How (Not) to Use the Enneagram

Updated: October 17, 2023
4 minutes read
When you start your journey with the Enneagram, one of the first things you should know is how to use it responsibly.

We get it, you’re excited. You found out your personality type, you’re reading all this uncannily accurate stuff about yourself, and now you want to tell all your friends.

That’s great!

But take it from the two guys who have made all the mistakes you can make: You can annoy people very quickly if you’re not smart about it.

That’s why we thought we would put all those blunders of ours in a handy list so you don’t have to repeat them. It’s basically the handbook for using the Enneagram.

Because we don’t want to focus only on the negative though, we also added a short list of things you definitely should do with the Enneagram.

So before you go out there and tell the world, make sure you internalize these ground rules.

What you will learn
a tipped over ice cream cone with the ice cream spilt
All men make mistakes. But only wise men write blog posts about them.

Nine things you should not do with the Enneagram

Working with the self-knowledge you gain from the Enneagram can improve your life and other people’s lives dramatically. Thinking it’s a magical tool that gives you x-ray vision into the psyche of other people, however, can do more harm than good. Here’s how not to turn the Enneagram into something toxic.

1. Don’t weaponize it

Don’t use the Enneagram to dismiss or criticize people by saying stuff like „Stop acting like such a (Insert Type)!“ All you do is give people a reason to identify with their type and become stuck in it – the opposite of what the Enneagram is trying to do. Also, it’s just a dick move.

2. Don’t excuse your actions

Don’t use your own type to excuse your behavior. The Enneagram isn’t there to allow you say „I’m an Eight, deal with it.“ It’s there precisely to allow you NOT to use your personality as a cop-out anymore.

3. Don’t tell people which type you think they are

We know how big the temptation is, but don’t tell others what you think their Enneagram type is. First, you’ll rob them of the chance to find it out themselves, which greatly reduces the impact that moment can have. Secondly, you might simply be wrong, no matter how right you believe you are. In the best case, you’ll just confuse them. In the worst case, that’s the only information about the Enneagram they’ll ever get, and not only will they likely start identifying with their type (which is bad, as mentioned above), but, on top of that, they’ll identify with something that’s not even true.

4. Don’t interpret too much into other people’s type

Don’t think that just because you know someone’s Enneagram type that you know everything about who they are and what they can and cannot do. Just as an example, don’t assume that because someone is a type Five that they can’t assume leadership or that a type One can’t be relaxed and cheerful and so on.

5. Don’t try to manipulate people

This should be obvious even outside of the Enneagram. But we know the temptation is there for some people, so we’ll spell it out: Never use your knowledge of someone’s type to try to manipulate or exploit them. Not really much more to be said here. The Enneagram is there to better love yourself and people. Go do that.

6. Don’t alienate those who’ve never heard about it

If you’re in a group with people who don’t know the Enneagram, don’t make it the main subject. First, you’ll create an environment of „outsiders“ and „insiders“, which always sucks for any topic. Secondly, you’ll likely lower their enthusiasm to engage with the Enneagram the next time because you were such a jerk about it.

7. Don’t think you’re smarter than you are

We don’t care how well you think you know the Enneagram. Yes, it looks easy to use on the outside. But it’s a complex tool that requires years of study to master. Don’t talk and act like you know more about it than you do. Not only will you make a fool out of yourself when someone finds you out, but you also come across as a smug pair of smartypants, and no-one likes those.

8. Don’t make the Enneagram your only perspective

The Enneagram is a powerful thing, but it’s not the only lense through which to see people and their behavior. When you treat everyone around you as nothing more than an Enneagram number, you’ll not only diminish the complexity of their personality, you’ll also reduce your own ability to see beyond what the Enneagram is able to tell you about people.

9. Don’t think you can guess someone’s type after five minutes

This comes back to point three, but really, we wanted to mention it one more time at the end of this list because it’s so important. It’s incredibly tempting to reduce the complex types of the Enneagram to a shopping list of a handful of traits and think that’s all it takes to type someone. Please don’t. It’s already challenging for some people to be sure of their own type. How certain do you think you can be that you figured out someone else’s type faster than them? Be very, very careful.

It’s not impossible to learn how to type others, but you will spare yourself and others a lot of pain if you take your time to fully get to know people. And even then, points 1-8 still apply.

You’re not alone in the universe. But if you use the Enneagram to scare people away, you might soon be a little lonlier. 

We’ve covered the Don’ts. Before we go, let’s take a look at the Dos. 

Four things you should do with the Enneagram

1. Be humble

Always assume you know less than you do. Hold your opinions lightly. Treat it as an act of trust (which it is) when people tell you their Enneagram type and honor that knowledge.

2. Love others

The Enneagram’s ultimate purpose is to promote mutual understanding, compassion and love. By getting to know others, you have the chance to be kinder, more forgiving, more understanding and more gracious towards them. Do that.

3. Share it

Much better than telling people what you think their Enneagram type is is to point them towards resources where they can explore the Enneagram and their own type themselves – like our website for example, but also books and courses you are able to recommend. Everyone has to go their own journey with the Enneagram anyway. Help them start that journey.

4. Grow

Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about: The chance for you to grow by understanding more about yourself. At its core the Enneagram is for you – for your own journey on your path towards self-awareness, self-knowledge and freedom. And by extension, having more awareness, compassion and understanding for others, too. You can never go wrong by sticking to your own path first.

Get good at getting better.
Photo of Personality Path's team member Christian Ebert

Hey there, I’m Chris, Chief Editor of everything you can read on this site.

We are all about using this self-development stuff in a way that truly helps people. Our bi-weekly newsletter focuses on exactly that, using the latest findings in psychology and self-development.

Sign up if you want to join 3.000+ subscribers.

Blog – Newsletter Signup Form (#9004111224903616)
Your information is protected and we never spam, ever. View our privacy policy.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

What do you guys think about the MBTI? Just asking bc you said don’t make it your only perspective. I think the MBTI is also a great tool for understanding personality.

1 year ago

I love this. I feel like too many sites promote the Enneagram without pointing out the dangers of using it in a bad way. Thanks for being clear about it.

1 year ago

Wish someone had told this to my husband lol He almost turned me off the Enneagram entirely because he wouldn’t shut up about it. If a really good friend of mine hadn’t confirmed to me how helpful it is, I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

1 year ago

I guess not trying to guess someone’s type is the hardest of all. You should put that as number 1. If the Enneagram has been as helpful to you as it has been to me, you can’t help but looking at the world through this lense. And you want to help people by telling them ‘no, that’s just your Enneagram type x speaking!’ Well, I’ve been wrong often enough to have learned my lesson. But it’s still hard.

Zach Collingwood
Zach Collingwood
2 years ago

A common mistake I used to make was to assume the type of person I barely spoke to.
it was silly

Jade Tia
Jade Tia
3 years ago

This page has been helping me so much! Thank you!

  1. Palmer, Helen (1991). The Enneagram: Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life.
  2. Palmer, Helen (1996). The Enneagram in Love and Work: Understanding your Intimate and Business Relationships.
  3. Riso, Don Richard; Hudson, Russ (1999). Wisdom of the Enneagram.
  4. Riso, Don Richard; Hudson, Russ (2000). Understanding the Enneagram; the practical guide to personality types.
  5. Rohr, RichardEbert, Andreas (2001). The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective.

back to top
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram