Getting Fit with the Right Type

It isn’t as simple as getting measured for a pair of pants or a jacket. OK, sometimes it’s that easy; but for many people, figuring out which Enneagram type they are is like standing in front of a dressing room mirror impatiently trying on and taking off several different outfits.

I asked Debbie to sum up her experience not with her type, but with the process of trying it on and seeing how it fit her. As she says, she’s done this twice now. In retrospect, it’s easy to see how she was mistyped as a 7 and how she then interpreted her attitudes and behaviors through that lens. It seemed a “good enough” fit—until it wasn’t.

During our discussion, she said she was in a state of shock when she found out she was a 6w7, and she’s not overstating the case. I was there. But over the past year, switching her view to the lens of a 6 has made a huge difference and led to many aha! moments. For me, too, knowing her as long as I have.

The caveat is always that no Enneagram test is 100% accurate, nor do any of them claim to be. The tests are a good starting point. Then you may have to try on a few different types or combinations of types till you find the one that fits—like that suit of clothing. It may seem frustrating or time-consuming or pointless, but I think it’s well worth the effort. Once you hit on the right number, events and thoughts and feelings from your past and your present begin to resonate in a different way. Most people have the experience Debbie and I had of suddenly seeing an aspect of our behavior we never understood in a new and much clearer light.

Here’s what Debbie had to say:

D:     Given my personal experience with the Enneagram and moving from what I thought I was to something else, I think it doesn’t hurt to revisit type descriptions and key points occasionally. Even once you think you know who you are. I don’t think there’s ever a time when you can say, “I really understand this type well,” even if it’s your type. It’s easy to forget an aspect of your own type or overlook something that didn’t seem important initially. Later, you might see that it’s an important piece. When you revisit something you look at it from a different perspective, so there are things in your description you may pick up on that you missed at first.

For example, we talked about understanding or perceiving how other people are feeling, and that wasn’t something I had thought about as being related to 6. I’m sure there are other parts of 6 I haven’t explored yet, either. It’s just not enough to read it when you find out what your type is. You need to go back.

Having done this twice now, I think there’s also a challenge in being open to the description of your type and seeing yourself and how you fit with that type—especially in terms of being able to accept things about yourself, maybe the strengths and weaknesses you think belong in one place and then find out belong somewhere else. It’s a challenge to be willing to look at both the positive and the negative and not be afraid of either.

It’s also good to learn about the other types to get some insight into what’s important to other people. It’s interesting to ask questions and say, “Well, does he do this or does he do that?” and then figure out where they’re coming from. It has also helped me in the workplace, when I haven’t been able to understand what other people were doing or why things were the way they were. When I realized, “Oh, this person is this type,” I was then able to think about how to interact with someone who wasn’t the same as I was.

I realized the other person wasn’t simply dismissing whatever I had to say out of hand but just had a different perspective on the situation. That was a real helpful piece of the Enneagram for me. And it helps in terms of relationships with my children and with my husband to know that things that seem odd to me do have an explanation in terms of type (most of the time).

J: My experience is that 6s are one of the more difficult types to pin down accurately, so they are often mistyped. Different people have different ideas about why this is the case. So I plan to explore the subject a little more and devote a future post to it.

For now, thank you, Debbie, for being so open and willing to share your experience.

Here are the first four posts of our discussion: one, two, three, and four.

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