To choose between MBTI & Enneagram

To choose between MBTI & Enneagram

4 December 2017 coaching 0

MBTI and enneagram

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

It is a psychological assessment tool that determines the psychological type of a subject, following a method proposed in 1962 by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother Katherine Cook Briggs.

It serves as a tool in the identifications of the psychological dominant of people in management or issues in the context of interpersonal relationships.

In the context of Analytical Psychology, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss psychiatrist, brought theoretical elements including the existence of “psychological types”. This invention was published in 1921.

From his invention of psychological types, researchers developed theoretical approaches, including Soviet Union and MBTI in the United States.

About 2 millions of people per year carry out a MBTI test.

Correspondence with Enneagram

We can establish correspondence between the MTBI and the Enneagram. 1 Enneagram type can correspond to several MTBI types and vice versa. But the opinions on the correspondence diverge. Below is a summary table from different sources.

The MBTI instrument has four sets of letters:

Extra / introversion

indicating whether you get energy from being around people or from time spent alone.

Sensing / iNtuition

indicating whether you become aware of specific facts and concrete details or prefer to focus on hunches and the big picture.

Thinking / feeling

indicating whether you tend to make decisions based on logical analysis and the principles involved or prefer to decide by considering your values and promoting harmony for the people involved.

indicating whether you prefer your life to be planned and like it when things are decided or prefer to go with the flow and like keeping your options open.

The 16 Personality Types

(order of frequency : % of population)


mtbi 2

There are between 3 or 5 sources because some sources may be redundant

The MBTI is static, like many psychometric tests, with a bipolar approach (choice between left-handed or right-handed, extrovert or introvert, ..). This on 4 axes (ESTP). This results in 16 personality possibilities (not to be confused with the 16PS) with a static label of entrepreneur, entertainer, mediator, … .. In the scientific field, a stable, reproducible and relatively simple tool is a prerequisite to be accepted and allows measurements over time.

Its foundation is cognitive, and highlights the management of conscious information (collection, classification in a temporal dimension).

  • How do you collect the info? do you go into the detail (sensitive) or do you look rather in the global (intuitive)?
  • Do you classify information according to logical criteria (Thinking: true or false) or according to subjective criteria (feeling: right or wrong) to make a decision?
  • Are you waiting for more information (Perception) or are you drawing conclusions and decisions quickly (Judgment)?
  • To do, are you looking outward (others, the world) or centered on you?

MBTI and motivation

The MBTI will not deal with motivation (which will engender different behaviors depending on the situations) and neither unconscious defense mechanisms.

In other words, the MBTI indicates “how a person behaves” whatever the situation, with these strengths in the forefront, when the enneagram indicates “why does a person behave this way” and the possible variations according to the situation (dynamic approach), with in the first line the weaknesses (unconscious).

People may have the same behavior but different motivations. The enneagram will be able to make these distinctions more easily.

Enneagram is based on an empirical approach (or clinical: neurosis) and the various defense mechanisms put in place and their automatic unconscious uses that influence our behavior. The origin is of psychoanalytic tendency (repression, search of love during childhood – emotional degradation or passion or motivation by deficiency). The interpretation is cognitive with the use of inappropriate beliefs or counterproductive values (cognitive distortions – fixation – and self-reinforcing passion). Its use is in line with cognitive-behavioral approaches of today where we do not search in the past what disturbed us, but how to better live with, here and now.

Dynamic or static

The enneagram is dynamic because the person oscillates between several mechanisms of defenses and thus several behaviors according to the situation and the period. This makes it a powerful tool but hardly usable by scientists in psychometric measurements.

To resume, the implicit theory of personality (JP Leyens – Are we all psy?):

“Do not confuse personality and attitude .. my personality is who I am … and my attitude depends on who you are and how you behave”

With the approach of the enneagram a person can evolve, modify inappropriate behaviors, adapt his motivations. She does not find herself locked in a box.

