What are three common Enneagram coach mistakes?

  1. Focusing on behaviour.
  2. Forgetting about counterphobic six.
  3. Relying too heavily on typical online Enneagram tests.
enneagram coach mistake number 1

Mistake Number One.

The Enneagram is not based on behaviour. It is based on a hidden reason for the behaviour.

This is why at InnerLifeSkills, we use the three pearls metaphor to explain that underneath the personality’s surface is a hidden grain of sand that describes the reason for the behaviour.

To truly understand the Enneagram, we need to understand the grain of sand, the driver, the motivator, and the hidden reason for our behaviour.

All nine types can display similar and even identical behaviours, but their reason for the behaviour would differ from type to type.

For example, take helping; helping is a behaviour. If you look at the Enneagram from a surface point of view, you will think that helpfulness or helping others is a typical two on the Enneagram behaviour.

But every time I teach and work with groups from around the world, if you ask all nine types whether they are helpful and whether they engage in helping as a behaviour, they all indicate that they do.

But what is the hidden reason for helping? – That belongs to the Enneagram.

When we don’t understand this critical aspect of how the Enneagram personality is formed, we can make mistakes easily.

Mistyping, confusion, and getting lost in the complexity of the Enneagram happens all too often because we forget this critical fact that the Enneagram is not based on behaviour.


It is based on the hidden reason for the behaviour, which InnerLifeSkills master coaches call the three personality pearls.

enneagram coach mistake 2

Mistake Number Two.

Six on the Enneagram can express itself in two forms; as a phobic six and as a counterphobic six.

The counterphobic expression of six is often neglected.

Many online tests fail even to consider the counterphobic six.

In my many years of experience working with Enneagram practitioners and with aspiring coaches, as well as management teams, et cetera, the amount of times counterphobic sixes are typed as eights will surprise you.

Counterphobic six can display similar behaviour to an eight, but their grain of sand; their reason for behaviour still comes from what we call the blue pearl.

This means that the outward display of assertion, and sometimes even direct aggression, is coming from a blue pearl motivation; which is the mind, thinking, and a desire for security, anxiety, or fear.

Whereas our red pearl for example, an eight is operating from pre-verbal gut instinct – a pushing back against reality from a very physical standpoint and some degree of anger or irritation.

Two very different motivators.

A counterphobic six is a second movement of the phobic six.

The phobic six is an operating system and personality that is searching for security.

I often use the metaphor of testing chairs to see whether the chair is safe to sit on. Our phobic six is looking for support, looking for what they can trust in life to rely on and to lean on.

But if the phobic six has tested enough chairs that have broken, there is a tendency to move into a counterphobic expression, which is a defiant and self-protective mechanism because the counterphobic six has become disillusioned with people and can’t easily trust life and others.

The counterphobic six doesn’t want to be in the vulnerable position of feeling afraid and endlessly seeking support.

So they take a second movement against their phobia, hence counterphobic.

They don’t want to be afraid.

So now it’s almost an attitude of “I can’t trust chairs, so I’m not going to trust any chairs. And I might even polarize against chairs to openly and directly provoke and test the chairs in the world to assert my independence and to not feel the discomfort of my fear.”

So remember to include our counterphobic six in your understanding.

enneagram coach mistake three

Mistake Number Three.

In my opinion, and in my experience typical multiple choice online tests, no matter how valuable they may seem – and they do have a role – are still not accurate enough to depend on and rely on exclusively. Which is why we’ve created a test with training using our 3 Pearls Method.

The amount of times I get students who have been tested and typed incorrectly is astonishing.

Tests that claim more than a 50 or 60% accuracy, in my opinion, are questionable.

When someone is relatively new to the Enneagram and they do a test, they don’t have the level of knowledge and understanding to really determine whether that test was accurate or not.

Give it a couple of months or even sometimes a year of growth and learning and self-awareness.

And then they realize that the test was not actually accurate and they discover their true type.

In every Enneagram coach training I do with coaches from around the world, learning to become Enneagram coach practitioners in a narrative style, someone, if not more than one person in the group discovers the true type through the process of discovery and learning.

This is not to say that Enneagram tests don’t have a role to play.

They’re a quick, easy way to get into the Enneagram.

But I highly recommend that you take them always with a pinch of salt and that you include Enneagram coaching in a narrative style to take clients and delegates further into self-discovery,

The time it takes to do a test, which is usually between one and two hours, could be used to take someone through our eight-step method, which is a narrative approach.


Not only does the client exit the two hours with a far more accurate typing experience, but they also leave with a foundation of Enneagram knowledge, which they can’t get from a test.

enneagram coach mistake lightbulb

So those are the three biggest Enneagram coach mistakes I’ve seen Enneagram practitioners make.

I do hope that in your journey to using the Enneagram, to empower and enlighten, that you take these Enneagram coach mistakes on board and make sure that you remember that the Enneagram is not about behavior that you include counterphobic six in your understanding and that you don’t rely heavily on online tests.