The Enneagram is a personality test similar to the Myers Briggs, designed to help us understand ourselves and each other better. Where the Myers Briggs uses four letters that stand for different traits, each of the nine Enneagram types (enne is Greek for nine) is defined by a central need, like the need for security, the need to be free, or the need to be needed. These differences might seem unimportant at first, but they impact our lives in a thousand small ways. As a Type Six, I have a different approach to life than my brother who’s a Type Eight, different needs than my best friend who’s a Type Nine, and different goals than my Type Seven dad.
Knowing more about your Enneagram type can unlock so much knowledge about the way you see the world and the underlying needs you may not even be aware of. It can help you understand where others are coming from as well: because the language that each type speaks is so different, there are a thousand ways we can have failures of communication without even realizing it. The Enneagram is designed to help bridge those gaps in understanding.
One of the most important parts of life is self-awareness; by understanding the perspectives we carry with us, our greatest strengths and biggest blind spots, we’re able to move through life with greater clarity and confidence. The Enneagram can help us to develop a shorthand for needs and feelings we’ve had our whole lives.
If you don’t know your Enneagram type, take the test here to find out and read below to find more about the central traits of each one. You might start to realize that some types look familiar to you, remind you of people you know. The Enneagram is such a good tool because of how deeply human it is; we can all see ourselves and others reflected in these driving needs and fears.
Type One: The Reformer
If you’ve spent more than five aggregate hours of your life correcting the way someone loads the dishwasher, you might be a Type One. Ones believe more than any other type that there is a right way to do everything and that they have a clear vision of how that right way looks. It can be hard for Ones to hold back their opinions when they see someone doing things differently than they would, which can give them a reputation for being rigid and bossy. However, this tendency usually comes from a genuine desire to be helpful and do a good job.
Type Ones put a lot of pressure on others, but it’s nothing compared to the pressure they put on themselves. This type tends towards perfectionism and workaholic tendencies; their motto is “if you’re going to do something, do it right.” The plus side of this is that they work at everything, even relationships and personal goals, like it’s their job, making sure their loved ones feel properly cared for.
Ones want more than anything to feel like they’ve done a good job, and sometimes they need a gentle reminder that the world won’t end if they experience a failure or achieve less than a perfect score. At the end of the day they’re just trying to make the world a better (and more orderly!) place, even if their black-and-white thinking can leave the other types scratching their heads.
Type Two: The Nurturer
Also called The Helper, Type Twos are the most relationship-oriented of the Enneagram types. Twos go through life looking for ways to be helpful, equipped with an almost supernatural ability to sense others’ emotional needs. This type can be extremely selfless, undercutting their own needs to make sure everyone else is taken care of. A lot of Twos operate this way with the expectation that is roles were reversed they would receive the same treatment from their loved ones; Twos often get their feelings hurt if this proves untrue. One of the biggest struggles for Twos is making this desire for reciprocation clear to others, rather than keeping their hurt a secret.
Many Twos act out of a secret fear that they won’t belong unless they are actively fulfilling the needs of others and constantly workiing to create space for themselves in the lives of their loved ones. The most important lesson for a Two to learn is that they will be loved even if they do nothing to earn it. Overall, Twos are one of the most loving and devoted types and have a firm belief that relationships are the most important part of life.
Type Three: The Achiever
The social chameleons of the Enneagram, Type Threes have an instinctual ability to read a room and shape themselves accordingly. A Three’s biggest need is to appear successful, and they will work hard to become whatever “successful” looks like to those around them. Charming, goal-oriented leader types, a lot of Threes can be found high up in businesses and in positions of power. Most Threes are fully committed to a path of personal achievement and improvement, constantly working to better themselves and encouraging others to do the same.
Threes might struggle with understanding who they really are because they spend so much time shaping themselves for others. Because being perceived a certain way is so crucial to them, Threes can often forget just to be.
Type Four: The Individualist
Fours are driven by a desire to serve their own individuality and affirm their uniqueness. They have a need to express themselves at every turn, whether it’s in the way they dress, the company they keep, the hobbies they pursue or how they decorate their homes. Fours are devoted to doing things their own way and are repulsed by anything that threatens their uniqueness.
Fours move through life with an admirable amount of depth and passion; they have a reputation for being melancholy, but the truth is that Fours feel everything intensely. They tend to be incredibly creative and never shy away from connecting to others on a deeper level. Fours are great for bringing out vulnerability and reflectiveness in others, but they’re less adept at pragmatism. Something about sitting down to pay bills or work a desk job just doesn’t appeal to them as much as a spontaneous late-night conversation with a stranger or a new idea for a novel.
