?
- Do you experience a general level of fear and anxiety in day-to-day living?
- Do you get confused by the mental chatter and indecision of your inner committee which seems to have many views about what to do?
- Do you tend to overcommit yourself, thus jamming up your life and creating stress?
- Do you fuss on what could go wrong and spend energy trying to make it safe?
2, 3, 4
To be seen and validated.
Withdraw into a romantic and idealised Fantasy Self. (Can be stand-offish and aloof, and act in a mysterious and dramatic way.) (Inner idealised Fantasy Movie) "I will find significance in an inner emotional world."
Behaviours of a Four
- Do you retell your story to others repeatedly and continually focus on re-experiencing the feelings?
- Do you have a tendency to over-indulge yourself with too much of something — whether that be food or sex or drugs as a way to further reinforce your moods?
- Do you feel you are somehow exempt from the so-called rules that apply to other people's behaviour?
- Do you spend a great deal of time fantasising about your desired life, desired partner, ideal situation?
- Are you inclined to dump your miseries on your friends, and expect them to rescue you from your unhappiness. Do you expect that others will take care of you and your problems?
- Do you think that other people have it easier than you or that your life pales in comparison to others?
Will find more subtle ways to get positive regard from others so they will feel like the centre. "Look at me and affirm my value."
Behaviours of a Three
- Do you feel that much of your life is focused on creating goals and striving to achieve them?
- Do you put a lot of energy into being the best at everything you do, including things that are meant to be fun?
- Do you pay a lot of attention on presenting a successful image but still knowing inside that something is missing?
- Regardless of your level of success, do you feel the need to push yourself even harder, especially if someone else is being acknowledged in your area of expertise?
- Is it important for you for people to know 'who I am, and how important I am'?
- Do you sometimes have a tendency to tell little white lies when it's convenient, or to create false stories that will shine the best light on you?
"These poor people. I wish I had time to give everyone my attention. They need my help."
Behaviours of a Two
- Do you tend to go around an issue and not directly ask for what you need? Do you think that others should be able to read your mind about what you want or need?
- Do you act as if you are just fine, and have no needs or wants?
- Do you frequently feel that you have to reach out and give? Other always come first?
- Do you feel that you have to sacrifice yourself by forgetting about your own needs?
- Do you feel that most of your attention and energy is focused on being with others, creating closeness and intimacy with others?
- Are you frequently inclined to flatter others?
8, 9, 1
(Wanting restoration of inner well-being)
Seeking independence, the ability to assert their own will and direct their own life.
Withdraw to the inner sanctum, with a PR department out front and the denial of unwanted instincts and impulses from within. Seeks to maintain the peace and avoid conflict and discomfort.
Behaviours of a Nine
- Are you inclined to go along with others rather than express your opinion or preferences? Do you discount your own priorities?
- Do you find in conversations with others that they do most of the talking? Do you want to be asked a question before talking about yourself?
- Do you avoid situations that might produce conflicting ideas, strong emotions or even mild dissent?
- Are you inclined to minimise problems even when it is clear that action is needed?
- When you feel yourself getting angry, do you try to suppress or control your anger at all costs? Do you tell yourself that you shouldn't get angry?
- Are you inclined to 'make nice' on the outside but at the same time try to withdraw from the interaction?
"OK. I'm here! Deal with me. I am strong, assertive and in control."
Behaviours of a Eight
- Do you notice that you feel more alive when your energy is big and is pushing against others?
- Do less confident people tend to keep a respectful distance from you?
- In relationships, do you take the stand of being the strong, in-control person? Someone has to.
- Do you sometimes have a hidden sense that others are against you and will treat you unfairly or take advantage of you in some way?
- When you have a sense that you, or the territory you control, is being threatened, do you notice that you are quick to anger?
- Do you believe that showing your feelings and vulnerabilities would be a sign of weakness?
"This is sloppy and disorganised. If I were in charge, things would not be such a mess."
Behaviours of a One
- Do you often feel the heavy weight of an inner critic, also known as 'the judge', that is relentless in its negative commentary on others and on one's self.
- Do you often get angry or resentful with yourself or others?
- Do you hold a significant amount of tension in your body by attempting to restrict unacceptable emotions.
- Do you feel obligated to do the right thing and to fix whatever you feel needs fixing?
- Are you quick to point out to others what needs to be done differently, and make sure it gets done correctly in accordance with what is right?
- Do you take on responsibilities that are not really yours?