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Belmont students learn self-awareness and empathy with the Enneagram

The Enneagram is Belmont’s latest obsession, taking coffee date conversations by storm and helping students understand their thoughts and behaviors.

The Enneagram is a personality test and ideology made of nine numbers, with each number representing a unique personality type.

Each type possesses gifts and strengths but also has weaknesses. The test can reveal those weaknesses and strengths like a “non-judgmental best friend,” said Beth McCord, a professional Enneagram coach.

“The Enneagram pointed out what I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. Good or bad, it made it okay,” said Mary Puls, a junior who is a type one on the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is built to help the types understand each other, as it shows how the nine types are all connected.

The type numbers are evenly spaced on a circle, eventually joining to each other with lines of three inner triangles. The lines of those inner triangles show how each type can morph into others during times of stress or growth, according to the Enneagram Institute website.

Enneagram Graphic 2

The types are distinguished by key motives, fears and desires.

“The Enneagram is how people see the world. We are all wearing a pair of sunglasses that have a different colored lens, and each type has its own color. So you have your lens, and I have mine,” McCord said. “We might think we are seeing things the same way, but we’re not. Each type has a different perspective.”

An understanding of the motivation behind actions — both your own and those of others — can help to create mutual understanding, Puls said.

“Before the Enneagram, I didn’t understand why people didn’t understand me. It helped me understand why and how people all see and do things differently,” said Puls. “I genuinely thought that everyone thought the way I thought, and I didn’t understand why they see and do things differently.”

In a college setting, this understanding of classmates and colleagues can help people to better co-exist.

Not only is the Enneagram helpful to Belmont students, but it may be specifically appealing to them, said Eva Sipic, a recent Belmont graduate and type six.

“By Belmont being Belmont, a Christian liberal arts university, and the Enneagram having lots of spiritual elements, students are naturally drawn to it,” she said.

But the interest in the Enneagram isn’t solely a Belmont phenomenon. It appeals to college kids and young audiences everywhere, McCord said.

That is because, unlike the Myers-Briggs test or StrengthsFinder, the Enneagram is focused on how individuals relate to each other versus how they are perceived by the world, said McCord.

“The different generations have different takes on personality tests. The older generation doesn’t know what to do with the vast transparency of the Enneagram. On the other hand, the younger the audience is, the more they actually value that transparency and authenticity,” said McCord.

Beginning with the rise of reality TV and progressing to YouTube and social media, current teens and college students have grown up with more transparent entertainment than older generations, said McCord.

Increased vulnerability online has subconsciously taught millennials to seek the truth, not only in entertainment, but in each other, she said.

“The younger generation won’t put up with pretense or being fake. The Enneagram is a tool for them to find themselves quicker and authentically and to help them understand others in the same way,” said McCord.

Beyond understanding other people, the Enneagram is also a powerful tool for self-understanding, Sipic said.

“It’s helped me realize how to identify when I’m under stress or anxiety and when I’m mentally healthy or not,” said Sipic.

And the Enneagram doesn’t just reveal common problems and traits, it also offers suggestions for change and growth, McCord said.

“It’s like an internal GPS: letting you know why you think, feel and behave the way you do and letting you know if you’re on the right path or veering off course,” McCord said. “You may think ‘this is how it should be done or has always been,’ but that may be the problem that keeps tripping you up.”

College is a time for students to find their true self while surrounded by peers, and the Enneagram can help navigate that quest.

“College students and young adults are looking to find themselves and their identity,” said Sipic. “The Enneagram has been great to help me learn about and understand others and myself.”

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Article and graphics by Rachel VanDoren.

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