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Understanding the Enneagram: The Practical Guide to Personality Types

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  632 ratings  ·  39 reviews
PERSONALITY TYPES, the first book by Don Richard Riso, has become the leading guide to the Enneagram, as well as a cherished classic in the literature of personal growth around the world. This is the groundbreaking book that set the standard for insight and accuracy about this ancient symbol of human personality. UNDERSTANDING THE ENNEAGRAM soon followed and has since beco ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published January 18th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1990)
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Alison Stegert
Aug 11, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
A good Enneagram title--the most useful part is the section called Misidentifications. It helps each type understand why they might think they are another type. The information is presented so the reader can easily tease out the differences. It is worth having this book just for this section.
Matt Timms
This book doesn't claim to be an introduction to the Enneagram but certainly provides an overview. A person new to the Enneagram may be lost by the sometimes technical language Riso utilizes.

All in all, the basics of the directions of integration, basic desires/fears, and particularly the recommendations towards the end of the book are helpful tools for understanding the self.

The final chapter on essence and self-transcendence, while primarily conceptual in nature, serve to highlight well the p
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting concept. I like it because it does not claim to be a 'labeler' of personalities. It looks at the strongest core traits and helps you understand how to perceive yourself and others and how to work with different traits. I also like that it strongly discourages 'judgement' of others. Riso makes it clear that we all have some of each of the traits and that any of these can come out stronger under temporary circumstances such as extreme stress. Because Understanding the Enneagram: The Pr ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. The writers delved deeply into many aspects of the Enneagram. My favorite chapter was the one containing the quiz for self-analysis, in which I was finally able to discern my type. (I am a six.) The book covered several helpful topics, including psychological categories, levels of development, and misidentifications, the latter being an extremely helpful chapter, helping one discover their true type when being stuck between two similar options. There is a lot of insightful inform ...more
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: enneagram
I'm reading several Enneagram books at once right now, so my review may be giving some credit for another book to this one, but this is a great basic, but really solid overview of the system. I have been so excited to see my interest in human behavior models converge with my spiritual beliefs. This system is very useful as a secular tool, but is even more powerful spiritually. It's applicable to many religious contexts. I'm looking forward to reading the book I have about the Christian Perspecti ...more
Gina Brenna
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read several Enneagram books. I wouldn't say this one stands alone, but I do think that it explains the types in helpful ways not covered in other books. I bought this particularly for the section which explains misidentifications, which is invaluable. I wish this book also explained the wings of each type - that's my main disappointment with it. ...more
Paul Dubuc
Interesting further development of some of the more basic aspects of the Enneagram. This book often refers back to the book Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery by the same authors. So that book should be read first. ...more
Leigh Kramer
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Such a good resource for those wanting to delve deeper into the Enneagram and how it works. The type misidentifications and practical tips for each type are outstanding. I wouldn't recommend this as the first people read on the Enneagram but it's a great next step after reading The Wisdom of the Enneagram. ...more
Anik Singal
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really felt this book was a bit long-winded and the second half was just very 'text book' like. However, for someone STUDYING enneagrams, it's perfect. I was just trying to get an introduction to enneagrams. In which case, the first half of this book is great! ...more
B Casteau
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating! But lots of information to take in.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I use this as a reference book. I pick it up from time to time and find it very helpful.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: enneagram
This is one of my Enneagram Bibles! I love it - and have referred many friends to it.
Carolina Polanco
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
A must read for everyone on the path for emotional growth and self-awareness. Other basic Enneagram books must be read before this one.
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
helpful for those struggling to determine type or wondering about misidentification.
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
focused on the parts about 7 - just like astrology, it's a love/hate thing ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was an outstanding book on the personality types and does help one put others behavior into perspective.
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite introductions to the Enneagram.
Dimitris Hall
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Found this one last year in this shop when I was in Dublin. Having highlighted about half of it with that light blue colored penciland of mine, it took me about a year to "finish"... Reference book or no, I was really attracted to the way it expanded on some of the concepts first laid out in Personality Types . I recommend reading that one first (or maybe even The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self-Knowledge by Beatrice Chestnut for a different school of thought) if you want to ...more
Steve Cox
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating alternative way of looking at personalities. The nine-category structure was refreshingly straightforward after I’ve learnt about Jung (via Meyers/Briggs) and Strengths Finder. However, there are layers of detail and revelation to all 0f the methods that take time to absorb. I find that I’ve learnt stuff from all of them.
I was prompted to look into the Enneagram by reading a writing blog by K M Weiland. She pointed out the way that the nine-category structure helps when building conv
Alex Wong
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While I'm not new to profiling tools and coaching, I had to read this book several times to understand about personality based on this tool. It was very interesting, and helped me to understand more about the people around me and the motivations. The earlier chapters on the Holy Idea, Holy Virtues etc where a little harder for me to grasp, but once we got to the later parts where he talked about the different centres of expression, that made alot of sense to me. Once that was established, it was ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the misidentification portion of the book, but I thought the author’s addition of orientation toward parent figures was thrown in there without much explanation as to how he developed/tested/verified his hypothesis.

