In an earlier post, I talked about the importance of self-typing in the Enneagram. To determine your Enneagram type, you need to identify yourself. No one else can do this for you.
Sometimes self-identification is easy and other times it is more difficult, especially if we come to the Enneagram later in life after we’ve had many years to adjust our behavior. In this post, we continue the topic of Enneagram look-alikes focusing on Type 2s and Type 7s, why they can be confused, and how to distinguish between these two habits of attention.
The Similarities Between Enneagram Type 2 and Type 7
Outwardly, Type 2s and Type 7s can have a lot in common. Both tend to present a positive face to the world, both can be extremely social and engaging, and both may be the organizers in their social circle and community groups. While introverted Type 7s and socially reserved Type 2s exist, by-and-large, both types like the company of other people and from parties to prayer groups, PTA meetings to after-work drinks, you’ll often find both Type 2s and 7s surrounded by others.
Both may have very full schedules and may seem to have a hard time slowing down and practicing self-care. They generally have a positive, uplifting attitude, and gratitude can come easily to both these habits of attention. However, when you venture into the mind of a Type 2 and a Type 7, you will see radically different landscapes.
The Mind of a Type 2
Type 2s are other-focused, and their attention goes to how to support the people in their lives. Their full schedules are usually spent offering aid and assistance to people and initiatives, and their moods can be greatly affected by the situations of important people in their lives.
This is someone who can spend hours at a party talking with one person about their relationship problems, in the hope of offering support or helpful advice. A Type 2 may not feel this is a sacrifice, especially if they go home feeling they really made a difference for the other person.
The Mind of a Type 7
Type 7s spend more time thinking about themselves and what will make them happy. They typically have a wide range of hobbies, interests, and activities, and their full schedules are usually spent on the pursuit of happiness and variety. They may care deeply about others, but managing their own anxiety by staying on the go usually takes priority. They are more likely to diffuse their time, following whatever captures their attention in the moment.
If you are unsure if you are a Type 2 or a Type 7, ask yourself the following:
1. Do you have difficulty saying “no” to things you really don’t want to do?
Type 2s have a hard time saying “no” largely because they have galvanized their identity around being helpful to others. Some Type 2s report that helping others is the “meaning of life,” and some have a conscious or subconscious belief they are here on planet earth to be of service to others. With this as the backdrop, no request is too intrusive, and it is difficult to turn any person away. They work hard to meet the needs of others. This supports their identity.
Type 7s are more self-referencing with a belief they are here on planet earth to find happiness. They believe this elusive happiness is just around the corner, they need to go get it themselves, and it is probably something they have never done before. With this focus, it is much easier to say no to things they really don’t want to do or that they think will not bring joy. They might offer an indirect “no” cloaked as an unwillingness to commit but whatever the style, Type 7s are generally able to put their own needs first.
2. Is it hard to hold the space for other people’s negative emotions for long periods of time?
Both Type 2s and Type 7s can be very caring people who are deeply concerned about others. But Type 7s have difficulty processing negative emotions and can have a harder time offering consistent empathy, particularly if the person they are relating to is in a dark place for an extended period of time. The Type 7 will want them to snap out of it and will offer advice and suggestions meant to lead them to a brighter mood. Extended negative emotional states can feel threatening to Type 7s.
Type 2s on the other hand are more able to hold the space for the darker emotions, even for extended periods of time. Sadness, despair, and melancholy are often emotions Type 2s are quite familiar with and listening to a friend talk on and on about a thorny emotional problem is well within their capacity. They can listen with empathy without trying to solve the dilemma and give others the space to process their feelings at their own pace. They feel useful in the support role.
3. Are you a good listener?
This is a tricky one because often Type 7s imagine they are good listeners even though others don’t experience them that way. Type 7s have a “layering” communication style which means they interrupt as a way of offering support. For example, you say something and your Type 7 friend interrupts to agree or share a similar experience. They think they are listening and supporting you while you might feel they are dominating the conversation.
Type 2s are more classically good listeners. They are genuinely interested in the experience of others and don’t have a hard time listening with interest to someone else’s account of an event or situation. They ask probing questions and have an easier time keeping their own experience out of someone else’s conversation. A Type 2 can easily get to the end of a conversation without having injected their experience. They are likely to say “you” more than they say “I.”
4. Do you notice your mind drifting into the future and focusing on upcoming positive events?
Type 7s have a fixation around planning, and their attention naturally drifts into the future, imagining all the enjoyable things they will do. The calendar for a Type 7 is usually peppered with fun events and activities, and they gain a lot of pleasure from reviewing their plans and all the possibilities that the future holds.
Type 2s plan for pragmatic reasons. They gain less pleasure from studying their schedule and instead use planning as a practical way to make sure they meet their various obligations. The day planner for a Type 2 is usually filled with firm commitments in support of others. It is rarely a source of pleasure but rather a practical tool.
The Enneagram is a richly complex system so it's worth outlining which specific Type 2s and Type 7s usually get mixed up.
The Social Type 7, called “Sacrifice” is the most likely to think they are a Type 2. This is with good reason because the Social Type 7 subverts their drive for new experiences and their desire to get their way in exchange for the greater good of the group. But the habit of attention is still fixed on a positive future, and this person is highly aware they have exercised impulse control. A Type 2’s focus on others is much more subconscious.
The Self-Preservation Type 2, called “Privilege” is the most likely to think they are a Type 7. This is someone who typically has a child-like enthusiasm, and they can have an almost youthful “me-first” attitude. However, their habit of attention is on others, and this Type 2 is trying to be likeable and childlike as a subconscious strategy to get their needs met. They are more “other-referencing” than Type 7s.
The exercise of self-typing is one of the many learning tools of the Enneagram. The system invites you to look deeply at your own motivations and in the case of Type 2s and Type 7s, the motivations are quite different even if the behavior may look the same. To explore these Enneagram types in more detail, read more about Type 2 and Type 7.
Want to see more Enneagram look-alikes? See the Type 8 and Type 3 look-alikes here.