Depending on your objective

Finally, and most important in the choice of psychometric tools or personal development: What do you want to do? to have the picture at the instant “t” of a person (very useful in a recruitment phase when you search for a profile identified beforehand, but a little less useful in the context of personal development) or be able to act by optimizing behaviors and interpersonal relationships (personal or team)?

In the professional management of a team, its optimization depends on your ability to understand what motivates people and what motivates you. The well-being of everyone. Not only the visible part of the iceberg (conscious motives: salary, recognition, …) but also and especially the immersed part (unconscious motivations, passions and fixations). You must answer “how do I motivate my team? “.

In conclusion, these 2 tools are differentiated by the different use of cognition and the choice will depend on your goal (identify or motivate). One used the cognitive approach to identify measurement criteria and from this it anticipates the static behaviors, when the other uses cognition to explain variable behaviors and to be able to better act on them (to better understand, to better welcome and to better support ).

Then we can express that those 2 Tools can be complementary according to your goals.

In conclusion, MBTI and Enneagram

The MTBI will be static, and in a cognitive approach, highlight the management of conscious information (collection, classification in a temporal dimension). But it will not deal with motivation, which will engender different behaviors depending on the situation, and neither unconscious defense mechanisms.

In other words, the MBTI indicates “how a person behaves” in any situation, when the enneagram indicates “why a person behaves this way” and the possible variations of behavior depending on the situation (dynamic approach).

People may have the same behavior but different motivations (and then different types). The enneagram will be able to make these distinctions more easily.

Which makes it two complementary tools.


The MBTI is a registered trademark of the Myers Briggs Foundation. As a result, only practitioners licensed for this purpose can officially pass an “MBTI® test”. OPP holds the rights to use the test in Europe.

  • Prohibition of MBTI as part of a job interview
  • The two co-creators of the test “did not have any training in psychology
  • In addition, there are multiple criticisms of the effectiveness of the test, which would miss key aspects of the personality.

under the right of  short quote  (French)

Big 5

In psychology, the Big Five are five central traits of the personality empirically proposed by Goldberg (1981), then developed by Costa and McCrae in the years 1987-1992. They constitute not a theory but a reference for the description and the theoretical study of the personality (And derived from 16PF of Cattell – 1949).

Sometimes the “OCEAN model” is used according to the different dimensions of the model. There are different models like the NEO-PI.

  • (O) Openness: appreciation of art, emotion, adventure, uncommon ideas, curiosity and imagination;
  • (C) Conscientiousness: self-discipline, respect for obligations, organization rather than spontaneity; goal oriented;
  • (E) Extraversion: energy, positive emotions, tendency to seek stimulation and companionship of others, go-getter;
  • (A) Amenability: a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others;
  • (N) Neuroticism or neuroticism: contrary to emotional stability: tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety or depression, vulnerability

The Big Five do not categorize people into five categories, but rate them five times differently. These five dimensions constitute a minimum to describe in their entirety the character of a person, because the traits they designate prove to be independent.

  • The Big Five limits: slightly redundant, and not quite complete.
  • A weak note may reveal an opposite dimension or indifference to that dimension.

Personality Disorders – in each of the ten categories of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) corresponds a unique profile on the Big Five; these profiles share a high neuroticism and low level of enjoyment (Saulsman and Page, 2004);

Smoking is correlated with a high level of neuroticism and a low level of pleasantness and conscientiousness (Incredible, isn’t it ?)

Other tests

DISC, Classical Temperaments, NEO-PI, MMPI, R-Drive, iPersonic, 16PF, Zodiac, Love Languages, KWML, Life Path, M:tG, and Hogwarts houses… just to name a few.

  • 16PF: At the primary level, the 16PF measures 16 primary traits constructs, with a version of the Big Five secondary traits at the secondary level.[Cattell]. The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF), is a self-report personality test developed over several decades of empirical research by Raymond B. Cattell. Then the most recent edition of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF), released in 1993, is the fifth edition (16PF5e) of the original instrument. The self-report instrument was first published in 1949; In final, the second and third editions were published in 1956 and 1962, respectively; and the five alternative forms of the fourth edition were released between 1967 and 1969.


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