Type Five: The Observer
The most insular type on the Enneagram, Type Fives crave self-sufficiency. Whether it’s energy, resources, or knowledge, Fives spend their time carefully stockpiling to make sure they can weather any circumstances. Fives are usually extremely introverted, needing a lot of time alone to recharge and preferring their inner world to the outer one.
Fives are extremely concerned with protecting themselves, usually building walls to keep others from spotting their weaknesses or draining their energy. The process of getting to know a Five can be a long one but it’s more than worth it. Fives always have something interesting to talk about because they’re constantly accruing knowledge to help them make sense of the world. Fives are likely to have a wealth of information on any subject that interests them; to learn and observe is their preferred approach to life.
More than any other type, a Five’s alone time is a must. This can feel like a rejection to their friends and family but it’s almost never personal; they just watch their energy levels extremely carefully.
Type Six: The Loyalist
Type Sixes are defined by a driving need to seek safety and security. With an instinct for anticipating danger or setbacks from miles away, Sixes have a tendency to be plagued with worry and anxiety. They have a hard time believing things will be okay if they don’t stay constantly vigilant to outside threats. This can seem unnecessary and exhausting to other types, but it can have its positives. Sixes are said to make up 50% of the population, and the saying goes: “Sixes are the ones that keep all the other types alive.”
Sixes have an interesting relationship with authority, either tending to trust it completely or rebel against it. They find the concept of rules comforting, and if they find the rules in place unsatisfactory they will make up and follow their own.
As their nickname suggests, Sixes set a lot of stock in loyalty and commitment. It’ll take a long time to earn a Six’s trust, but once you do you gain a champion for life.
Type Seven: The Enthusiast
More than anything, Sevens just want to be free and have fun. Sevens are the epitome of “never a dull moment,” always searching for new entertainment and adventures. They’ve got an unbridled enthusiasm for life and a burning passion for the moment, and they’re never happier than when they feel free to follow their impulses as they arrive. It’s harder to get them to stick around during less fun moments, however. Sevens’ sunny perspective tends to selectively exclude negative emotions, bad interactions and conflict, so getting them to face anything unpleasant or boring can be an uphill battle.
Commitment can be hard for this free-wheeling type; Sevens have a natural desire to keep their options open in case something better comes along, which can be frustrating for anyone trying to lock down plans with them. Sevens usually leave a string of half-finished projects in their wake; they’re definitely more about the journey than the destination.
Type Eight: The Protector
Type Eights are also called The Challenger, and for good reason. Eights have absolutely no problem with conflict, and in fact may actively chase it to avoid getting bored. Eights love to throw themselves into arguments and debates with others; it’s a form of play for them, with no hard feelings involved. It can be difficult for more conflict-averse types to understand this rough-and-tumble approach, but it does mean Eights have some thick skin of their own. Type Eights are very instinctive, often taking immediate action based on their gut. They’re very likely to shoot first and work out the finer details after the dust settles, if ever.
Eights have a hard time being vulnerable or showing weakness, often feeling a need to project a front of strength to the outside world. It can be hard for them to apologize when they make mistakes because it goes against this image. Not ones for nuance, Eights can have a tendency to steamroll their quieter associates but the plus side is that they can take blunt, honest criticism better than most.
Eights generally use their powerful personalities for good; they’ve got a soft spot for defending the underdog. The type has a strong sense of justice and loves nothing more than throwing their full weight against bullies and oppressors on behalf of the downtrodden.
Type Nine: The Mediator
The peacekeepers of the Enneagram, Nines crave both inner and outer harmony above everything else. Nines are extremely capable of connecting to others, emphasizing or minimizing different parts of their personalities to reflect whomever they’re talking to. Because of this, Nines are generally very comfortable to be around and talk to. A popular quote about Nines is that they can feel more like environments than people because of the aura of deep comfort and support they exude.
This doesn’t come without a cost; sometimes Nines are so concerned with maintaining peace with others that they can forget their own needs, desires and personalities. Without focus, Nines can easily lose themselves and take whatever form is easiest for others. Nines can also end up drained by people who come to them for support because they’re naturally empathic and can have a hard time setting boundaries. Nines will generally do whatever it takes to avoid a confrontation, even if it means bending over backwards to appease someone. Nines are so good at masking their needs that others might not even realize they’re causing harm; the most helpful thing a Nine’s friends can do is actively ask questions about how they’re feeling and encourage them to speak up about their own needs.
If you’re looking for more information on the Enneagram, here are a few great books that explore the types, their underlying dynamics, and more:
The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The Modern Enneagram: Discover Who You Are and Who You Can Be by Kacie Berghoef and Melanie Bell