I’ve posted about this a few times on Instagram and have gotten so many questions each time, so today, I hope you enjoy this brief departure from legal talk to share about my favorite tool I’ve discovered this year; both in terms of business, and just life in general: the Enneagram.
To begin, yes, it’s super trendy right now. Truthfully, the part of me that deeply craves authenticity and originality kind of hates that I’m one of those people on the bandwagon.
But hear me out. The Enneagram is one of those trends that actually became a trend based on merit. Kind of like how everyone loves Chik-fil-a, not just because it’s cool, but because it’s actually delicious, and comes with first class service.
The Enneagram is essentially a personality test, although that description isn’t entirely accurate. As we all know, there are a lot of personality tests out there- the Meyers Briggs, Strengsfinder, etc. And while each has their own merit, none have ever entirely caught my attention (although I will say, if you’re a business owner or work on a team, the Strengthfinder is a gold mine of knowledge). But to me, you can manipulate most personality tests; hence my failure to ever get fully interested in one.
The Enneagram is a little different in that it tests your motivations, rather than your personality. When I first heard that, it didn’t really appeal to me at all- after all, I have always been naturally highly motivated, and I didn’t need a test to prove that to me (this is an example of the 100% percent incorrect understanding of what that means). What the Enneagram actually does is test the way in which your motivations or your “wiring” influence or direct your decisions, actions, and how you view the world. Another fun fact is that the Enneagram actually traces it’s history back to historical roots, and was passed verbally generation by generation until the early 21st century when it was transcribed into written text and gained in popularity in the western world.
There are 9 different types all on a triangular-type shape. I highly, highly recommend listening to the Liturgist Podcast episode that introduces all 9 types.
I was introduced to the Enneagram in January as a part of a course I was enrolled in. If you and I spoke personally, you know that January was the weirdest month of business I’ve ever had- the highest highs and lowest of lows in my entire career happened in a 1-2 week span. I had to take the Enneagram smack dab in the middle of that.
Looking back, my scores were unsurprising, given the facts at hand. I came out as an 8, with a 3 pretty close behind it. I share this because it’s an important note for anyone new to the test: your initial scores may not be completely accurate. In fact, they rarely are. Most Enneagram instructors say to take the test with a grain of salt, because it’s a human test and therefore prone to error. The more you learn about the Enneagram, one number will start to stand out to you.
I’ve taken the test a few times now, and I’ve noticed that the more I have matured in business, the more honest my scores are beginning to become. For example, the longer time goes on, the more my “3” keeps dropping down the line. I have a personal theory that the 3 is a remnant of my old law school/ law firm litigation days, where all of my worth was tied into my ability to be persuasive, achieving, and a performer. As my 3 goes down, I see my 7 rising up the ranks- in other words, my ability to relax and enjoy life.
I am without a shadow of doubt an 8. In fact, when my husband read the 8’s description, he (jokingly?) said that it was the first time I made sense. 8’s are self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational when necessary, and are driven by a “lust” for life-“lust”, defined more as a deep desire to really live. 8’s are also most adverse to/driven by betrayal, meaning this is the worst thing you could do to an 8. I couldn’t identify with this more. And while this number is considered to have the most energy on the Enneagram, it can eventually lead to physical ramifications like burnout, or worse. It’s considered to be the most rare type for females, which also didn’t surprise me. As I’ll get into more below, recognizing the differences in myself and most of my clients was hugely beneficial to me as a client-based business owner.
How can the Enneagram help you?
I promise I’m not just writing about the Enneagram today so that I can talk all about my type. I believe that the Enneagram is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone who is in any sort of relationship with other people. In other words, everyone.
Primarily, the Enneagram is helpful in recognizing that the way that other people view circumstances isn’t the same as you. We all know this, of course, but understanding the way in which other types of numbers may view the same circumstance entirely different than you is so helpful- whether you’re in a negotiation-type circumstance, or just in general. For example, a number that I struggle with in times of stress (ie, if we’re both faced with a stressful circumstance) is a 6. They may view that circumstance with fear or apprehension, while I enjoy the challenge of it. This difference may have really annoyed me in the past, and I might’ve secretly thought that person needed to “get over” their fear. Now, I not only understand it, but through the Enneagram I can recognize ways in which that varying perspective can be an asset for me.
