Enneagram Framework: Part I

Written By Emily Hinz
Posted on

The Enneagram personality framework has gained quite a following in recent years. When doing a quick search online, it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of endless information from trained Enneagram coaches, to casual bloggers, and just about everyone in between. It's also become a popular tool used by teams to better understand their employees' similarities and differences, improve workplace communication, and boost productivity.

The basic structure of the Enneagram is represented by a nine-point diagram, in which each point symbolizes a unique personality type. Most Enneagram experts agree we’re each born with one dominant type, though that type can be somewhat influenced by our experiences and environmental factors. These experts believe that while our dominant type remains the same throughout our lives, how that type is expressed can look different depending on various circumstances.

Enneagram Fullgray Resize
  • Ones: principled, responsible, self-controlled, high integrity, always asking “how can I make this better?”
  • Twos: caring, generous, supportive, relational, vulnerable, always asking “how can I help?”
  • Threes: driven, successful, image-conscious, future-oriented, always asking “what’s possible?”
  • Fours: sensitive, creative, idealistic, dramatic, emotionally deep, always asking “who am I?”
  • Fives: intelligent, analytical, calm, deep-thinking, private, always asking “what do I think?”
  • Sixes: committed, trustworthy, responsible, communal, witty, always asking “what if?”
  • Sevens: playful, optimistic, imaginative, spontaneous, energetic, always asking “how can I be happy?”
  • Eights: strong, assertive, decisive, courageous, confrontational, always asking “what am I going to do about this?”
  • Nines: supportive, adaptable, conflict-avoiding, amiable, always asking “how can we get along?”

From there, the nine-point diagram can be split into three triads: the Head Triad, the Heart Triad, and the Gut Triad. Each triad consists of three personality types, and the types within a triad have certain traits in common and are driven by a particular shared emotional response.

Enneagram Triads

Gut Triad

Instinctive

These types are instinctual. They rely on gut feelings to make decisions and tend to be independent, decisive, and direct. Anger is their driving emotion.

Heart Triad

Feeling

These types rely on emotions. They respond to life from their heart, and often care deeply about how others see them. Shame is their driving emotion.

Head Triad

Thinking

These types rely on their mental strength. They are usually observant, analytical, and like to plan ahead. Fear is their driving emotion.

While each triad has one particular driving emotion, the way each type expresses that emotion varies¹. One type in each triad usually externalizes the emotion, one type internalizes it, and the other represses it. This driving emotion is their “go-to” emotion ‐ meaning when they’re confronted with a stressful or problematic situation, this is the feeling that’s triggered. Of course, we all feel each of these emotions at some point in our lives, but the idea is that underneath the (often complex) layers of emotions we feel in response to our circumstances, we each have a foundational ‘emotional theme’ that we find particularly affects us.

Don’t know your dominant type yet? Check out the Enneagram Institute to learn more about each type and take the test, then let us know which type you are @zaengle. Identifying your dominant type is only part of the story, so stay tuned to learn more about the Enneagram framework.


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  1. Cron, Ian Morgan, and Suzanne Stabile. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery. InterVarsity Press, 2016.
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