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Enneagram Triads Explained

Enneagram Triads make up three different sections of the Enneagram model. The groups consist of The Gut: 8-9-1, The Heart: 2-3-4, and The Head: 5-6-7.

Triads split the Enneagram types into three sections based on their underlying emotion and go-to decision-making style, specifically in times of stress.

What Are The Enneagram Triads

The three triads are the Gut Triad (Instinctive Center, Heart Triad (Feeling Center), and Head Triad (Thinking Center).

Understanding the triads helps expose patterns of emotion and decision-making, which can result in greater self-awareness and workplace collaboration.

Each type seeks to validate themself in different ways. And, each number in the triad experiences their underlying emotion differently, impacting their decisions and how others perceive them. 

Each type can relate to all three triads, and part of the theory behind the Enneagram is that all nine types dwell within us. However, one is our natural “go-to,” and that is where our preference – or, ‘type’ – is born.

How Do You Know What Your Enneagram Triad Is?

Enneagram Types 8, 9, and 1’s belong to the Gut Triad. Enneagram Types 2, 3, and 4’s belong to the Heart Triad. And Enneagram Types 5, 6, and 7’s belong to the Head Triad. Your Enneagram Type determines which Triad you are a part of.

If you are already familiar with each triad and are ready to explore how to use the triads to improve communication within your organization, visit the post: How To Activate Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace. Or, download the free Enneagram Guide To Healthy Teams In The Workplace.


Inside this free guide, you’ll learn:

Enneagram at Work Ebook on vector graphic

The Gut Triad (Types 8, 9, & 1)

The Gut Triad copes with their dominant emotion of anger or rage in the way they respond to gut feelings or physical sensations. 8s express their anger outwardly, 9s deny and likely feel threatened by these emotions, and 1s repress and try to control it.

People in this triad perceive life as a struggle to be won in their attempt to accomplish something. Doing this tends to hold their ground rather than adapt to the situation. 

They process their world not primarily by thinking or feeling but by responding from a place deep within. They tend to pay attention to their intuitive grasp of people, circumstances, and relational dynamics.

When healthy, those within this triad are not easily swayed by the opinions of others or what is happening in their present circumstances. They are relaxed and open and respond deeply and totally to the present moment.

gut triad

Those in this Gut Triad want to:

  • Freely pursue their wants and needs

  • Assure their well-being

  • Remain grounded in their ability to decide for themselves

Enneagram Eights – Express Their Anger Outwardly

  • When Eights feel anger building in them, they immediately respond to it in some physical way, raising their voices and moving more forcefully. Others can clearly see that Eights are angry because they give themselves permission to express their anger physically.

Enneagram Nines – Feel Threatened By Their Anger

  • Nines deny their anger and instinctual energies as if to say, “What anger? I am not a person who gets angry.” Nines are the type most out of touch with their anger and instinctual energies, often feeling threatened by them.

Enneagram Ones – Repress And Try To Control Their Anger

  • Ones feel they must stay in control of themselves at all times, especially of instinctual impulses and angry feelings.

Despite their differences, they all experience anger and use their instincts to decide how to act.

The Heart Triad (Types 2, 3, & 4)

The Heart Triad copes with their dominant emotion of shame in how they respond to the moods and feelings of themselves and others. 2s attempt to control their shame, 3s deny it, and 4s (like 2s) try to control it.

People in this triad perceive the world in terms of connections to be made. Life is a social network to enter and engage in. They process relational reality primarily through and with their feelings.

When those within this triad live from their essence, they live from a place of authenticity, truth, self-giving compassion, and forgiveness—all of which emerge from deep inner-directedness.

Those in this Heart Triad want to:

  • Establish connection with others by meeting their needs

  • Receive recognition

  • Feel understood by others

the heart triad

Enneagram Twos – Attempt To Control Their Shame

  • Twos want to convince themselves that they are good, loving people by focusing on their positive feelings for others while repressing their negative feelings (such as anger and resentment at not being appreciated enough). They attempt to control shame by getting people to like them and think of them as good people.

