Not Sure If You are an Enneagram Type 2 or a Type 3? Ask Yourself These Four Questions.

Categories: Type Two, Type Three

While the Type 2 Giver and the Type 3 Achiever have habits of attention that point in radically different directions, they can still be easy to confuse. Some Type 2s are surprisingly competitive, while some Type 3s are strikingly helpful, so if you’ve ever felt unsure about where your attention goes, it’s understandable. Motivation is a complex, multi-layered aspect of character, and honest self-reflection is a process. 

The good news is that Enneagram gives you a specific and useful roadmap to uncover your thought patterns, and there are some clear distinctions between these two personality styles. Let’s have a closer look at these heart-centered types.

The Heart Center

Enneagram Type 2 and Type 3 are both heart-centered types who first experience the world through the energy of their emotions. Recognition, a sense of belonging, and giving and getting support are important issues that take up space in their minds, and the heart-centered types share a sensitive issue of shame. Both Type 2s and Type 3s can have a complicated relationship with image and may have a hard time aligning their true thoughts, words, and actions.

But while both types may have issues around image, their approach is quite different. Type 2s work hard to be likeable, useful, and loveable as a way of overcoming their questions about self-worth. They define themselves as “nice people who like to see others happy” and use this focus on others as a subconscious strategy to avoid their own needs. The growth path for Type 2s is from pride to humility, and they reach higher levels of self-mastery when they connect with and honor their own needs.

Type 3s work hard to achieve and get ahead of others as a way of overcoming their questions about self-worth. They link their value to their external accomplishments, and as such, a lot of their focus goes to success, status, achievement, and competition. This drive to be the best sometimes comes at the price of authenticity. They may shapeshift to look good in different environments, and without even meaning to, they may gravitate away from the truth. Their growth path is from fraud to authenticity, and they reach higher levels of self-mastery when they connect with and admit to their faults and shortcomings.

If you relate to both of these types and can’t determine which is dominant, ask yourself these four questions.

1. Do you always want to be “the best” in your environment?

One defining characteristic of Type 3s is a strong sense of competition and a drive to be the best. This is an externalized sense of competition. It isn’t that they want to be the best version of themselves (like a Type 1 Perfectionist), they want to beat everyone else. Type 3s admit to being highly competitive, and some will confess, “it is hard for me to let my children win a board game. I always want to win.” From scoring the winning goal on the soccer field, to securing the most prized corner office at the company or receiving an academic award, Type 3s enjoy winning and being seen as the best.

Type 2s are less focused on competition and often consider the feelings of others before their own. To win would be to beat someone else, and Type 2s tend to be other referencing. As such, their competitive drive isn’t as strong, and they aren’t overly focused on being the best.

2. What are you most proud of in your life?

This question requires a lot of self-reflection because it is easy to answer what you imagine other people want to hear and not necessarily what is true for you. However, with honest self-reflection, this question can help illuminate your values and your core motivations.

Type 2s are relational and place a big importance on their personal relationships. They work hard to cultivate these connections and get a lot of fulfillment, satisfaction, love, and joy from the people in their lives. Most Type 2s will reference specific people and relationships as the thing they are most proud of.

While Type 3s may also appreciate the people in their lives, their attention goes to achievement. They often reference career success, professional achievements, or other more tangible accomplishments as their biggest source of pride. It isn’t that they don’t appreciate their relationships, but they don’t necessarily see them as a source of pride. Concrete achievements tend to hold that space in their minds. 

3. What percentage of your daily thoughts are spent on what other people are thinking of you?  

Because both Type 2s and Type 3s have a complicated relationship with their image, both personality styles may spend a lot of time thinking about the opinions of others. However, Type 3s generally exert more mental energy on this, and often report 50% or more of their daily thoughts are spent on what other people are thinking about them (and hoping it is positive).  

Type 2s are more practical in this pursuit and tend to report lower percentages. Their concern about others is usually more focused on if they have been helpful enough, and if the person is getting their needs met. The focus is less about how others are perceiving them and more on actionable items.

4. How important is it to you that other people see you as a success?

Type 3s experience life through the lens of success and achievement. Their attention automatically goes to the opinion of others, and Type 3s fuse external success with a sense of wellbeing. This is why failure can be so devastating, and why the perceptions of other people are so important to them. Type 3s want others to see them as a success so they can experience themselves that way.

Type 2s experience life through the lens of their relationships. Their attention goes to their connection with others, and Type 2s may use their support of others as a measure of their worth. As such, they aren’t as focused on traditional success. They may take a lower-paying job where they get more satisfaction from their role, and they may prioritize free time to spend with their family over a promotion. They define success through the lens of solid, fulfilling relationships rather than classic material and professional success.

The Subtypes

It is worth discussing subtypes when looking at Type 2 and Type 3 look-alikes because while mixups can happen with any subtype, some are more likely than others.

The Social Type 2, called “Ambition” can be confused for a Type 3 because they tend to be polished, comfortable in the spotlight, and can be competitive and very focused on professional achievement. This is a person who may rise high in a professional environment and spend a lot of time and energy cultivating workplace achievements. But while the external behavior may seem aligned with the Type 3 Achiever, the motivation is different. The Social Type 2 is less interested in being seen as a success or being the best at work. They are more interested in feeling indispensable and being seen as the “go-to” person in the organization who is liked and needed by all.

The One-to-One Type 3, called “Charisma” can be confused for a Type 2 because they work hard to support and promote others, either an organization, an individual, a partner, or a group. This Type 3 doesn’t feel comfortable promoting themselves and instead takes all of their focus on success and directs it to a third party. This might be the manager of a famous musician, the events organizer for a venue, or the devoted spouse working to support their partner’s initiatives. The focus continues to be on success, but now this success is measured through the achievement of someone or something the Type 3 is dedicated to. With all this focus on support, the One-to-One Type 3 can look externally like a Type 2. But when you go to the deeper motivation, you’ll see that the focus is still on achievement, albeit achievement through relationships. This Type 3 is focused on attaining and maintaining a certain image and external presentation comes before the needs of others.

The Enneagram provides a detailed and useful roadmap to learn your habit of attention, strengths, blind spots, and your growth path. But it is essential to correctly self-type. If you haven’t already, you can get started with the Truity online test to help you uncover your type.

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.

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THE FINE PRINT: Myers-Briggs® and MBTI® are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., which has no affiliation with this site. Truity offers a free personality test based on Myers and Briggs' types, but does not offer the official MBTI® assessment. For more information on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, please go here.

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