Book By: Donrichard Riso & Russ Hudson
Review By: Theresa Lyon
College of Community and Public Service Undergraduate Advising Center
Grand Valley State University

Academic advisors are constantly striving to define the actions, thought processes, and behaviors of the students they serve. Often, advisors may turn to relevant theories to explore human behavior and, though not developed specifically to address the needs of academic advisors, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator [RHETI] is an intriguing addition to the field. In “Discovering Your Personality Type”, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson present their version of a universal typology indicator, which they claim has as many unique uses as it does users (p. 4). While the intro is a bit effusive, referencing spiritual forces and the enneagram’s roots in Greek philosophy, it would behoove advisors to dig deeper into the text and examine what role the enneagram can play in furthering one’s understanding of the self and those around them. As a typology, the RHETI seeks to outline notable patterns of human behavior by defining nine distinctive types. The nine types are simply titled numerically, with very basic titles that prompt the reader to delve further into the unique description that fits their designated type.

The authors are quick to add in a dose of caution in regards to the limitations of the RHETI. First, the possibility is acknowledged that a person may fall within one or more type which may in turn contribute to a sense of confusion and inconclusiveness. This is compounded by the inherent complexity of the indicator, in which the authors outline that a person should see aspects of themselves in each type, with the RHETI merely outlining their strengths or preferences.

One of the most interesting takes in the introduction of the text is the argument of nature vs. nurture, which is indirectly touched upon when the authors contend that personality is largely inborn and the result of temperament. This could be perceived to be a limitation of the indicator based on the user’s view on human behavioral development. As with other typology theories, there is also the danger of misusing the personality descriptors to constrain one’s interaction with students based on their perceived position or type. Again, the RHETI attempts to circumvent this issue by outlining that the entire enneagram is understood to be within each individual, and it is merely one’s personality strengths and preferences that are portrayed through the completion of the test.

Where the RHETI falters is in its length and complexity in scoring. This is not a test that could be easily administered to students in an individual appointment, and scoring on sight would be difficult to accomplish in a timely manner. Also, the validation of the indicator stems primarily from a singular study as part of a doctoral dissertation. While the study, completed in 2001, did validate the application of the RHETI, additional studies will be necessary in the future to further examine the validity of the enneagram and its use in the field of higher education. After reviewing the text, my recommendation would be to engage the RHETI further and implement research which would allow for its continued development and potential implementation in an academic setting. The connection between each personality type is particularly interesting, and could potentially contribute positively to a greater understanding of human behavior in a post-secondary setting after adequate testing has been implemented. 

Discovering Your Personality Type (2013). Book By: Donrichard Riso & Russ Hudson. Review By: Theresa Lyon. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 224 pp. $13.95. ISBN # 978-6182-1903-2.

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