Myers-Briggs vs. Enneagram: Which Is The Better Personality Test?
Personality typing systems are often used as a tool to better understand our behaviors, actions, and desires. While Myers-Briggs tests were all the rage a few years ago, Enneagram tests have begun popping up more recently. So...which one is better?
We asked psychology and personality-typing experts to explain the two typing systems. Here's what they have to say about the pros and cons of each, plus how to decide which one is right for you.
How the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator works.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality test with 16 possible outcomes.
"The MBTI is based on four dimensions: extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving," psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, previously told mbg. (Here: a breakdown of the personality dimensions).
"Your type is a combination of each of these qualities, and it's based on how you answer 93 questions," she says. There are different versions of the test online, but it's also possible to self-diagnose based on the descriptions. "But heads up," Hallett says. "You'll likely see aspects of yourself in many different combinations."
How the Enneagram works.
"The Enneagram system is an archetypal framework that goes over nine personality strategies that people use to relate to themselves, other people, and the world," relationship coach and Enneagram educator Julie Nguyen, tells mbg. "It seeks to understand our basic fears, core motivations, unconscious ego fixations, and existential drives."
Along with the numbered personality type, each type may also have an Enneagram wing they pull energy from. "Enneagram wings have a large effect on how your type shows up in the world and are just as important as your primary number," Enneagram educator and coach Funlola Fagbohun previously told mbg.
Comparing the MBTI and the Enneagram.
According to Nguyen, each test has its own uses. "The MBTI and Enneagram are distinctively different, but they can be highly complementary and enriching when used together," Nguyen says. "I find that the MBTI is a great way of comprehensively understanding your own actions, and you relate to others and the collective, while the Enneagram offers a deep dive into your psyche."
One standout feature of the Enneagram is that it shows how the types are connected to each other, says Enneagram practitioner Ryan Lui, M.A. In the MBTI, each person has one type that is siloed from the other types, unlike in the Enneagram, where each type has wings, a stress point, and a release point. For example, you might be a Four with a dominant Five wing who moves toward One traits when stressed and Two traits when thriving.
"These relationships are shown by the arrows or lines in the picture and tell each type who they need to learn from, and become more like, to really flourish," Lui tells mbg. "In our current world of division, I think we all need to hear that more often."
In general, though, both tests can offer a deeper sense of self-awareness. "By knowing how to assess yourself clearly, it can be used as a jumping-off point for positive change and self-improvement," Nguyen explains.
For those who are hoping to understand their main fears, motivations, and how they can learn from others, the Enneagram may be best. Those looking to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and broad personality traits might prefer the Myers-Briggs.
The problem with personality tests.
Personality typing systems are not meant to be the be-all and end-all explanation of who a person is and can become harmful when they're used that way.
"From home or work, stereotyping people, based on their race, culture, gender, or personality type, is inevitably going to lead to all sorts of terrible consequences," Lui explains. "On an individual level, if a person knows their type but doesn't know what they can do it with, they can either limit themselves or use their type as an excuse."
For example, in an mbg podcast episode, communication expert Celeste Headlee, explains that people who self-identify as introverts (an MBTI trait) may use it as an excuse to repeatedly cancel plans. Over time, she says, this can degrade social skills and mental health.
Similarly, people can use their personality types to justify brash behavior. "All of us know someone who uses their personality type to reason why they can never be on time or continually say insensitive comments," Lui says.
The bottom line.
Both the MBTI and the Enneagram have positive and negative components. "Based on subjective value, one personality system isn't better than the other," Nguyen says. "What matters is what you get out of it since they both function as tools for self-exploration."
Anyone new to personality typing should do deeper dives into each of the two systems and then follow through with the one they find more engaging. "It's better to learn something you're genuinely interested in instead of going through the motions with something you don't really care for," she says.
Just remember: Regardless of a person's assigned personality type on any test, there is—and always will be—room for growth.
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