A good question to determine your Enneagram style and to isolate the patterns in your style that you might like to change would be
“When do I get in trouble?” Our Enneagram habits served us well in childhood and portions of those habits serve us well today. Further, our Enneagram habits serve us well in some contexts but not in others. You can hardly change an overall habit, but if you isolate a context, you can see where a small change would be beneficial and possible. I can’t stop having a baseline of smoldering anger if I am an anger-based type, but I can stop kicking the dog. Our Enneagram habits are often generalizations. “I worry a lot.” But if you make your worry specific or if one specific worry is a problem, you can address that.

So what’s one small area that is frequently troublesome?


This is an experiment. Can I include picture?


This is from Elizabeth Wagele’s new book, Enneagram for Teens that I recently mentioned (and reviewed for the Enneagram Monthly).

Here’s why

If we want to change any of the central key habits of our Enneagram habits, we face an enormous challenge. It is called “confirmation bias.” I’ll let Wikipedia explain what it is.

Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses.[Note 1][1] It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situation.

Our Enneagram style deeply embeds both intellectual and emotional convictions. That’s an important reason we never change our enneagram style.


Elizabeth Wagele, author of a number of books on the Enneagram, has a new one, The Enneagram for Teens. It is a superb book and I recommend it. The book has one salient feature I want to comment on. Wagele uses cartoons and I think cartoons and the Enneagram are perfect together.

Our Enneagram style has a tendency to do the same thing to our personality that a cartoon does to a picture. It simplifies. A good cartoon is a simplified (technically, stylized, I suppose) picture, focusing on one or at the most only a few characteristics. So does our Enneagram style. If we have only one habitual response, life is simpler. Impoverished but simple. A good cartoon exaggerates to make a point. So does our Enneagram style: we call it “over-reacting.” If our Enneagram style is pronounced enough, we become a caricature. Scrooge is so bad a five that he becomes a caricature.

So if you are teaching the Enneagram, Wagele’s many books provide a marvelous resource for teaching. The cartoons are immediate, often funny, disarmingly accurate and provide a good visual addition to a spoken presentation.

Game on!

When we talk about style Eights, we often think of aggressive NFL type males or Matthews or Trump with their loud voices and high energy.
But sometimes an attractive women like Jeannine Pirro is just as clearly an Eight. Here is Pirro’s worldview as a style 8:

They’re either with us or they’re against us. And stop with this nuclear negotiation nonsense. They don’t operate the way we do. You can’t negotiate. You can’t mediate. You can’t bargain. You can’t even reason with these people!

Pirro says “We need to kill them, we need to kill them.

This is the “black and white, only violence works, we’re good and they’re bad” view of an Eight in full throttle. When the Enneagram books say that Eights see the world as a battlefield, this is the kind of language and emotion that you get.

Your call

Sixes often have difficulty making choices. Frequently they delay and then impulsively act. They see themselves as powerless so they don’t exercise the power of choice. Here’s a good TED talk that might help style Six realize the true nature of choosing.

The notion of choosing is not nearly as rational as education might have us believe. The word decide comes from the Latin word to chop off, as a sword might cut off a limb. It is an act of the will. Sixes give their power away and see themselves helpless to commit to one of the alternatives. Looking for the right partner/job/house/menu item is not about them. It’s about you.

What age?

People often ask at what age can you tell someone’s Enneagram stye. My only answer is usually very young. (I knew my granddaughter was a One when she was two.

But at what age can you begin to recognize a style? My 5 year old grandson, listening to the radio broadcast of a basketball game with his father, listened to 75 year old Dick Vitale – a flaming Seven — and said, “He sounds like an old teenager!” Nailed it. 🙂

Arc of growth – 9

Style Nine moves from being immobile an indecisive to being focused and initiating.

Key patterns to transform:

1. Practices meditation naturally (can “space out” easily)
2. Presents only a pleasant self.
3. Falls asleep to deepest needs.
4. Tends to minimize problems and difficulties

Nines are often asleep to their desire and need for recognition. They self-erase and then can get angry that they are overlooked. I was coaching a Nine in Atlanta (by phone). She was upset because she had been passed by to go to a conference she really wanted to attend. She was 50 and the pretty young women chosen was 30 and she felt age-discriminated. I asked her if she had asked to go. No, she had not. We talked about why she wanted to go and she felt she had leadership qualities that were ignored. I asked where else she was a leader. It so happened that she was going to be interviewed the next week for her work with the homeless in her little church. I asked what she was going to wear. “Oh, I think I’ll go casual, like usual,” she replied. I feigned sharp disapproval and scolded her, sort of, saying that the reporter would take her picture and she should dress up well. (One way Nines self-erase is with drab clothes). She did and her picture was in the paper. I suggested she take the article and take her boss to lunch and tell him how much she enjoyed organizing things like that.

She did. And she was invited (after some prompting) to the conference. And she was given a raise. “Who knew” she wanted more responsibility?

Arc of growth – 8

For fairly clear Enneagram reasons, a lot of style 8s are drawn to politics. An ideology functions much like the style eight fixation. It divides the world into two opposing views and sees the world as a battlefield with the other view the enemy.

On MSNB you can watch Chris Matthews. If Bush was “the decider,” Matthew is “the interrupter.” Matthews, like many Eights, is very eager to share his opinions and interrupts his guests with regularity either to correct or corroborate. He does not listen well, as many Eights don’t. Right before him is Ed Schultz who makes no bones that he is on one side – the working class. He is there to inform and entertain (this is TV, you know), but it is equally clear that he is there to convince us of the righteousness of his cause. No matter where the conversation starts it usually ends up with a defense of the working class.

Over on the conservative side, Bill O’Reilly is a clear Eight. They don’t call him “papa bear” for nothing. He is blunt, absolutely sure of everything and considers liberals as both ignorant and evil. On radio only is Rush Limbaugh whose clearest emotion is rage. The level of rage that informs most of his opinions is a marker of style Eight. He, like the three above, indulges in black and white thinking (all liberals are all bad and all conservatives are all good), but it is the level of rage that is the clearest marker of his style.

Arc of growth – 8

Style Eight moves from a view of life as a battlefield to being compassionate, even nurturing.

Key patterns for transformation:

1. Preoccupied with power
2. Black/white thinking (whose side in the battle?)
3. Searches for truth thru confrontation
4. Fails to distinguish revenge from justice

I was giving a retreat and a man with his wife by his side told the group that he saw himself as a junkyard dog. (This is fairly common). He was working on having a better relationship with his wife. When he said he was a junkyard dog, I asked him if anyone gets to pet him. His wife teared up and to my delight, so did he. We talked about even junkyard dogs having someone close and the importance of being close to those he was protecting with his gruff and aggressive manner. It was a striking moment of change and growth for him. (Often symbols reach emotions not usually accessed by rational, logical means). Once he claimed the metaphor, he could move within it.