In order for the Enneagram to reveal the deeper motivation behind your behavior and ultimately help you grow in self-awareness, it’s crucial that you are sure which type actually reflects your personality and don’t end up mistyping yourself. This page is specifically for Type Threes to have a quick check, whether they might have mistyped themselves.
If you want to know more about how and why misidentifications happen in the first place, you can do so here.
Ones and Threes are prime examples of why looking at behavior alone rarely tells you someone’s true type. If you look at these two types from the outside, they can look remarkably similar: Both are usually highly efficient, well-organized, task-oriented and seem to always strive to be the best. If you have them as colleagues, you might be forgiven to confuse the two.
So let’s look at their deeper motivations. Ones are idealists. Their efficiency comes from the need to do things right. They want to reach a goal because that’s the standard that needs to be achieved. Threes are the opposite of idealists – they’re pragmatists. They care less about standards and more about getting the job done in a way that looks good and ideally makes them shine in the process. As a result, they are more flexible than Ones, who like it more to stick to established procedures.
One other major way to discern between Ones and Threes is to look at the way they show their negative feelings. Ones try to suppress their anger or disappointment, but they are not that good at actually concealing it. You’ll most likely notice it pretty quickly when a Teacher is annoyed. Threes are much better at masking their feelings, since they simply detach from them in order to stay productive and likeable. They simply „do“ the emotion the situation calls for instead of showing what they really feel.
The third way of telling the two apart can be boiled down even more: Ones strive for perfection out of a deep feeling of anger at being imperfect. Threes strive for perfection out of a need for feeling accomplished and good enough in the eyes of others.
As with all types that are next to each other on the Enneagram, Twos and Threes don’t get so much misidentified but rather confused about which one is their main type and which one their wing. Since we talk about wings in more detail somewhere else, we will just mention the main difference between the two types for now.
The main source of confusion for these two adjacent types is usually that both have lots of charm and the desire of being liked, as well as the skills to make other people like them. But the difference becomes pretty clear once you look at exactly how they do it:
Twos shower other people with attention in the hopes of being valued as a friend or partner. They prioritize other people over their own needs in order to create closeness. Threes however are less concerned with pleasing the other person by giving them attention as much as making themselves the irresistible center of attention.
The easiest way to boil it down is this: Twos seek intimacy and are great at making you want to be with them – Threes are actually afraid of intimacy and are therefore great at making you want to be around them (but always at a comfortable distance).
As with all types that are next to each other on the Enneagram, Threes and Fours don’t get so much misidentified but rather confused about which one is their main type and which one their wing. Since we talk about wings in more detail somewhere else, we will just mention the main difference between the two types for now.
To figure out which your main type is, the best area to look at is how you handle emotions. Threes care much more about productivity and getting things done – when emotions (which they do have of course) get in the way, they are much more likely to put them on the backburner (and sometimes forget them there) and focus on the task. Fours on the other hand usually take care of their feelings first. They come with a deep aversion to the kind of emotional sidelining Threes do, seeing it as inauthentic, while Threes get annoyed by what they see as Fours getting themselves distracted by their emotions.
One last word: It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a „creative“ or not to differentiate between Threes and Fours. Creativity is not the monopoly of Fours – every type is creative in their way. There are lots of artists, musicians, actors and writers who are Threes, too.
This misidentification is pretty one-sided: It’s almost exclusively Threes who think they might be Fives. Why? Because Threes are often very good at thinking their way through problems while ignoring their feelings. And they mistake that for what they believe Fives are, namely the „thinker“ type. Especially when a Three grew up to think that intellectual brilliance was what they needed in order to be loved, they may have focused on these traits and thus mistake themselves for Fives.
But that’s not what Fives are, and focusing just on their intellectual side misrepresents them. To show you why, we’ll take a quick look at how both handle their emotions. You see, what Threes do is to store their emotions away and hope they get resolved automatically while they focus on their goals. Fives however don’t ignore their feelings, they detach from them in order to look at them objectively, rationally and coolly.
