The Social Styles of the Enneagram

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Ashley Buenger Ashley Buenger
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How You Enter The Room

You’re sitting alone in the room where your weekly meeting will be held. You’re a little early, so you begin working on your statistical analysis; when your first co-worker arrives, her name is Sarah.


Sarah comes over to you and begins to talk excitedly about her next project, which you happen to be a part of. You close your laptop and jump into the conversation.


Next comes Paul. He shuffles into the room with his head down, mutters hello, and sits down three seats from you and Sarah. Paul smiles but remains quiet.

He looks to be listening as you and Sarah bounce ideas back and forth, but he doesn’t say anything and nods along.


The room begins to fill with people. Soon many conversations are going on until one person yells across the room to you about how your football team lost a playoff game the past weekend. Then, suddenly, the room is engaged in the banter back and forth about groups, winning, and loyalty.


That’s when the third important person in this scenario enters, Josh. He comes in, pauses by the door, and observes the banter. Then he begins to banter back and forth, supporting one of your co-workers who is a lone fan of an underdog team.


The meeting eventually begins.


End scene.



Identifying Your Number


The Enneagram, for clarity’s sake, can be broken down into these three people: Sarah, Paul, and Josh. In a social situation, Sarah was aggressive, Paul withdrew, and Josh’s actions depended on what was happening around him.


These three categories are called the social styles of the Enneagram, sometimes called the stances. They are also known as the aggressive, withdrawing, and dependent styles.


When attempting to determine which number you are on the Enneagram, breaking down the nine types into these styles is helpful.


There are three numbers in each class, making three sets of three. They are easily identifiable when you think about how you might enter a room. For example, do you enter like Sarah, Paul, or Josh?


Sarah, the assertive type, enters a room focused on what she brings into the room. Some say this type is “moving against” people because they don’t mind creating ripples wherever they go like a rock dropped into a pond.


They know they can impact what’s happening in the room. And they don’t shy away from exerting their energy, regardless of what’s going on.


You can usually feel this person enter the room because the energy shift can be so significant.

It can come across as confidence or even just excitement to be there. When they’re in a room, everyone knows it.


If you identify with Sarah, you might be a 3, 7, or on the Enneagram.


Paul, the withdrawing type, enters a room with hesitation to join in because he’s not sure he is a part of what’s going on there.


This type “moves away” from people. They may participate but stay somewhat disengaged. Energy is held back. Over time, after entering the same room, this type may look different, but during the initial meeting, this type is reserved.


If you identify with Paul, you might be a 4, 5, or 9.


Josh, the dependent type, enters a room, determines what’s in front of him, then chooses to act according to what is needed. This type “moves with” people. Their energy focuses on what’s in front of them and what is required.


Sometimes this type can appear aggressive and sometimes withdrawn. However, the focus is usually on what’s happening in the room with the people around them. It’s not unlikely to experience this person as both, depending on what rooms are entered together.


If you identify with Josh, you might be a 1, 2, or 6.


Increasing Empathy

If you’re having trouble determining which style you might be, I encourage you to ask someone close to you how they experience you when you enter a room. Especially a new space that you have never been in before. Listen carefully.

Once you identify your social style, you can learn about each of the three numbers in that style and decide which one might be most like you.


As we explore each number as we advance, I encourage you to read about them all. It is beneficial to learn about the entire Enneagram. Though we are one dominant style, we have elements of all nine types in ourselves.


As we learn about them, we also grow in compassion toward one another.


So the next time someone enters a meeting in a way different from how you would enter it, say you’re a Sarah and a Paul comes in, you can understand why that might be.


Need more? 

Check out the IOL Community Groups to connect with like-minded leaders!

Go to our YouTube and LinkedIn pages for more encouraging content.  

If you’re looking to take your growth as a leader to the next level, we’ve got you covered. Join the Impact of Leadership Community today!


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