Enneagram Types: What Do the Numbers Mean?
Learn more about the enneagram types, and discover more about yourself, and which of the nine personality types you are most similar to.
Everyone’s personality is both complex and unique. What makes each of us, well, us, differs from human to human. However, experts have developed ways to typify personality so that we can all understand ourselves, and others, a little better.
Personality tests—from Myers-Brigg to the Enneagram to ambivert tests—allow us to dig deeper into what makes us tick, what makes us feel connected to our fellow humans and what riles us up. The Enneagram test in particular has become a must-take for those of us looking to unlock their potential and dive into who we are.
If you’re not already familiar, the Enneagram is basically a circular symbol that displays a set of nine specific personality types in a nine-pointed star-shaped spectrum. When you take an Enneagram test, your responses to a set of questions will then rank the nine types to help you determine which of the types you fit into best.
While the modern versions of the test are easy to take online, the Enneagram itself is anything but new. As a symbol, its origins are a bit murky—some believe that it can be traced back to Pythagorean mathematicians—but it was brought to modern attention in 1915 by philosopher and teacher George Gurdjieff.
The word “Enneagram” comes from the Greek words “ennea” (meaning nine) and “grammos” (meaning a written or drawn symbol). Bolivian philosopher Oscar Ichazo is credited with placing the nine personality types of the Enneagram onto the Enneagram diagram, while Claudio Naranjo, MD, and other psychologists in Berkeley, CA, ushered the Enneagram into modern psychology.
Now, people can find a number of tests to discover their Enneagram types online and some companies even use these tests in team building exercises with employees to help people work together more efficiently. Read on to learn more about this complex, fascinating test.
What is the Enneagram test?
If you’re interested in personal growth and tend to gravitate toward self improvement books, the Enneagram test is a great tool for understanding yourself even more fully. This personality test will give you a result within nine different categories of personalities. Each category has its own strengths, weaknesses, motivations, fears and general characteristics.
There are many tests available online, both for free and for a small fee. Some are shorter and include 30 or so questions, while others have nearly 200 questions and take longer to complete. The general format of the test is the same, however: Each question will ask you to choose between two statements about yourself—all you have to do is determine which statement is truer for you most of the time.
The key here is not to choose what statement you wish was true of you, or what statement has been true of you in the past but more what you think best fits who you are right now. Most tests will tell you not to overthink your choices but to go with your gut instinct.
Your responses to the questions then get tabulated and then your results will rank each of nine Enneagram types to show you how strong you are in each of them. In many cases, one of the number types will outrank the others by anywhere from three to six points, giving you your closest Enneagram type.
Nine Enneagram types: what they mean
The Enneagram types describe different personalities using core beliefs, fears and desires to help you understand why you think certain things and act in certain ways. However, not every part of your type will apply to you all of the time.
Each Enneagram personality number is made up of positive, negative, healthy and unhealthy traits. As you move through your life—and through its joys and challenges—these qualities will inevitably shift. What will stay the same, though, is your basic personality type.
This means that if the test determined that you are an eight for your Enneagram type, you likely won’t change to a six if you take the test again and give accurate responses. Personality, according to the Enneagram philosophy, is a static quality of personhood..
The Enneagram types themselves are not ranked, meaning that one number is not better than any of the other numbers. This is actually the reason why the personalities in the Enneagram are labeled with numbers—this way each result is neutral and unbiased.
While some people (or cultures) may consider some types to be more desirable than others, the types themselves are all on the same playing field so to speak. Each one has its own assets and its own faults. The types are also not masculine or feminine, they are gender neutral and anyone taking the test can get any number.
After taking the test, you may find that one type comes out far ahead of the rest. Many people, however, can receive a score that puts them between two or even three types. (In fact, you’ll likely be able to recognize yourself in all of the types, at least a little bit.) Each person is a unique mixture of their primary personality type and then one of the two adjacent personality types on the Enneagram diagram, which is called a wing.
For instance, if your Enneagram test shows that you are a nine, you will either have a one-wing or an eight-wing, depending on what number (one or eight) best suits your personality. This means that you really understand yourself when you learn about your type, as well as how this type blends with the traits of your wing.
Nine personality types: more on the Enneagram numbers
Having an understanding of all of the nine personality types before or after taking the Enneagram test can also better help you identify where you fall on the personality spectrum. The first way to break things down is to know that the nine types can be divided into three sub-categories:
- Heart Types
- Head Types
- Body Types
Which of these suits you the most? Here’s a brief overview to help you get started.
