Myers-Briggs vs Enneagram

Recently, the internet has been booming with buzz about personality typing. Everyone is eager to learn more about themselves, their friends, and their family through online personality tests. And who can blame them? It’s incredibly exciting to read results from an assessment and have it describing you exactly. 

Two of those personality models are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, and the Enneagram, both of which seem to be more popular each day.

Though very different, the two personality typing systems offer insight into why people think, behave, and communicate in their own unique way. They can help us better understand ourselves and others, which can improve the ways in which we all relate to and understand one another. Systems like MBTI and Enneagram are meant to be an overview of our personality and a pathway to self-exploration; they help us remain empathetic to those who act or behave differently from ourselves.

Overview

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most well-known personality assessments. Created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, based on the work of Carl Jung, MBTI has become especially popular in modern workplaces to help companies better understand their employees.

This model has four distinct traits that represent differences in the way people think and behave:

Introversion (I) & Extraversion (E)

Intuition (N) & Sensing (S)

Feeling (F) & Thinking (T)

Perception (P) & Judging (J)

Enneagram

The Enneagram is a personality model that dates back more than a thousand years. Though it’s unclear just how it began, it has recently exploded in popularity.

The Enneagram consists of 9 main, overarching types that interact with one another in unique ways. This model also features “wings,” which is a way of describing when an individual primarily shows the characteristics of one type but shares a few with another type as well. The Enneagram focuses primarily on internal personality traits and attempts to describe deep motivations, fears, and emotional drivers rather than purely behavior. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

As with most personality assessments, MBTI and the Enneagram aren’t perfect. Because people are deep, complex, and multifaceted personality predictions are not 100% accurate. Additionally, most assessments are completed by the person themselves; if they are not very self-aware, the predictions are likely to be incorrect. However, there are a few areas in particular where the MBTI and the Enneagram shine, and a few where they fall short.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Strengths: MBTI provides insight into our own actions as well as those of others, which allows us to remain more empathetic and open-minded around other people. Helping us get along with those who would otherwise be much more difficult to interact with. By having a better understanding of ourselves and those around us, we’re much more likely to make decisions that sensitively account for personality differences.

Weaknesses: While many people have used and appreciated the model, it has been criticized for a few notable flaws: 

  1. Limited scientific validity and reliability: because it was developed through clinical observation, rather than controlled research, there’s no concrete data to back-up personality claims.
  2. Each personality trait is represented as a binary “either or,” rather than a normal distribution (i.e. a bell curve), which is how traits are actually spread across a population. This can lead a lot of people to find the results inaccurate for their personality. For example, if someone is outgoing, but also enjoys spending time alone, they’d likely feel they were somewhere in the middle of being an introvert or an extrovert. However, the MBTI model would type them as one or the other.
  3. There is evidence showing some of the trait differences are not in fact mutually exclusive. People might not be “thinkers” OR “feelers”; they can be both.

Enneagram

Strengths: The Enneagram gives people a working guide to understanding their own deep motivations, fears, and desires, which can help with personal growth and self-awareness. It categorizes people into nine broad types, and allows for more specific typing through its use of “wings”. The Enneagram also accounts for personality abnormalities in times of stress and growth, which can help people be more aware of how they react to their circumstances.

Weaknesses: Because the Enneagram results are primarily self-reported and lack significant empirical evidence for their validity beyond observation, the model has been criticized for being overly subjective. Since there haven’t been many studies of the Enneagram, it lacks the psychological evidence to support the ways in which it categorizes personality. 

When Should Each be Used?

Because there are specific strengths and weaknesses of MBTI and the Enneagram personality models, there is an appropriate time and place for each of them. Despite the criticism, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can still be helpful for opening-up conversations about personality, creating a deeper understanding of one another, and bringing awareness to our behavioral differences. While the MBTI helps us understand actions, the Enneagram allows us to be aware of our own, deep thoughts and feelings. Though it needs more research to prove truly reliable, the Enneagram is best used in situations like self-development, counseling, and relationship coaching. 

Personality Assessments as Tools for Growth

MBTI and the Enneagram are not the ultimate indicators of personality; like all personality assessments, they are meant to be used as guides to help you better understand yourself and others. It’s also important to recognize people’s ability to grow and change through life. View personality assessments as a snapshot of your personality and a launching point from which to improve on. All personalities have strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your weaknesses gives you the opportunity to stay self-aware and seek self-improvement. By utilizing insights offered from personality assessments like MBTI and the Enneagram, you have a better chance to empathize with others, understand your own strengths and growth areas, and become the person you want to be.

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