Typing Yourself and Others Using the Enneagram
Typing yourself and others using the Enneagram types is a natural part of learning about and using the types. However, a lot of difficulties can arise when typing both yourself and others.
While some people discover their primary type right away, other people may take months or years to do so. Here are some reasons.
- Not understanding the Enneagram types well enough to discern the core of each type (it can be hard to distinguish between the types at first).
- Focusing on the external behaviors associated with type instead of the underlying motivations (many type descriptions refer to behavior but that's not always a good indicator of type).
- Learning about the types from someone who has a skewed understanding of the types (everyone has their own interpretation of the types that may or may not be consistent with other people's interpretations).
- Being told what your type is by someone who doesn't know you well enough or know the types well enough (anyone who has a great deal of experience typing others likely knows that you can only suggest a possible type for someone because each individual has to confirm it for himself or herself).
- Relying on the results of tests or other indicators to determine your type (they are only a starting point for further exploration).
- You have difficulty seeing yourself honestly (sometimes the opinion of someone else can give you additonal insights).
- The Enneagram type descriptions are often generalizations (your type may not easily be seen in the general types but may be found in one of the type variations).
- You are not a single Enneagram type but you do have a primary type (when looking for your primary type, secondary type influences may confuse you).
Typing others can be a bit controversial. Some people have been turned off to learning the Enneagram types because of a negative experience when someone else typed them. When typing someone else, you need to hold on loosely to your belief that a person is a particular type. A process of confirming someone else's type needs to take place (even then, you should remain open to other possibilities). When typing someone with their knowledge, you can ask the person being typed to confirm your guess. When typing someone without their knowledge (e.g., a famous celebrity or co-worker), you may be able to find some, but not absolute, confirmation in their own words and actions (e.g., autobiographies, interviews, interactions, etc.).
The types of famous people are the hardest to determine (especially when there's often little agreement on their type amongst people familiar with the Enneagram types). Although some Enneagram teachers may feel typing the famous is little more than a parlor game, personally I find knowing the type of someone famous gives me another opportunity to learn about the type by reading from what that person writes, listenting to what that person says, or observing what that person does. Here are some of the pitfalls to watch out for when determining the Enneagram types of famous people.
- They may not reveal their true personality (many public figures, especially politicians, project a managed image).
- There may not be enough first-hand information about the individual (what someone writes or says about another individual is not the same as hearing from that individual directly).
- What you learn about an individual may not be indicative of who they are most of the time (circumstances and events may cause an individual to temporarily shift out of character from what's typical for him or her).
- The Enneagram types have gaps in their ability to account for everyone (some people are simply not good examples of any particular type).
A separate reminder needs to be made about typing famous fictional characters: they are not real. While specific events from fictional stories might be useful for providing examples of Enneagram types, in general characters are simply a product of at least one person's imagination. While a character of the same type as the writer or actor can sometimes offer useful insight, many characterizations become a mix of the personality types involved in creating the character (i.e., writer, director, actor, etc.). An exception to typing fiction may be when writers or performers put a lot of themselves into the story or performance (it may be hard confirming this to be the case though).
In the end, I'd suggest always holding someone else's type loosely. Hold your own type loosely at first as well. If you find that working on the issues of your type comes easily and you feel like you've transcended the fixations of your type then I'd strongly suspect that you've typed yourself wrong (it happened to me when I first began learning about the Enneagram types).
I've devoted a whole section of Dave's Enneagram website to posts and web links about typing yourself and others.