Heart types: These types are feeling-based—they are likely to show empathy to others as well as be romantic. They focus on how they can perform best at their jobs and in their relationship with others. Type Two (The Giver), Type Three (The Performer) and Type Four (The Romantic) are all Heart Types.
Head types: These types make sense of their world via intellectual intelligence. They’re rational and tend to think things through before they act. They like to create certainty in their lives. Type Five (The Observer), Type 7 (The Epicure) and Type Six (The Loyal Skeptic) are all Head Types.
Body types: These types are known for going with their gut. They are in tune with their bodies and what matters most to them is social belonging and feeling personally secure. Type Eight (The Protector), Type Nine (The Mediator) and Type One (The Perfectionist) are all Body Types.
You might already be able to recognize yourself within one of those three categories.
More on the nine types
Now, to better understand the nine Enneagram types, here’s a brief overview of all of them, including some of their core qualities:
Type One (The Perfectionist)
Honest and dependable, this type is known for being responsible and having high standards. They work hard at being right and they can be critical of others, especially people who don’t take life as seriously as they do. Ones are grounded, honest and practical. They have a tendency to be resentful when they hold in their feelings—in fact, they may be angry inside or have negative feelings but will act nice outwardly to avoid their emotions.
Type Two (The Helper)
Caring, warm and communicative, this type thrives when empathizing with others. They have a strong social instinct, and tend to be emotional sponges that soak up energy from other people, which can lead to them getting lost in relationships and not setting strong emotional boundaries or paying enough attention to their own needs. To maintain their self-image of being helpful to others, Twos sometimes suppress their own feelings and needs.
Type Three (The Performer)
Threes are a particular type, and very “go-go-go,” always on the move and getting things done along the way. They can be impatient and overworked, however, as well as fall into the trap of feeling like they need to keep up their high-achieving appearance. These type-A performers can tap into their inner selves to overcome the impulse to become idealized images of themselves.
Type Four (The Romantic)
Compassionate, yet moody, fours seek meaningful connections in their relationships. They welcome their feelings—all feelings—but they can also fall into seasons of envy and melancholy. They can swing like a pendulum from connected to withdrawn, from being primarily focused on others, but later acting in a more self absorbed manner.
Type Five (The Observer)
The enneagram system says that Fives are technical and intellectual—feelings and relationships with other people can be tough for their cerebral nature. These people tend to be self-reliant and pride themselves on autonomy, which can sometimes lead to self-imposed isolation. However, their non-attachment style can also help them let go of what’s not serving them in life, which can be a healthy part of their own self discovery.
Type Six (The Loyal Skeptic)
This type is concerned with protection, both of themselves and their families or communities. Some sixes lean more toward being cautious and concerned with safety, others move toward strength and tend to jump into action. They’re often loyal and attentive to others, yet can be suspicious and doubtful of others as well. Courage, even in the face of fear, is their superpower.
Type Seven (The Epicure)
Optimistic and forward thinking, sevens thrive when they can be involved in many different projects—they don’t like having to pick a lane. They tend to be adventurous, yet uncommitted. Slowing down and calming the mind don’t always come easy to sevens but challenging themselves to connect to the present moment can benefit this type, and their relationships.
Type Eight (The Protector)
Of the nine different types, Eights tend to be natural leaders, and are assertive and powerful, while also being generous. They like to do things their own way and can be domineering at times. They don’t do well with vulnerability and tend to fight back when they experience moments of weakness.
Type Nine (The Mediator)
Nines are often the type of people who hold together a group or family unit. They are great peacemakers because of their ability to hear and understand different points of view. However, they can avoid conflict (or their own feelings) by numbing out to TV or other mindless activities.
What Enneagram type am I?
The overview of the types above is just a taste of the various personality traits and qualities for each of the nine Enneagram numbers. Taking a test will allow you to go deeper to understand what your Enneagram type is and how you can use that information to inform your life and the different situations you may encounter.
When you get your results, remember that you know yourself best. If you feel like your Enneagram test results don’t match who you really are, you can always choose your number for yourself. After learning more about the nine types, you should have a feeling of knowing when the right one fits you. If you really want to dig into this personality test, consider picking up a book about the Enneagram types to really understand yourself and the people in your life.
No test can truly define you
Like with any other personality test, remember that you are more than just a number. In most cases, most people are unique beyond the confines of any questionnaire. The Enneagram test from the Enneagram Institute is meant to be an enlightening tool to help you discover your inner world, not a stressful experience. Take what you need from it, and leave behind what doesn’t serve you.