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What is the Enneagram exactly?

And how can it help your relationships?

 by Ann Gadd

from MyFourandMore blog

So, what is the Enneagram exactly?

The Enneagram (pronounced N-Ya-Gram) is a process that leads us to a greater depth of understanding of ourselves and others. It helps us become aware of areas where we can develop as people to become the very best expressions of ourselves. Unlike other personality profiling systems, the Enneagram doesn’t just show us the “box” we’re in but instead gives us ways to move beyond our “box.” 

Can you name the 9-Types?

Different teachers, authors, and Enneagram schools use various names for the 9-types, each emphasizing another aspect of the type. The International Enneagram Institute use: 

  • Reformer, 
  • Helper, 
  • Achiever, 
  • Individualist, 
  • Investigator, 
  • Loyalist, 
  • Enthusiast, 
  • Challenger, 
  • Peacemaker.

How will understanding the Enneagram help me?

Knowing your Enneagram type (there are nine types and many subtypes) allows you to become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may be a parent who emphasizes achievement. As such, you want your child to be a success in whatever field you believe to be worthy. Becoming aware of this as your focus allows you to expand your viewpoint. Of course, there’s not anything essentially wrong with this view. However, the other types have issues that they may see as equally important, such as gaining knowledge, doing things the right way, or enjoying life. With your Enneagram insight, instead of viewing these other perspectives as wrong, you begin to understand that they all share importance.

Can it help my parenting skills?

Parents giving piggyback ride to children
Parents giving piggyback ride to children

Absolutely. Knowing who you are and being accepting of yourself helps improve the relationship you have with yourself and with others. You can also gain a deeper understanding and acceptance of a child who may be very different from yourself. We all long very much to be seen by others. Feeling understood will really help your child to be happy and confident. If you believe in them, they can believe in themselves. Better Parenting with the Enneagram looks at the nine adult types and how they relate to the nine types of children. That’s 81 combinations in total.

Are there any areas one should be cautious about?

Only when it comes to typing your child. I always advise parents to keep an open mind and your thoughts to yourself. The reason is that young children can easily merge with other kids’ behavior. What looks like type Six is, only a temporary phase. However, almost from birth, some children very clearly demonstrate a specific type’s characteristics. Telling a child what type they are (or anyone in fact) can be damaging. Let them develop and explore in their own unique way. 

Can you give me a practical example of how knowledge of the Enneagram helped?

Kai’s parents were both extroverts. They loved socializing, the outdoors, travel, eating out, and having fun times. While not as adventurous as their parents, his two older siblings were keen to succeed at school and in their many extra-mural activities. This meant they were also very social, and their home buzzed with activity and friends. Kai was the opposite. He spent long hours alone in his bedroom and had no interest in sport and very little in relationships. His parents found his behavior odd for a ten-year-old, and when encouragement didn’t work, they tried to force him into outings and playdates. This created tension. 

When Kai’s father encountered the Enneagram through a work-related event, he was amazed. In describing a Type-5, The Observer, they were describing his son. It was uncanny how spot-on the description was. Sharing the information with Kai’s mother was equally revelatory—the family “saw” their son for the first time. He wasn’t an oddity. In fact, brilliant with an enquiring mind. He needed time alone to charge his batteries and explore his interests. Crowds exhausted him. Yes, he was different from them, but that’s what the Enneagram shows us—different doesn’t mean wrong. Knowing that he wasn’t alone, Kai gained a more profound sense of belonging and self-acceptance. Together the family could heal.

Ann Gadd is an accredited Enneagram practitioner (iEQ9 certified), holistic therapist, artist, and journalist. A professional member of the International Enneagram Association, she offers Enneagram workshops for beginners and advanced students. Ann is the author of 36 books, including Better Parenting with the Enneagram, The Enneagram of Eating, Sex and the Enneagram, and a series of Enneagram children’s books. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


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