understanding the enneagram
Personal Dvelopment

Understanding the Enneagram Basics

The Enneagram personality test is something I’ve heard a lot about in the past few years. Many people whom I admire greatly talk about have raved about it as a way to better understand yourself and relate to others. But I had a hard time understanding the enneagram basics. To be honest, I took several tests online and was very confused by all the different tests. I could never remember my “number.” I felt like the test overall only focused on negative descriptions. It was hard for me to feel connected to it or any of the results. But that all changed as I learned more about it. It all started from what I learned while listening to a Jamie Ivey’s Happy Hour podcast episode with Suzanne Stabile. She is an expert on the Enneagram who has been studying and teaching on this method for over 25 years!


What is the Enneagram?

The Enneagram test sorts you into 9 different personality types. While the descriptions at first seem to focus on the negative, I learned that the idea behind the test is to find out what you are motivated by. By becoming more self-aware, you can then move forward and grow. What fears are you motivated by? The test also assumes that these nine personality types are nine lenses that describe how people see the world.

The Nine Basic Types are (Riso-Hudson Type Names):

1 The Reformer

2 The Helper

3 The Achiever

4 The Individualist

5 The Investigator

6 The Loyalist

7 The Enthusiast

8 The Challenger

9 The Peacemaker

See this article from The Enneagram Institute for in-depth type descriptions. You may see other resources that list different names for each number, but they all hold similar values.


Understanding the Enneagram

In addition to the basic numbers, each number has “wings.” I am a visual learner so the easiest way for me to understand is with a visual picture:

This is a diagram of the nine numbers from The Enneagram Institute:

The Enneagram Diagram from the Enneagram Institute
The Enneagram diagram from The Enneagram Institute

Notice how each point of the number is connected to another number: The one is connected to the four, the four to the two, and so on. You can trace that path around the whole diagram. As Suzanne Stabile explained on one of her podcast episodes, each wing your number is attached to is how you will respond when you are in either stress or security. For example, if you are a 4 on the enneagram (self-absorbed, creative, romantic, melancholy), when you are under stress you will take on the characteristics of a 1 (perfectionistic, going into work mode). When you feel secure, you take on the characteristics of a 2 (Helping, more outward focus). These are necessary as they complement your personality and help you to function outside of your normal perception.


How to Know Your Number

Before diving deeper into learning, my knowledge of the enneagram was take a test, know your number. However, my whole outlook on this personality test changed after I listened to the Jaime Ivey Podcast Episode with Suzanne Stabile. What she said blew my mind and made me so curious to know more.

Instead of taking a quiz, Suzanne said you need to do the work for yourself to learn which number you are. You have to take an active part to learn the number types. Once you take some time to dig in, you can better self-identify your number.

This makes so much sense! It is so much more active than passive. You have to engage in the work to learn about yourself. In doing so, you then can take steps toward improvement.

By knowing what motivates you, you can learn to get out of you own way and on a better path to being the best you can be.


Enneagram Resources

There is of course so much more to learn on this subject! I have tried to only give a very brief overview. If you want to dive deeper into learning about the enneagram, I have compiled a list of resources that have helped me understand better.

Explore Your Type Test:


This is the test associated with Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron’s book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery. This test is not to be used as 100% accurate, but is a good starting place to get an idea of your number. From there it is up to you to do the work to explore each number and decide if it best fits you or not. My results were a 4, and so far in my study I believe that is accurate and that is the number I have gotten on other tests as well, but I am still learning!

Book on the Enneagram:

The Road Back to You book
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.

I am in the process of reading this book to better understand the Enneagram. You can get it from your library, or from Amazon, or other stores that may carry books.

Website on the Enneagram:

I have found a lot of good information on the Enneagram Institute’s website. There are pretty in-depth explanations of each type and how the system works. I think it’s a great way to get more information for free!

Podcasts on the Enneagram:

You can listen to the interview Jamie Ivey did with Suzanne Stabile here on her podcast The Happy Hour.

Suzanne Stabile and Ian Morgan Cron actually have their own podcast as well. You can listen here. It is basically conversations with different people who are different numbers and it’s a great way to learn through stories how you can relate to different numbers. They are very conversational and funny!

In Person Workshops on the Enneagram:

Suzanne Stabile, her husband, and their team offer in-depth workshops called “Know Your Number” through their organization Life in the Trinity. You can find a list of their events here.

I have not yet taken one of these workshops, but I would love to go to one as I continue learning about the Enneagram System. It is $75 for a 1 or 2 day workshop (depending on the date/location). It seems like this would be such a great resource. She teaches orally so you get an in-depth discussion on knowing your number through her teaching.



I hope these resources are helpful to you! Have you taken any enneagram tests or training? How did it help you know yourself better? Let me know what your number is in the comments, or any additional resources or thoughts you have! I’d love to learn more!


Understanding Enneagram basics

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