How (Not) To Use The Enneagram

Updated: May 21, 2021
4 minutes read
When you start your journey with the Enneagram, one of the first things you should know is how to use the Enneagram responsibly. This is what this section is for: It’s basically the handbook for using the Enneagram. Before you go out there and tell everyone about the Enneagram, you should know these ground rules and apply them.

Why Is This Important?

As soon as you start going deeper into the Enneagram, you will notice that it can improve your life and other people’s lives dramatically. But when used irresponsibly, the Enneagram can do more harm than good and become pretty toxic instead of helpful.

We reduced this section down to two handy lists:

One list of 9 things you should NOT do – one for every type that exists on the Enneagram (nifty, right?)

And one list of 4 things you SHOULD do – we kept this one short because we know it’s harder to actively practice things than to avoid them.

Believe us: We just want to make sure your friends still want to spend time with you after you told them about the Enneagram.

Nine Things NOT To Do With The Enneagram

1. 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. 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. Tell Others Which Type 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. Infer Too Much About Others

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. For example, don’t assume that because someone is a Type Five that they can’t assume leadership or a Type One be gracious and forgiving, and so on.

5. Manipulate People

Never use your knowledge of someone’s type to try to manipulate or exploit them. There’s really not much more to be said here. The Enneagram is there to love people better. Go do that.

6. Alienate Those Who Don’t Know The Enneagram

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. 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. Make It 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. Think You Know Someone’s Type After The First 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. If it can already be challenging to be sure of your own type, than how certain are you really that you know someone else’s type? 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.

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

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.

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Jade Tia
Jade Tia
5 months ago

This page as been helping me so much
Thank you

Donovan Emmett
Donovan Emmett
5 months ago

Thanks to Personality Path! I was able to find myself

Pru Garey
Pru Garey
5 months ago

This site has changed the way I see my life
Thank you so much

Zach Collingwood
Zach Collingwood
5 months ago

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

  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.
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