Personality is deeply complex and intricate; 7.6 billion people on Earth with their own way of thinking, behaving, communicating, their own likes, dislikes, strengths, and blindspots－yet we’re united by the empathy and understanding we naturally feel for each other.
What makes each of us different? With so many unique people, how do we even begin to talk about personality?
It certainly isn’t easy to discuss something as complex as personality. Each day, psychologists seem to learn something new about how it works and as a society, we seem to be growing more interested in why we think and act in certain ways.
Modern technology has made it easier than ever for people to take quick, basic personality assessments to learn more about themselves. While these aren’t all perfectly accurate, they do give us a chance to begin the process of becoming more aware of ourselves and others. Two specific personality models, Enneagram and DISC, serve to provide very different kinds of personality insights. While Enneagram helps us discern our deeper thoughts, feelings, and motivations, DISC helps us identify our behavioral patterns.
But what makes them both special? When is it best to use one or the other?
The Enneagram is a personality model that consists of nine main, overarching types that interact with one another in unique ways. Enneagram also features “wings,” which help illustrate the dimensions of personality; someone’s wing is their secondary Enneagram type, as it’s common for an individual to primarily show the characteristics of one type, but share a few traits with another type, as well.
The Enneagram dates back more than a thousand years. Though it’s unclear just how it began, it has recently exploded in popularity. It focuses primarily on internal personality traits and attempts to describe deep motivations, fears, and emotional drivers rather than purely behavior.
DISC is a “four-factor” personality model, meaning that it observes four primary behavioral patterns across the population. Each pattern has a set of traits that tend to be grouped together:
DISC was developed in the early 1900’s by psychologist William Marston, the same man who also created Wonder Woman and the polygraph. It resembles other four-factor models that have been around for more than 2,000 years since Hippocrates described the “four temperaments”.
Because people are constantly evolving and complex, every personality model does well in a few areas and falls short in a few. Though technology is continually improving, there is currently no perfect personality predictor. Despite this, Enneagram and DISC are still helpful aids in growing our understanding of ourselves and others.
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.
Strengths: Though four-factor models of personality, like DISC, emerged out of clinical observation, they have also been validated by scientific research. Studies have shown correlations between four- and five-factor personality models, like the Big Five, specifically along the traits of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness. DISC is also easy to learn, which means people will have a much easier time applying it to different situations and won’t need to do much of their own research. The results are useful for both individual and relationship insights. In other words, results can offer more than just an overview of your personality.
Weaknesses: DISC hasn’t been studied as often as similar models, like the Big Five, and therefore has less controlled research to support it. The insights tend to focus on behavior, rather than deeper thought patterns. This makes it less applicable in more emotional situations, like counseling.
Because Enneagram’s strengths lie in its ability to identify internal characteristics, it is best used for individual self-help, counseling, and relationship coaching. Though it can help us better understand others, it isn’t meant to be used as a predictor of someone’s actions or behaviors.
DISC, however, is a great tool for the professional world. The simplicity and accuracy of DISC has made it very popular among coaches, consultants, and trainers. It is most useful in situations where utility, application, and interpersonal behavioral change are most important, such as sales, marketing, leadership, and talent development.
Personality assessments, like Enneagram and DISC, are great tools for understanding why people act, behave, and communicate in their own, unique ways. They each serve a significant purpose in using personality knowledge to make the world a better place. By taking the time to learn more about yourself and the people close to you, you’ll have a better chance at understanding and empathizing with others. While our current understanding of personality, through models like DISC and Enneagram, isn’t perfect, it’s better than making uneducated guesses about people and missing the important information that lies just beneath the surface.