Thursday, July 12, 2007


A few years ago I was introduced to the Enneagram method of personality testing. This is a fascinating construct of personality types created by Don Riso and Russ Hudson. Its premise is that there are nine major personality types that people can fall into. It further posits that there are nine levels of health within each major personality type with distinct and noticeable behaviors and attitudes at each level. Finally, it rounds out the personality descriptions by adding a “wing” to each personality type. (That was my description, their description is here.) Let me illustrate with my type:

My predominant personality type is #9, the Peacemaker.
free enneagram test

The easy-going, self-effacing type. Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness. At their Best: indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.

I knew I was a nine when I was reading the book and ran across a description of the 9 personality type that described nines as someone taking a bike ride through a beautiful park on a lovely day. They are admiring the scenery and the people and the whole experience of the ride, with no one aspect rising above the other. The nine is so into the entirety of the experience that they don’t notice that both tires on the bike are flat. They are getting somewhere but not efficiently and without being aware of themselves.

That fit me perfectly; I’m perfectly able to ignore problems by immersing myself into the rest of the experience of life. Much of the rest of the descriptions of the nine also fits me well. In the book each personality type is also given nine levels of health.

I’m not the “At their Best” level of health but I do believe I’m on the healthy side, I would put myself at level 3 of the 9. I am reasonably in touch with my feelings and instincts (being out of touch is a flaw that nines are vulnerable to) and have managed to become more of myself in the process. Ironically, it was by becoming more into me that I have been able to become more aware of others and more able to support and nurture them. It has also given me increased motivation to pursue my own interests and hobbies and passions.

The nine has two potential wings. A wing is a tendency towards one of the personality types on either side of your primary type. So my potential wings are 8 and 1. Type 1 is the Reformer – a rational and idealistic personality type. Type 8 is the Challenger – a challenging and domineering confident personality. I have a weak one wing – which oddly is labeled the Comfort Seeker in the book – which is also a fairly accurate description.

This whole process of learning the personality types was a very powerful tool for me. I needed an intellectual framework to understand my own ways of thinking because at the time I learned these I was very out of touch with my own feelings and thoughts. Having a structure to attempt to compare my own thinking against opened my eyes to how I think – not just what I was thinking and gave me practice learning what I was feeling instead of reacting to my feelings without even knowing what they were.

I suppose these types of tests aren’t for everyone. But I found it a wonderful tool for understanding myself and those around me. You can take a free sample test here if you are interested in learning more. The sample test isn't scientific like their complete battery but it will likely give you a good idea of your primary personality type.


John O said...

I am a Reformer. The principled, idealistic type. Ones are conscientious and ethical, with a strong sense of right and wrong. They are teachers, crusaders, and advocates for change: always striving to improve things, but afraid of making a mistake. Well-organized, orderly, and fastidious, they try to maintain high standards, but can slip into being critical and perfectionistic. They typically have problems with resentment and impatience. At their Best: wise, discerning, realistic, and noble. Can be morally heroic.

I also scored fairly high on Achiever and Investigator.

My problem with personality tests is that in watching some friends fill them out, they select options that I am mystified at. "How could you possibly think that you are (whatever)?"

Like that one online test where friends could alter your score, I think others view of us is often quite a bit different than our own view, and there's no clear winner on who is most accurate.

Julie said...

I came out a Helper, with Achiever and Peacemaker in a tie for close second. I like personality tests.

Jacob said...

I came out somewhere between an 8 (Challenger) and a 7 (Enthusiast). I think my actual personality is the 8 with the 7 being a function of ADD. I also scored pretty high in both 5 (Investigator) and 1 (Reformer). All of which makes sense to me, though others might disagree. Nice test, thanks for pointing it out.

Drake Tungsten said...

I semi-agree with John that personality tests are often to arbitrary. However, I am quite impressed with the insights that this particular method has given to me. It's fairly rigorus and self-correcting so you will usually score yourself correctly.

My first run through these was with a psychologist who used it frequently. He believed that this test was accurate enough to be an effective treatment tool. And for sure, his introduction of it to me was highly good for me.

I've got the book I linked to in the article. I'll bring it around to loan out if anyone would like to see it.

Julie said...

For kicks and giggles I had my 12 year old child take the test. She came out with a tie in Individualist, and Peacemaker, which seemed fairly accurate to me. HOWEVER, it would be interesting to see if she still had the same answers 5 to 10 years from now. She's only just now figuring out who she wants to be.

Kelly said...

I came out as a HELPER "demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive." with a close second as an ENTHUSIAST "spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered." Nothing else even came close.

...ummm ya that would be me.

Rebecca said...

I scored equally across three of them. I cannot be pigeon-holed! Haha. (3, 4 and 8 FWIW.)

Hope things are going well!

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