Enneagram teachers Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile explain how to know yourself with the Enneagram and how knowing your number and its associated behavior and thought patterns will help you to better navigate relationships in their book The Road Back to You.
How to Identify Your Enneagram Number
The Enneagram can look like a complex set of military code with it’s numbers and wings and movement. I struggled to identify my number for some time, and it seems that is not an uncommon problem for those trying to decipher the Enneagram. Some explanations sound technical or esoteric. Maybe it’s just for the very spiritual or the very introspective.
Despite the self-awareness necessary to discover your correct number and learn how your thinking reflects this attribute, it’s an extremely helpful tool to knowing yourself. There are several places online to take a free Enneagram test. The most comprehensive would be at The Enneagram Institute, which does cost $12. Even that will not guarantee accurate results. But it’s a good place to start.
If there are a two or three you are still not sure about, read as much as you can about the those types. There will be moment in which you say, “On no, that’s me!” I’ve heard other people say they knew they found their type when they though “that as the be the absolutely worst number. No one would want to be that!” That’s the way the Enneagram works, but it’s also how you come to know yourself with the Enneagram.
The first quiz I took said I was a two. That was before I really understood so I took it as absolute truth. I would read or hear things about twos and be rather apathetic about it. Then I listened to an interview on Cron and Stabile’s podcast and heard Jen Hatmaker talking about being a four. It was like being hit with a baseball bat. She described exactly what it’s like to be inside my head daily. And that’s when I knew I found my number.
What made me ignore the four label for so long was the title- The Romantic. My husband laughed when I revealed that I’m a four. I’m possibly the least romantic person on the planet. I frequently tell him to stop playing sappy love songs because they suck. I enjoy dinner out and flowers, but big romantic gestures are lost on me. Feed me and clean up afterwards and I feel loved and cared for.
But the Enneagram definition of The Romantic is different. It’s a person who has created a entire romanticized scenario in her head before something happens and is perpetually disappointed that real life never lives up to the fantasy. Take our failed homeschooling adventure for instance. I could just picture sitting on the couch reading classic books, having discussions about character, regularly taking fun and educational field trips and always doing hands-on experiments that were both entertaining and magically mess-free.
Reality was nothing like this. I had kids who refused to write two damn sentences. I had a toddler that ate the science experiment. We rarely took big trips because it was just too exhausting to do it with four kids. Probably the biggest reason we quit is because I was so incredibly disappointed in the experience (also, because it was a terrible fit for our family).
An Overview of the Types
While a book could be written on each of the nine Enneagram types, here’s a very brief description of each to help you start in the right place.
Type One is the Perfectionist and is motivated by doing the right thing, avoiding blame, being reliable and making a difference in the world.
Type Two is the Helper and is motivated by needing to be needed. At the same time, they often fail to acknowledge their own feelings, but are caring and giving.
Type Three is the Performer and is motivated by being productive and successful.
Type Four is the Romantic and is motivated by a need to be understood. They are creative, but also moody and often have big feelings when the situation does not warrant them.
Type Five is the Investigator and is motivated by gaining knowledge and not relying on others. They are analytical and detached.
Type Six is the Loyalist and is motivated by fear and a need for security. They often fall into worst-case scenario thinking.
Type Seven is the Enthusiast and is motivated by a need to be happy and avoid pain. They are spontaneous and adventurous and are all in on fun.
Type Eight is the Challenger and is motivated by feeling strong, never weak. They can be intense and confrontational.
Type Nine is the Peacemaker and is motivated by avoiding conflict. They are accommodating and merge with others to avoid confrontation.
At the beginning of each chapter in The Road Back to You, there are twenty points of “What it is like to be a” certain number. While we can find things about ourselves that fit in any of the numbers, there is one that when read, will be like a light bulb going on. You’ll just KNOW.
Using the Book to Know Yourself with the Enneagram
Once I knew my number, I could use this book in a different way. Not only does the book help to identify and describe the number, it gives us a plan for being aware of these tendencies and how they affect our relationships, self-talk, work lives and outlook on life.
Each number has healthy, average and unhealthy behaviors. For example, healthy Fours understand that they don’t have to react to every emotion that they experience. Sometimes it’s OK to acknowledge the feeling and let it pass without agonizing over it. This frees us to be creative and connected. As a Four moves toward an unhealthy place, we become manipulative and shameful. Knowing this will allow us to catch when our emotions are getting the better of us and stop before we destroy relationships.
Cron also takes time to explain how each number typically behaves as children, in relationships and at work. Each person also has a “wing,” movement toward one of the numbers on either side of their primary number. The chapter finishes with “Ten Paths to Transformation.” These are concrete steps we should take that are most effective for our number. If we can cultivate these characteristics, we will be able to identify and stop the negative behaviors that we naturally default to.
Understanding Others with the Enneagram
One terrible reason to learn the Enneagram is to use it as a weapon. “OMG, you’re such a seven!” is not an appropriate way to engage people with the system. Yes, it’s mostly based on our faults and foibles. It helps us to identify when we are off the rails. Hopefully, it will help the people around us to know that too. But it’s deep interior work to confront those demons of our personality.
It took me months to figure out my number so I doubt that I could type someone in a few conversations. Even after studying for awhile, I’m only pretty sure that I know my husband’s number. And the benefit of knowing that is that I have a better understanding of what motivates his behavior.
He will spend months debating paint color or which trash can to buy when I just want him to decide and get it over with. Now, I understand a little better that he is not procrastinating making a decision. He’s most likely numbing more important feelings. Average nine behavior.
But instead of critiquing and yelling and being dramatic (hello, Four!), I need to back off and give him some space to come to his own conclusions. The Nine is at the top of the Enneagram circle for a reason. They tend to see a little of most perspectives and are immobilized by making big decisions. They freeze, refuse to participate and focus on unimportant tasks instead. That certain changes how I react to his inability to apply for a job that he would love. While it still makes me want to scream, at least I can acknowledge that is the least helpful thing I could do.
Know Yourself with the Enneagram
While it’s a fun piece of trivia to know my Enneagram number, Myers-Briggs type, Gretchen Rubin’s tendency and other personality designations, they are for a much deeper reason. Cron calls the Enneagram a gift because it is “a tool that reveals the lens through which people see the world.” It should spark greater compassion for ourselves and others. We can’t change the way people see the world. They often can’t either. But we can be more compassionate about their view and understand that their view is sometimes very different than our own.
Many books say the basis of the Enneagram is the Biblical seven deadly sins. With that kind of background, no wonder the focus so often is on how to change and avoid falling to the unhealthy side of a number. But each number has its positive side too. Fours are creative and empathetic. This characteristic shows us a God that created vast fields of flowers and tiny colorful butterfly wings and still cares about our day to day lives. Each other number also has wonderful things, if only we take a moment to look at them as worthy people.
Explore the Enneagram and buy your own copy of the book and study guide here (affiliate link):