What’s your number? This frequently asked question isn’t referring to your phone number. It’s your Enneagram number, and people from all walks of life are using it to understand themselves and their relationships.
Enneagram and Relationships
Droves of Instagram accounts, bloggers, and more are including this personality assessment in their work and conversations. Perhaps different from other personality assessments, something about the Enneagram tool seems to ring true in a deep way for many.
But how can your number impact your relationships? Or does it? What happens if a number 9 and a number 2 are in a relationship? If you haven’t read about this assessment, you may be wondering what these numbers mean. So I, Amelia Peck MFT, reached out to Kelsey Hoff, a Marriage and Family Therapist who lives in Amman, Jordan and treats clients on a global scale. She uses this tool with her clients to help guide them through what brings them to therapy.
What is the Enneagram?
Can you explain what the Enneagram personality assessment is?
In a basic sense, the Enneagram is a tool that is used to understand and describe how individuals experience and interact with the world, as well as the motivating factors that drive choices, desires, and actions. Although every personality is fluid and has an aspect of each of the 9 types, most people find that they tend to lean towards one or two types, usually numbers that are next to one another (called the dominant type and wing). The Enneagram can be engaged in more depth by looking at how each type interacts with other types in health and stress; furthermore, each type is part of a triad that brings understanding on the individual’s way of understanding the world.
How do you discover your Enneagram number?
There is a multitude of online tests to learn your number; however, these tests can be limiting. The best way is really to read about it and choose yourself which number you most identify with. I often tell clients that the tests are a good place to start. Then they should take their top three, research those, and come to their own conclusions; it is not intended to use as a box. I always encourage people to take what is useful and leave what isn’t.
Once someone learns their number, what are the best next steps?
There is endless information on the web about the Enneagram, as well as books, podcasts, and workshops. Whatever way you learn best, I recommend diving in! Learning about all of the numbers can be overwhelming. Just focus on your own and maybe the number of someone close to you. I always learn a lot from talking to others who are discovering the Enneagram; I recommend finding others who are on the same journey, such as friends, your spouse, or family.
Does anyone’s Enneagram number ever change?
From my research – no, your Enneagram number does not change. However, you may experience a more or less healthy version of your number in different seasons of your life. This may make you feel like you have characteristics of a different number (this can also be understood through knowing about your direction of disintegration). Furthermore, you might connect in different seasons with your wing instead of your dominant type. This could be in times where you are under a lot of pressure or in transition. Like any personality assessment, you will not identify with 100% of one number and that is okay.
One of the Best Parts of the Enneagram
One of the best parts of the Enneagram, in my opinion as a therapist, is that it gives unique language to dynamics that many clients have a hard time describing. In response, I am able to adapt my own language, types of questions, and ways of interacting according to the Enneagram type of my client. It is a great tool! Many clients comment that the level of accuracy the Enneagram provides is eery but extremely insightful. Furthermore, each type has a basic fear and desire; many clients find that the Enneagram helps them to identify what they are needing and then offers direction in becoming a healthier version of their type and to not remain stagnant.
Using the Enneagram to Improve Relationships
How did you begin to use it in your practice and how do you see its impact?
I started to use the Enneagram in my practice after I heard about it from friends, did a lot of research about it, and found it extremely helpful in my own personal life. There seem to be endless areas of exploration that could come from the Enneagram it impresses me, the layers of deep work that could be facilitated through it, both in myself and others. Over time I started to ask clients whether it means anything to them and, if it did, I would weave it into our sessions. Since then I have recommended it to many clients and found that it has been well-received. It has been especially helpful in my work with ex-pats overseas, as transition, living in a different culture, and stress, all bring about hard-to-manage dynamics that can be further understood through the lens of the Enneagram.
Are there certain Enneagram types that pair better in relationships than others?
Not necessarily. Each type will bring certain natural strengths to a relationship; however, there are also shadow-sides to each type that may be predictable depending on the type. The wonder of the Enneagram is that it offers guidance to work through these relationship dynamics. Since the Enneagram is about becoming a healthier version of your type, as well as gaining the ability to draw from other types when appropriate, the quality of a pair has more to do with how healthy each individual is and their commitment to growth in the relationship, and not in the type combination.
How can people use insights from their Enneagram numbers to improve their relationships?
First, it allows for an understanding of your own reaction and response to the world. Then, it provides direction for how to become a more whole version of who you really are. If fully engaged, it does not allow you to stay where you are but is always pushing you towards more integration of your type and others.
Second, it provides a common language that enables good communication and the ability to verbalize challenging relational dynamics. I have seen very constructive conversations occur within a relationship when there is an understanding of the basic needs and fears of each person, as offered by the Enneagram. It often plays the role of a ‘mirror’ in these types of conversations. It also offers the opportunity for the extension of empathy.
What do you think about the Enneagram? Has it helped you better understand yourself and relationships? Let us know in the comments or share with loved ones on your favorite family app!