I recently took an Enneagram test on the recommendation of my coach. I filled out the long questionnaire and submitted my answers to a special leadership coach. We then arranged a session to discuss my results.
I admit I don’t know much about Enneagram before doing this test, but I can see how it can be useful for some people by giving insights into their behaviour. However, if you are someone who has been on a journey of self-discovery for some time, it can seem like just another tool that tells you what is wrong with you and what needs fixing.
I came away from the session upset, angry, and frustrated. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t warm to the coach who was leading the session. As I filled in the questionnaire, there was nothing surprising in my result. I already knew what my weaknesses and strengths are. I am an Enneagram Type 7, which is all about adventure, novelty, and curiosity – typical for entrepreneurs and people with ADHD. We are fast at processing information but hardly ever take interest in one thing long enough to develop mastery. (I am putting this in much nicer terms than the coach who called type 7 people ‘superficial.’)
Without going into more details about the session, I want to share why I dislike the Enneagram test:
– It is archaic. There is no one ‘normal’ way everybody should be, there is no such thing as a human standard that we all need to aspire to be. Becoming a master at something is beautiful, and I envy my sister who has the patience and passion to dig very deep into one topic. But we are not all like that—and thank God for that. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I have a toolbox with all the experiences that I gathered by changing professions four times in my life. You would not want a person like me to be your brain surgeon, but you may want me to be your GP with a broader perspective. (Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, for example, talks regularly about how overspecialisation has ruined medicine in the past 40 years.)
– The “This is what’s wrong with you and it needs fixing” model doesn’t work! Our behavioural patterns develop for a reason, and many times those reasons are not pretty. Changing those behaviours for good will prove to be impossible unless we deal with our underlying issues. So, telling someone that they need to learn to speak up for themselves is futile, because they cannot physically do it if they don’t feel safe. Their body will not feel safe if their nervous system goes into overwork when they get triggered. If it was unsafe for you to be vulnerable/to speak up/to say no/etc. in your childhood, you most likely will not be able to do that as an adult. No coaching tools and tips can help you with that.
My Enneagram session with this coach was not a total waste, however. The only good takeaway from that session was looking at group dynamics and how the different personality types can work together and what motivates them. (Yet I also really didn’t like the idea of how our fears motivate us; it seemed like a very capitalist marketing approach to me.)
All in all, I didn’t learn anything new about myself, but I had some good confirmations of the practices I have been using to balance some of my qualities out. These practices make my life easier in the long run, even if I find it difficult to do them, e.g. grounding through mediation (which I don’t enjoy), experiencing a sensory deprivation tank, learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions, knowing how to ask for and receive feedback (even if it feels like a personal attack to me), not trying to escape the present moment, and learning to listen to others deeply with being fully present.
If you haven’t taken an Enneagram test, please don’t let this blog hold you back, I encourage you to do it and form your own opinion. And if you are not Type 7, you may not find the negative feedback that difficult to handle. 😉
If you have taken the test or received some coaching and found it useful, I would love to hear from you. I think I really need another perspective on this…my curious side is definitely up for exploring more!