I’m happy the quizzes were included, but I had even scores for 5 and 6, and the misidentification section didn’t talk about that combination. Perhaps (likely) it was user error when taking the quiz.
R. Douglas
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Riso and Hudson book Understanding the Enneagram great. Riso and Hudson marry spirituality and psychology. This leads to a book that has tremendous possibilities for the reader. I got this book from the library and halfway through it I decided I just needed to purchase it so I did. While "The Wisdom of the Enneagram" is the most well-known book of Riso and Hudson's I think that this book could easily be a substitute to gain knowledge of the enneagram on a profound level. ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the most comprehensive book I've read about Enneagram; it discusses the Enneagram from a psychological perspective and integrates with DSM diagnostics. It also looks at other types of Enneagram classification organizations (triad, wings, Hornian, subtypes) but doesn't cover them extensively. ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: coaching, enneagram
The last of my Riso-Hudson enneagram books for now. This one had two new sections; center scrambling and information on sorting out misidentified types. It also went into more detail around the spiritual aspects of Holy Idea, Holy Passion, and Virtues. It provided an interesting look into the early days of the enneagram and how it has evolved into the current system.
Shelly Nicholson
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
My curiosity of the enneagram led me to pick this book up. I wish I could give half stars because this would be a four and one half. I think it’s strength lies in the disintegration of the personality types. I found the personality test a bit hard to understand.
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Loved the chapters on the Centers and the psychological categories. This was exactly what I was looking for - some “What now?” for after the reader knows his/her type.
Cassandra  Glissadevil
3.0 stars
Not Riso's best. When it comes to the Ennegram, don't be a 3 with a 2 wing. Don't cut corners!
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-physical
Informative and interesting book.
Ryan Johnson
Jan 23, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: hated
Stopping just short of throwing this book in the rubbish, I'm closing the cover at page 30, doubtful the cover will ever be cracked again.

Perhaps my ignorance will show through, but this book reeks of a filth I abor, new age psychology, pop psychology....Though the authors say this is a very old ideology, method and practice I couldn't help but feel I would soon be asked for a One Time Payment of $19.99 for the next Self Help Book in the series.....

There are a lot of promising titles in my pile
Daniel Triumph
Sep 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Crunchy with facts, full of useful divisions, headers, and forms. The voice of the writer is clear, with lots of use of the personal "I," making it awkward to read as nonfiction.

Nonetheless, it's loaded with good insight, science, and clear information. Appears well researched.
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“Perhaps one of the most challenging notions for us to accept at the beginning of transformational work is that the personality—the ego and its structures—is an artificial construct. But it only seems real because up until now it has been our entire reality. Identifying with our personality has been how we have lived and gotten by in life. Insofar as it has enabled us to do so, the personality has been a useful, even highly valuable, friend. As our insights deepen, however, we come to accept the hard truth that our personality is largely a collection of internal defenses and reactions, deeply ingrained beliefs and habits about the self and the world that have come from the past, particularly from our childhood. To put this more simply, our personality is a mechanism from the past, perhaps one that has helped us survive until now, but one whose limitations can now be seen. We all suffer from a case of mistaken identity: we have forgotten our True Nature and have come to believe that we are the personality. The reason we must explore the defenses of the personality and the vulnerabilities it is protecting is so that we can reexperience our Essential nature—our spiritual core—and know directly who we really are.” 3 likes
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