Enneagram vs. DiSC Test: Key Differences Explained

27 June 2024

enneagram vs disc

Comparing the Enneagram vs. DiSC test requires an understanding of each test's purpose. Both are related to personality psychology and behavior, and both are valuable tools for raising self-awareness. Plus, both the Enneagram and DiSC tests can be used in different professional and clinical settings for personality assessments.

To get a better insight into how different and alike these tests are, we’ll explore their key differences, explain their mechanics, and provide tips on when to use each.

Enneagram vs. DiSC Test: General Overview

A woman looking at herself in the mirror

Before analyzing the Enneagram vs. DiSC test differences, we’ll explain what each test represents, what its purpose is, and what insights it provides.

Enneagram Test

The Enneagram test is based on the Enneagram theory, which combines ancient spiritual traditions with contemporary psychology of personality. Its framework is the result of the collaborative efforts of the individuals who shaped it—George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo.

Enneagram categorizes people into nine personality types, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own thought, behavior, and feeling patterns. Moreover, it explains each type’s core life strategy, allowing for a lot of diversity and nuances in describing the types.

The focus of the Enneagram isn’t so much on defining a certain type as on understanding how each type’s core fears, strengths, and weaknesses are interconnected with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Finally, the well-rounded Enneagram personality theory provides insights into how each type behaves under stress and in normal circumstances. It also explains how each type behaves depending on their level of development and how they grow and evolve during the course of life.

DiSC test

The DiSC personality test is primarily focused on behavior rather than providing complete personality profiles.

The theoretical framework was first developed by American psychologist and inventor Dr. William Moulton Marston, who identified four primary emotions and behavioral traits in his book “Emotions of Normal People.” Later on, his work inspired industrial psychologist Walter Clarke and later John Geier to develop the DiSC model as we know it today.

The main purpose of the DiSC test is to identify predictable patterns in human behavior. As a result, it’s very practical and provides a lot of actionable information, allowing us to anticipate a person’s actions and reactions.

Its framework is very comprehensive and simple, as it categorizes individuals based on four traits that Marston identified as key predictors of behaviors. As a matter of fact, the very name of the DiSC test is actually the acronym that stands for those key traits:

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Steadiness
  • Conscientiousness

Furthermore, Dr. Marston categorized individuals into four primary DiSC personality types, depending on which of the four traits is most dominant in their profile. Each type is described through a set of behaviors and characteristics that they display in professional and personal interactions.

Advantages & Disadvantages of the Enneagram Test

The advantages and disadvantages of the Enneagram test vary depending on the purpose for which it is used. Let’s take a closer look at its good and bad sides to gain a well-rounded perspective.

Advantages of the Enneagram Test

Here are the best things about the Enneagram test, according to professionals and test users:

  • Self-discovery. The Enneagram test is a powerful tool for self-discovery as it provides insight into our core motivations, life strategy, deepest fears, and strengths. As a result, it allows us to understand our needs and aspirations on a deeper level and develop our self-awareness.
  • Relationship improvement. By allowing us to understand ourselves better, the Enneagram test impacts our relationships. It also provides an overview of compatibility between Enneagram types. Every Enneagram type has its specific communication style and love language, and knowing these supports effective interpersonal communication.
  • Professional development. Each Enneagram type has their own specific set of strengths, preferences in work, passions, and ambitions. Therefore, a complete Enneagram type profile usually includes precise recommendations for the best career choices.
  • Stress and personal development. The Enneagram test gives a very detailed and comprehensive description of each Enneagram type’s behavior under stress, their stress triggers, and defense mechanisms. Becoming aware of these allows us to grow, develop, and overcome our weaknesses.

Disadvantages of the Enneagram Test

Some of the most prominent disadvantages of the Enneagram test include:

  • Subjectivity. The Enneagram test is largely based on self-reporting, which means that people may answer the test questions based on their perceptions, not on objective reality. This may make it hard to determine an individual's Enneagram type correctly.
  • Complexity. The Enneagram test includes a few more crucial concepts, like Enneagram wings, stress arrows, growth arrows, development levels, instinctual variants, and others. While these provide very precise and nuanced personality portraits, people may find them too confusing and contradictory at times.
  • Limited power to predict behavior. Enneagram is more focused on understanding the core life strategy, motivation, and emotional landscape of each Enneagram type than on predicting its behavior in specific settings.

Advantages & Disadvantages of DiSC Test

A group of people looking in the distance - enneagram vs disc

The advantages and disadvantages of the DiSC test stem from its strong behavioral focus. Here’s a closer look at these.

Advantages of the DiSC test

The advantages of the DiSC test include but are not limited to:

  • Practical application. The DiSC test was created with a very practical purpose in mind—to provide actionable insights into human behavior that can be used in multiple settings. Therefore, it provides very easy-to-understand profiles without diving deeply into complex psychological characteristics and motivations.
  • Communication improvement. Each DiSC type has its own communication style. By understanding all these styles and their differences, we can improve our communication by adapting our approach to better connect with other people.
  • Identification of behavioral patterns. The essential purpose of the DiSC assessment is to provide insight into how individuals behave in different professional settings. For this reason, it provides very precise descriptions of the workplace behaviors of the four DiSC types.
  • Leadership development. The DiSC test describes each type’s leadership style, and this information is very useful for devising leadership development strategies for an organization.
  • Scientific basis. Based on psychological research and theory, the DiSC test is a scientifically validated behavior assessment tool, and as such, it is considered reliable for diverse uses.

Disadvantages of the DiSC test

The downsides of the DiSC test are:

  • Oversimplification. Categorizing people into four types makes the test easily digestible but limits the test’s capacity to provide a complete overview of an individual's behavior with all the variations and nuances. The test doesn’t account for the fluidity and changeability of human behavior. As a result, people may feel the test disregards their authenticity.
  • Cultural limitations. Developed within a Western cultural matrix, the DiSC test may not be sensitive enough to account for behavioral differences that are the result of different cultural influences. Needless to say, this can limit its accuracy.
  • Lack of personality insight. The DiSC test focuses on typical behaviors and doesn’t delve into their motivations. Therefore, it may provide too generic, simplified personality profiles.

When to Use the Enneagram Test: 3 Key Use Cases

A girl laying on grass

The Enneagram test can be used for many personal and professional purposes with great success. Here are some of the most typical uses:

  • Personal development. The Enneagram test can help you map areas for growth and provide a very practical strategy on how to overcome your weaknesses. That’s because it gives you an in-depth look into what needs and experiences shaped your personality. It is particularly effective in life transitions and when you have to make big decisions, as it can provide you with much-needed clarity and direction.
  • HR assessments. Since it gives a complete overview of an individual’s behavior patterns and internal motivation, the Enneagram test can be a powerful tool in different HR processes like recruitment, talent development, leadership development, and team building.
  • Coaching and mentoring. Many coaches and mentors use the Enneagram test to quickly identify which communication style to use to connect with their clients effectively. It also helps them develop coaching strategies and set development goals for their clients.

When to Use the DiSC Test: 4 Key Use Cases

enneagram vs disc

The DiSC test is primarily used in professional settings. Here’s an overview of some of its most effective applications:

  • Team building. The DiSC test can help in setting up a productive and efficient team by matching individuals according to their DiSC type.
  • Career profiling. By identifying an individual's strengths, the DiSC test can help narrow career choices and define ideal job positions.
  • Leadership development. The DiSC test is also very effective in identifying leadership potential and, as such, can be a strong support for leadership development.
  • Project management. By identifying the team members’ strong points and relationship dynamics within the team, the DiSC test makes managing teams and coordinating with stakeholders easier.

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Key Takeaways

While there are many differences between Enneagram and DiSC tests, it seems like complexity is the most prominent one. However, there’s no doubt that both tests can be very useful in a variety of different contexts.

Let’s highlight all the most important Enneagram vs. DiSC correlations and differences:

  • Both Enneagram and DiSC tests provide valuable insights into behavioral patterns and, as a result, can support the growth and development of self-awareness and interpersonal communication.
  • Also, both tests can be used in professional settings, for career development, and in different HR processes.
  • Enneagram is a complete personality theory that touches on all the most important aspects of an individual's character, while DiSC is focused on identifying behavioral patterns without diving deep into an individual’s psychological profile.
  • The Enneagram offers a more well-rounded personality portrait, whereas the DiSC test provides quick and actionable insights into an individual’s behavioral tendencies.