Enneagram Threes – Deny Their Shame

  • Threes are potentially the most out of touch with underlying feelings of inadequacy. Threes learn to cope with shame by trying to become what they believe a valuable, successful person is like. Thus, Threes learn to perform well, to be acceptable, even outstanding and are often driven relentlessly in their pursuit of success to stave off feelings of shame and fear of failure.

Enneagram Fours – Try To Control Their Shame

  • Fours attempt to control their shame by focusing on how unique and special their particular talents, feelings, and personal characteristics are. Fours highlight their individuality and creativity as a way of dealing with their shameful feelings, although Fours are the type most likely to succumb to feelings of inadequacy.

Despite their differences, they all experience shame and use their feelings to decide how to act.

The Head Triad (Types 5, 6, & 7)

The Head Triad copes with their dominant emotion of fear in how they respond to how they think and analyze. 5s express their fear by withdrawing, 6s turn to the outside world for security but likely always feel anxious or confront it, and 7s distract themselves from it.

The way this triad perceives life in terms of finding a safe place and a safe way forward. They process what they have observed primarily through their heads, and reality can become what they construct within their thoughts more than what is happening.

Those in this triad live most from their true self when they have substantive clarity about life and grasp reality comprehensively and perceptively.

They are steady and stable in their life and are easily trusted. They are skilled at taking in information, ordering it, strategizing, and anticipating possibilities and consequences.

the head triad

Those in this Head Triad want to:

  • Minimize anxiety

  • Obtain certainty and security

  • Gain knowledge 

Enneagram Fives – Express Their Fear By Withdrawing

  • Fives fear the outer world and their capacity to cope with it. Thus, they cope with their fear by withdrawing from the world. Fives become secretive, isolated loners who use their minds to penetrate the nature of the world. Fives hope that eventually, as they understand reality on their own terms, they will be able to rejoin the world and participate in it, but they never feel they know enough to participate with total confidence.

Enneagram Sixes – Turn To The Outside World For Security

  • Sixes exhibit the most fear of all three of the Head Triad types. This is largely experienced as anxiety, which causes them to be the most out of touch with their own sense of inner knowing and confidence. Sixes have trouble trusting their minds, so they constantly look outside themselves for something to make them feel sure of themselves. They might turn to philosophies, beliefs, relationships, jobs, savings, authorities, or any combination above.

Enneagram Sevens – Distract Themselves From Fear

  • Sevens fear their inner world. Their feelings of pain, loss, deprivation, and general anxiety that Sevens would like to stay clear of as much as possible. To cope with these feelings, Sevens keep their minds occupied with exciting possibilities and options – as long as they have something stimulating to anticipate, Sevens feel that they can distract themselves from their fears.

Despite their differences, they all experience fear and use their thoughts to decide how to act.


By expressing, repressing, or internalizing, each number searches to validate themselves in different ways because of their personal anger, shame, or fear.

There are no absolutes within the Enneagram. However, using the triads can expose emotions and decision-making patterns to create greater self-awareness and a better understanding of those around you.

Did you know that Cloverleaf can help you use your Enneagram results to sharpen your personal and professional development in the work environment?

Watch the video below to learn more about how to apply assessment insights for effective employee coaching to create a coaching culture in your organization.

Transform Assessments into Automated Coaching For your whole Team

Cloverleaf combines data from 10 assessments into a single dashboard. Access the Enneagram, 16 Types, DISC, CliftonStrengths and others. Receive customized Automated Coaching™ about yourself and your teammates. The more assessments an individual or team uses, the better insight you’ll receive.

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Evan Doyle

Evan Doyle serves as the Content Marketing Manager at Cloverleaf. He is an Enneagram enthusiast and creator of Recognized for his insightful writings, his work has been featured in publications such as Truity, Catalyst, and Creative Results Management, touching on topics from leadership and people development to teamwork and conflict resolution. He's also the author of the "Enneagram Career Guide," a digital workbook aiding transformative career changes. Evan is dedicated to helping individuals delve deeper into their self-awareness and leverage their strengths.