Introverts, Extraverts, and the Enneagram

“He’s much too extraverted to be a Type 5 Investigator.” 

"She’s way too introverted to be a Type 7 Enthusiast.”  

As someone who’s conducted hundreds of Enneagram typing interviews, I cringe when I hear these statements because these generalizations highlight a basic misunderstanding of the Enneagram – the mistaken belief that someone’s Enneagram type can be uncovered based solely by observing their behavior. 

I’ve interviewed shy, reserved Type 7s who vividly described their internal world as relentlessly focused on a bright future filled with options. And I’ve met engaging, party-animal Type 5s who described down to the minute when they were planning to make their exit from the wild party they had carefully agreed to attend. Behavior is useful and interesting, but it isn’t always a direct line to motivation. And motivation, including the underlying thought patterns around this motivation, is what lies at the center of the Enneagram. Instead of focusing on behavior, we need to uncover thought patterns to learn someone’s Enneagram type.

With that as the backdrop, it is easy to see how people get confused. ​​Let’s explore more closely the relationship between Introverts, Extraverts, and the Enneagram. 

Introverts

In general terms, an Introvert is someone who gains energy from being alone. Introverts orient their focus inward and are often described as reserved, introspective, and withdrawn. They can become drained when they are with other people for long periods of time, and they may have fewer friends and acquaintances than their Extraverted counterparts. Introverted people are typically deliberate in their actions and focused in their thinking. They think before they act.

Extraverts

In contrast, Extraverts gain energy from being with other people. They orient their focus outward and gain energy through interactions with others. They become drained if they spend too much time alone. They often have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances and are generally more impulsive than their introverted counterparts. They may act quickly and consider the consequences later. 

Introversion and Extraversion are two opposite measures on the Myers & Briggs scale, but in the Enneagram, the relationship is less clear. Most people familiar with the Enneagram will say that either Introversion or Extraversion can exist in all nine of the types, but Type 5s are viewed as the classic Introvert and Type 7s are seen as the classic Extravert. Is this true? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Behavior versus Motivation and Thought Patterns

When you initially study the Enneagram, you spend a lot of time reading the type descriptions. For example, you might read that Type Five Investigators are defined by their desire to conserve energy and avoid being drained by engagement with the outside world. They are described as withdrawn, reserved, quiet, introspective, and deliberate in their actions. They sound like classic Introverts.

You’ll read that  Type Seven Enthusiasts are defined by their desire to experience everything life has to offer while avoiding pain and boredom. They are described as adventure-seeking, high-energy, indiscriminate, and outgoing. They sound like classic Extraverts.

But at the core of the Enneagram is thought patterns. Behavior radiates out from thought patterns, but the two aren’t interchangeable. The Enneagram type descriptions are only useful to uncover the foundational thought pattern and related motivation. This is where the confusion lies and why generalizations can be dangerous.

An Extraverted Type 5?

The Type 5 thought pattern is focused on scarcity and concerns about being overwhelmed by the demands of others. This thought pattern means Type 5s are constantly measuring what is being asked of them in a situation and determining how overwhelming that engagement may become. This can relate to time, energy and other resources. An easy solution for most Type 5s is to stay withdrawn to avoid outside demands that might become overwhelming. 

Another approach can be to engage fully but in an extremely boundary-oriented way. A Type 5 might agree to lead a mountain climbing group on a strenuous day-long hike. But they will know it will start at 9:00 am and end at 6:00 pm. They will have carefully mapped out the time requirements, be mindful of all physical details, and have clear expectations about the end time of the event. Only the Type 5 would know about these boundaries, so the engagement might look casual and even fully “extraverted.” But the thought pattern remains Type 5, with an eye on constraints and an awareness that crossing the self-defined boundary will trigger anxiety and discomfort. 

The Type 5 might look like an extraverted team leader, but only within these carefully determined boundaries. It appears to be extraverted behavior, but at the core, it is more nuanced. It’s calculated extraversion, which isn’t true extraversion.

An Introverted Type 7?

The Type 7 thought pattern is future-oriented with a focus on positive possibilities.  Type 7s feel that happiness is right around the corner, they have to go get it themselves, and it is probably something they haven’t done before. With this as a backdrop, it is easy to see how this personality can seem very extraverted and social, with a thirst for adventure.  

But I’ve met Type 7s who felt like their positive future was based in the new book they had purchased. They were eager to sit in solitude on a beach, read their book and avoid group activities because they didn’t see those group activities as being as pleasurable as reading alone. The behavior might  look reserved and withdrawn but the thought patterns were 100% Type 7 and highlight the fact that Introverted Type 7s do exist.

In Summary

Introverts and Extraverts exist independent of Enneagram type. People often try to find trends between the Myers-Briggs personality system and the Enneagram but the two systems actually measure very different things. Myers and Briggs seeks to provide a system for human behavior. It helps us understand our inherent strengths and weaknesses and offers us a clearer view of others.

The Enneagram illuminates core motivation and foundational thought patterns. It focuses on base fears, core desires, and inherent reality distortions based on a habit of attention. It offers a very granular view into someone’s thinking and can be more predictive of behavior. The two systems actually work very well to complement each other by measuring different, but useful factors in human personality. And one of the clearest examples of this difference are the traits of introversion and extraversion.

Learn more about the 16-type system. Learn more about the Enneagram.

Lynn Roulo

Lynn Roulo is an Enneagram instructor and Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches a unique combination of the two systems, combining the physical benefits of Kundalini Yoga with the psychological growth tools of the Enneagram. She has written two books combining the two systems. Headstart for Happiness, her first book is an introduction to the systems. The Nine Keys, her second book, focuses on the two systems in intimate relationships. Learn more about Lynn and her work here at LynnRoulo.com.

Comments

theHelen (not verified) says...

Type 5 sexual subtype here. I think we are very often very misunderstood by enneagram afficionados. I am an ambivert, and the example above with the "calculated extraversion" doesn't describe me at all; when I feel like being with others, I am an uncalculated, genuine, extravert and when I feel like being alone, I am an introvert.

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