I once had to take a personality test as part of a job interview, and I thought it was weird at the time. Now, as a personality test junkie, I totally get it, and the MBTI and enneagram tests are two of my go-to faves. What's the difference between the enneagram test and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? While there are a lot of personality typing tests out there, these two are pretty popular. It's true that they have some things in common, but there are a lot of important differences too. The biggest difference between the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the enneagram is that the Myers-Briggs test focuses on nature, while the enneagram is more about nurture, according to Dr. A.J. Drenth on the website Personality Junkie.
Additionally, Pat Wyman, INFJ, M.Ed., L.P.C., who uses both the MBTI and the enneagram tests in her counseling practice, noted that every person can be viewed through the lens of both tests. "It soon became evident to me that the enneagram portion of personality acts as the defense system providing a set of coping skills to protect the true self. It did not take long to realize that the MBTI type was a profile of the 'true self,'" she wrote on the website Personality Pathways. "Through my work with clients and in workshops, I have discovered that the enneagram portion of personality dominates during periods of stress and relaxes during periods of well-being."
If you're not familiar with the enneagram, here's the quick and dirty. "The enneagram is a [nine]-pointed system. Each of the nine types is a different strategy for dealing with trauma. Some argue that you discovered your enneagram type at your first childhood trauma, and it’s been with you ever since," Antonia Dodge wrote for Personality Hacker. "Considering side-stepping, mitigating, handling, and dealing with trauma is a big deal for the psyche, your mind created a ‘go-to strategy’ for navigating it, and so your enneagram type — your 'trauma navigation tool' — is born and subsequently becomes an influential part of you."
The enneagram tends to be a lot more complicated than the MBTI, and you could easily fall into a multi-day rabbit hole exploring your basic type, subtypes, and centers. If you haven't taken the enneagram test, you can take a free one online. The enneagram is based on how you deal with trauma whereas the MBTI assesses how you judge and perceive the world. According to the Myers & Briggs Foundation, the MBTI is based on the theories of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and centers around these two key components.
"Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills." As you develop as a person your MBTI can change over time, while the website The Enneagram explained that your enneagram is fixed and will never change. Basically, you were born this way.
I am an enneagram type five, also known as the investigator, which is described as intense, cerebral, perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated. So, my key motivations according to The Enneagram Institute include a need to posses knowledge, "to understand the environment, [and] to have everything figured out as a way of defending the self from threats from the environment." The enneagram triad is also divided into three centers; thinking, instinct, and feeling, also described as fear, anger, and shame.
"Depending upon your enneagram type, it means you run toward one of these three emotions as your ‘go-to’ emotion," Dodge explained on Personality Hacker. "The types that ‘internalize’ tend to turn the emotion in on themselves or experience the emotion inwardly, those that ‘externalize’ experience the emotion outside of themselves or project it outwardly, and those that repress the emotion do what they can to pretend the emotion doesn’t exist for them at all."
While the MBTI and the enneagram do seem to overlap in some instances, The website The Enneagram noted that there is no conclusive evidence that these two tests will deliver similar results. "Some comparisons show that certain enneagram types seem to match certain MBTI types with a higher degree of frequency than other MBTI types. But there is no reliable data to show that such matches are consistent on a large segment of the population. The enneagram and the MBTI measure or evaluate different aspects of a person’s personality. The enneagram focuses on an individual’s habits of attention and other patterns of thoughts, feelings, and emotions."
That being said, I did find an overlap between my enneagram, the investigator, and my INFP Myers-Briggs identity. The bottom line is that both tests are useful to help you understand different parts of yourself, and it's likely that some of your MBTI traits will overlap with your enneagram type. However, each test will reveal different insights into how you interact with both yourself and the outside world. So, if you seek to understand yourself and others, the enneagram test is a must to learn whether you're a reformer, helper, achiever, individualist, investigator, loyalist, enthusiast, challenger, or peacemaker.