The Enneagram vs. MBTI
We are fascinated by how our minds work. And that’s justifiable, because humans are complex, fascinating creatures. When people find the Enneagram, it’s natural to dig in and learn all about this stunningly accurate model of what motivates human behavior. But it’s also natural to start wondering: Is the Enneagram like Myers-Briggs? Is there a way to compare the Enneagram to DISC, for example, or to the Big 5? Is there one personality model that is the “best”? Well, let’s take a look.
Enneagram vs MBTI
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) is a measure of how people “use their perception and judgment.” This model is based on Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. What it chiefly has in common with the Enneagram is the idea that personality isn’t random but follows consistent patterns that can be identified.
The creators of MBTI found four dichotomies within Jung’s work, and people exhibit basic preferences toward each. Here’s what the official website says about them:
“Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).
Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).
Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).
Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).”
The combination of a person’s preferences ends up as a four-letter code like ENFP or ISTJ. There are 16 possible combinations.
The goal of the MBTI is similar to that of the Enneagram: to understand and appreciate differences between people. So, I can get behind that.
But which one is better?
The Best Personality Model
Well, that’s not really the right question. Comparing the Enneagram to MBTI is like comparing cows to chickens. They are both animals, and they both belong in the barnyard, but that’s about it. These two models both help describe who we are and how we see the world, but then their roads diverge. MBTI is a theory of psychological type that names people’s preferences, whereas the Enneagram is a theory of the underlying WHY of those preferences.
MBTI can certainly be helpful. Indeed, it’s used in organizations around the world to help people interact better, have more productive teams and so on. If that’s what you want in a personality model, MBTI can be a good choice.
But I’m personally more interested in the WHY – which, incidentally, is because of my personality type! So, I prefer using the Enneagram. It was actually developed as a tool for spiritual growth, which is essential to my being. People certainly do use it in corporate and group settings, and I’m all for that. It’s just that the insights it supplies, if you do the necessary work and study, are transformative.
I don’t think that’s the case with MBTI. If I’m wrong, please let me know! It seems to me that the MBTI is more descriptive than prescriptive. It tells you what your letters are – the end. It doesn’t seem like it was designed for personal transformation, though it certainly contributes to greater understanding. Yet the Enneagram not only tells you what your “home base” personality type is, but also how to grow given your particular patterns. These two models are measuring fundamentally different things.
The Enneagram and MBTI Correlation Conundrum
But if people don’t understand that, they end up asking questions like, “What Enneagram is INFJ?” Do you see the problem here? It’s sort of like asking, “Which kind of window is a door?” Not a great analogy, but the point is this: Some windows can be doors (sliding glass doors, for instance), but doors and windows are different enough things that they need their own names.
I’ve seen tables and charts that try to correlate the two systems, but they just make me tired. You’re looking at a system of nine types (Enneagram) and a system of 16 types (MBTI). The math already doesn’t work! And then you have to account for anomalies, which make such correlations all the more difficult and problematic. I’ve seen some that place all Sevens in “E” dominant types, yet I’ve taken the official MBTI test and a free online one years apart, and both peg me as a solid “I” (INFJ, to be exact). Which is completely accurate, and an anomaly for Sevens.
I once saw a chart that showed the percentage of each Enneagram as each Myers-Briggs type; it gave a population distribution. I have no idea how the people who made the chart came up with this information or if it’s scientifically validated. However, I was interested to see that INFJ was dead last in the Seven distribution. The chart showed I was part of only 1.4% of the earth’s population. So, I’m an anomaly, and these systems have to make room for us odd ones.
Which brings up another good point: No one system has THE one right answer. All of them have something to contribute to the understanding of what makes us who we are. So, my main focus is the Enneagram, but I’m a bit familiar with MBTI as well, because it helps answer some questions for me that the Enneagram couldn’t. The same goes for the Big 5 model, which I don’t have time to get into in this post. I like that model, too; I took a short class on it and will learn more about it in the future.
The Enneagram and Myers-Briggs
Ultimately, the Enneagram and Myers-Briggs co-exist in sweet harmony, complementing each other and adding to the depth of our understanding about ourselves and others. It’s not, then, an Enneagram vs MBTI situation at all.
Wanna dig deeper into the Enneagram or have a handy refresher? Get my handy visual guide, the Enneagram Quick Reference Chart! https://bit.ly/3zPISWf
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