As the name suggests (for people who know Greek), this is a system of nine (ennea) types whose relationship can be represented graphically (gram).
The three centers of thought
Similar to the way the 34 CliftonStrengths are grouped into 4 domains, the nine types are grouped into 3 centers. These are
- the head: the predominant emotion is fear.
- the heart: the predominant emotion is sadness.
- the belly: the predominant emotion here is anger.
In each of these so-called thinking centers there are three reaction patterns: attack, flight and negation. In other words, the reaction is directed toward the outside, the inside, or is suppressed.
This is how the nine types or patterns emerge.
What is a type?
How do we arrive at a pattern, or why do we more or less settle on one of the types?
Nature and Nurture play a role here. We tend from our personality type already to one of the three centers and one type. Out of this type we create a survival strategy for ourselves, as a reaction to the demands of our environment. The question is: what do I have to be like to get what I want and need?
These survival strategies become our motivations for responding to certain stimuli. An example: as a thinker, I want to appear competent, and I respond to ridicule, failure, correction by withdrawing. I tend to keep my knowledge to myself, and only act when I am absolutely sure.
As a child, this strategy helped me. It was tailored to my family, my environment, and I gained recognition through competence.
As an adult, I tend to struggle with this strategy. My environment has changed, expectations of me are different, and my hesitation to take action hinders my success. I also tend to flood people with my knowledge. When I was a kid, that had the Jö effect, which doesn’t play that way anymore.
If I know my type, I can develop.
The nine types
Here are the nine types, which all develop their own survival strategy.
Usually, the number names the type. I am a 5.
8 assertive, 9 mediator, 1 reformer.
2 supporter, 3 goal seeker, 4 romantic.
5 Observer, 6 Loyalist, 7 Enthusiast.
What does the Enneagram want?
The Enneagram shows us our motivations – and no, it is not so banal and simple that it has only nine types. There are subtypes, wings, development in stress, good times, health, etc. We are welcome to explore this in coaching.
The Enneagram complements CliftonStrengths wonderfully because motivation and action patterns show up in combination. If we add Spiral Dynamics, i.e., culture and values, we get an extremely complex picture, a multi-layered insight into the personality and its interaction with its environment.
I am a member of the Enneagram Forum Switzerland, an association that aims to support Enneagram coaches and to make the Enneagram more known in Switzerland.
I recommend books, coaching and the iEQ9 as good sources for type determination.