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The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types

The Wisdom of the Enneagram book cover
Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Recommended by: Anastasia Smith, Alternative Project Delivery Coordinator, Department of Transportation

1) What is your suggestion about?

The late Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson offer in The Wisdom of the Enneagram an approach to help us understand ourselves and others.

The Enneagram offers nine basic personality types, with many nuances in each type. As someone who loves personality tests, I have never encountered one so all-encompassing as the Enneagram.

2) Why did you choose it?

The Wisdom of the Enneagram provides a comprehensive introduction to the Enneagram. It is one of the most impactful books I have ever read.

I found that the Enneagram names my most basic fears, desires, and flaws, in addition to my strengths. It offers a picture of what I could be and suggests ways to work toward becoming the best version of myself. Unlike so many other tests, it doesn’t just diagnose and leave. In response to the many critics of personality typing that argue this puts you in a box, Enneagram specialists say that rather than pigeonholing you, the Enneagram shows you the box you already are in and offers wisdom to help you crawl out.

There is a short test to help you identify what type you might be. For me, it was obvious immediately. Words (both positive and negative) that had been used to describe me my whole life were contained in Type Nine’s description (more on that below). My husband bounced around a few times before figuring out his. It can be difficult to identify your type because none of us want to admit our deepest fears and faults. But this journey has been so worth it!

This book is what started me on this journey. There is, though, a vast supply of books, articles, and even podcasts on this subject to continue a life-long journey to conquer my flaws and become my best self.

3) What else do you want to tell us about it?

Becoming a better leader means addressing your most difficult habits and motivations. The first step to leading others well is to lead yourself well. That journey, done well, is difficult. You may feel uncomfortable. As is often said, though, the first step to recovery is admitting the problem.

Through the Enneagram, I have learned (to my dismay) how I, as a Nine, am focused on protecting my inner peace. This is not a true peace, a “peace” achieved by avoiding reality or unpleasant things.

Nines, unlike other numbers, do not develop coping mechanisms for dealing with stress. We therefore habitually avoid, withdraw, and forget. Also, we seem to either not have an opinion, or, if we work ourselves up to having an opinion, can be unreasonably stubborn (my family particularly agreed with this point, having said so for years!).

Thus, the “name” for a Nine is Peacemaker. Our strength is seeing both sides. Despite inner turmoil, we can be often perceived as calm and safe. Healthy Nines are great mediators in conflict and can achieve much with people on all sides because others find it easy to trust and work with Nines.

As you can see, the Enneagram has shown me my greatest capacity for harm and my greatest capacity for good. This book and other resources offer suggestions on how I can move toward being a healthy Nine.

The same is true for the other eight types. 

4) What is a key take away for leaders driving improvement in how we deliver for the citizens of Missouri?

Learning all the personality types is teaching me compassion. I understand better the diversity of motivation, fear, coping mechanisms, and strengths among all of us. Learning how and why each of us sees and experiences the world differently will increase my own capacity for empathy, compassion, and acceptance. It has already improved my relationships with my husband and several family members. We can all learn more about ourselves and our colleagues to serve each other and the citizens of Missouri better. 

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