Fives don’t feel the need to look away from their feelings because their motivation is different: They don’t care as much about achieving goals as they are about nurturing their inner life, so feelings don’t threaten them – they simply are another sample to study. The pursuits of Fives can be simply for the love of knowledge, detached from any practical considerations. Threes use their brain much more to pursue their goals and get recognition for their achievements.
Threes and Sixes are so easily told aparat that this misidentification is pretty rare. Yes, both put a lot of effort into being likeable and can be very focused on their work. But that’s usually where the similarities end.
If you’re not sure, it helps to remember that Threes deeper motivation is to be appreciated and acknowledged for their accomplishments. Sixes come from a different place: They need their world to be secure, and their efforts to ingratiate themselves with people comes from a thirst for safety, not for recognition.
You see this most vividly when it comes to taking the stage: Threes are easy being in the spotlight – it’s their natural habitat. They actively seek it out because the stage gives them the chance to shine. Sixes are much less enthusiastic about being the center of attention – after all, it is the most exposed and therefore unsafe place they could think of.
Threes and Sevens can look very similar from the outside in their default state, which makes it easy to mistake one (or yourself) for the other. They are both assertive, they like to pursue wealth and status symbols, they are likeable and outgoing. Both can show impressive accomplishments, and on lower levels of maturity, both can become quite narcissistic about them.
That’s why, for these types, it’s essential to look at why they do the things they do. Their motivations are where the big differences start to show. Sevens want to experience stimulation and excitement. When they acquire wealth, it’s for the pleasures it can give them. Threes on the other hand need validation and the feeling of being able to rise in status and recognition. When they acquire wealth, it serves as a status symbol and a sign that they belong to the cool kids.
That’s why Threes usually come across as much more composed and controlled – because that’s the image they want to project. Sevens don’t really care too much about what others think of them as long as they’re having fun, which makes them much more comfortable with showing their rough edges and emotions.
Threes make you want to be around them because they seem so successful and suave that you secretly wish to be like them. Sevens make you want to be around them because it’s just so much freaking fun.
There are actually quite a number of Threes who mistake themselves for Eights, much more than the other way around. Since both types are assertive, like to be efficient and are oftentimes very accomplished, Threes confuse those qualities with being a Eight. Sometimes they also see the less flattering aspects of the Three type and simply want to be Eights.
But here’s the big difference: Eights are about power. They are leaders and deal makers who want to shape the world around their personal vision. They don’t beat around the bush about who is in charge, and they will certainly never alter their behavior in order to please others.
At the center of the Three’s worldview however isn’t power, but prestige and admiration, and, contrasting the Eight, it is actually their specialty to alter their behavior in order to garner favor. Threes are afraid of failure because it could put a dent in their perfect image. Eights don’t care too much about failing – they’ll just come back stronger – nor about other people’s opinion on them as long as they get what they want.
Performers on the other hand are all about other people’s opinion on them. It’s their main motivation for doing them. That is why it can be intimidating to be around Eights, while Threes will do their best to make their company as seductive as possible.
At first glance, the assertive, goal-oriented Three and the placid, self-sufficient Nine can seem hard to confuse. But since both are very adaptable and interested in being accepted by others, some Threes – especially those who aren’t sure who they really are or what they really want – can see that indecisiveness as signs of being a Nine.
In these cases it helps to remember that Nines and Threes are on opposite sides of the energy spectrum: Nines have the overall lowest amount of energy, while Threes are all the way at the top.
That’s why Nines are not only much better at relaxing and taking things easy – they also are much less comfortable with being the center of attention than Threes are. Their deeper motivation is to uphold the peace of the world around them. Even when a Nine is highly accomplished and successful, it was never their ambition to get there – whereas that’s the explicit goal of Threes.
Threes love their projects and get excited about them. Nines get excited about their free time. High energy versus low energy. Solar Flare versus Panda Bear.
I'm definitely not a three
I hate being the center of attention
I´m here Gwenda ahahah
Somebody type 3 like me?
I don´t care about others opinion! Must be a type 8