The Enneagram (pronounced any-uh-gram) is the study of the nine basic types of people. It explains why we behave the way we do but also provides a pathway for individual growth. Understanding your type and the type of your loved ones can vastly improve relationships.
The Enneagram is represented by a circle connecting the nine types which are oriented around root struggles. It's based on Evagrius Ponticus’s eight deadly thoughts, plus the central thought he called “love of self.” We're more familiar with the seven deadly sins. The nine root struggles are anger, pride, deceit, envy, greed, fear, gluttony, lust, and laziness.
If you haven't figured it out by now, figuring out your Enneagram type involves confronting your junk. But it's not all negative.
Each type has a corresponding great gift, the yin to their struggle’s yang. No type is better than another. We need all nine (healthy) types for the world to thrive. The goal of the Enneagram is that as we grow, we will embody more of our type's positive qualities and less of the negative qualities. We will be able to move around the circle and be our best selves.
We can use the Enneagram to better understand ourselves and others. It helps us recognize our unconscious tendencies and behaviors before they become self-defeating habits so we can avoid the consequences of those bad habits. And it helps us extend grace to others, as we learn to recognize what might be motivating them and figure out how to be better communicators as a result.
It's my favorite personality type system and has been a huge source of healing and growth for me—I'm a Type Four. I loved it so much, I even had an Enneagram coaching business for a couple of years, helping people figure out their type. Now I'm back to being an Enneagram enthusiast and I still love talking about it with friends or geeking out about it online.
If you want to learn more about the Enneagram, read this overview. It's a good primer on how it all works, especially on centers, wings, and arrows. I also talk more about how to figure out your type.
If you're a blogger, don't miss my Enneagram and Blogging series.
I also regularly answer readers' questions about the Enneagram.
- Of particular note, if you have questions about figuring out your type, you can't figure out your type, or you want to know what to do once you've figured out your type, read Part 1.
- If you have questions about the Arrows or how Type Six has two sides, read Part 2.
- If you wonder about the correlation of Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram or you're interested in online resources about the Enneagram, read Part 3.
These are my favorite books on the Enneagram.
Or you can just read all my Enneagram posts, including personal reflections about what I've learned as a Type Four, here.