Much to my initial dismay, my lowest two numbers are 4’s and 9’s. In other words, the “Peacemaker” and the “Artist”. And my entire career revolves around being a peacemaker for creatives! Ironically, two of my absolute dearest friends that I met through business are a 4 and a 9. I’m sure they’d be quick to agree with me that we don’t see eye to eye on everything. For example, 4’s are considered to be the type “most in touch with their emotions”, while an 8 has the easiest time separating their emotions from the facts at hand. In other words, 8’s can come across as cold. However, 4’s and 8’s are the most motivated by authenticity/originality out of any other numbers, and this friend and I bond strongly over this theme in our industry.
Another insight of the Enneagram: the 9 numbers are divided into 3 groups in terms of how they view the world: 3 numbers are focused on the past, 3 are on the present, and 3 are future-looking. An 8 is future-looking, which I can say is 100% true. My brain is wired to always look ahead; very rarely am I ever fixated on something that happened in the past, or even the present.
Here’s a tangible example of this: my husband is a 1. In a lot of ways, we are really different; one of which is how we react in emergency situations. Last month, a heavy rain caused our backyard to flood, and it came within literally a fraction of an inch from our house. My sweet husband was completely focused on the encroaching water; while I was more focused on what would happen in the next steps. To him, I looked like I could care less about the flood; I had that little emotion about it. To me, I could see that he, being the conscientious and detail-oriented person that he is, had already handled step 1, so I was thinking ahead to steps 2 and 3 in my brain. I didn’t see any reason to respond with emotion; rather, just problem- solving.
If you want to learn more about how different numbers interact with one another (it’s fascinating), you can find more here.
In the same way, the Enneagram has helped me in understanding how my clients view the legal side of their business. For example, some numbers will come across as very fearful and overly detailed in their questions to me. As a busy business owner, it can honestly be hard to answer the same question over and over. However, learning to understand how those numbers think has greatly helped me in helping those clients in the best way that I can. If you are a business owner, I think this is one critical reason why the Enneagram would be helpful for you.
Recognizing Stress and Security In Yourself
This might be another point about the Enneagram that seems a little unimportant, but to me, this has been by far the most important lesson of the Enneagram.
The Enneagram is on a 9-point scale, and when you get your results, you’ll see arrows pointing to two different numbers, like this:
This meant nothing to me for the first three months I knew about the Enneagram, and then I finally realized the importance of this tool.
From my personal perspective, as I said, 8’s have the most energy, are the “least attached” to their emotions, and are driven. In other words, I personally have such a hard time with realizing when I should “stop”, I’d call it impossible. I’m just really, really comfortable with working hard, and it doesn’t bother me at all. Unfortunately, at the end of the day I’m human, and I’m not immune to burnout or overworking any more than the next person. I mean it when I say I honestly cannot discern when I’m working too much…. until something like THIS happens.
Understanding how you react in stress and security in the Enneagram is absolutely critical for an entrepreneur. Now, I recognize that when I’m taking on 5-like tendencies, my body is trying to tell me something. On the other hand, when I find myself become more nurturing/more of a “helper” like a 2, I recognize that what I’m doing is “healthy”.
Finally, the Enneagram also breaks down our number’s personality tendencies on levels of “health”, which are so important in recognizing ways in which you could grow or mature. From what I understand, this is one giant way that the Enneagram differs from other personality tests: it doesn’t just tell you what you are; it tells you where you are and gives you a roadmap on how to grow.
Like I keep saying, no matter what you do, I think the Enneagram is an incredibly important tool for anyone to become acquainted with. If you give it a chance, I truly think the Enneagram will surprise you with its helpfulness. After all, there’s a reason why it has been passed down through cultures and centuries upon centuries!
If you’re interested in investigating more on your own, here are the places I’d recommend starting:
Take the test: Enneagraminstitute.com
Listen to these podcasts: start with The Liturgist podcast and listen to their episode that introduces all 9 types; then the Road Back to You Podcast; the Typology podcast, and The Path Between Us podcast
Books: The Path Between Us; The Road Back To You