Enneagram Personality Type Three – LAB Profile Through the Levels

Healthy Type Three at levels 2 and 3

Motivation Traits; Proactive, Toward, External

Working Traits; Person.

When the Three at level 2 begins “looking outside themselves to find what others value – seeking validation and recognition from others” they are becoming External in their judgement of how well they are doing.

The Person trait fuels their “social instincts” and “ability to adapt to people immediately”

At level 3 The combination of Proactive, Toward, External and Person, energizes the healthy Three to “rally others – creating and promoting values which others find desirable; opening clubs, organising conferences and marketing new products”.

The Toward and Proacative traits provides the “ambitious and energetic” three to “act on self esteem” and there is enough Internal self-esteem to “become the embodiment of excellence, professionalism, achievement, competence and success” that makes them “attractive and comfortable with people”.

Average Threes

Motivation Traits; Proactive, Toward, External, Options

Working Traits; Thinking,

Shift; from Person  to Thing

The average Three begins to take on a superior attitude, the “only one worthy of admiration” motivated by a strong Toward motivational trait to “drive themselves to achieve”

Such sense of superiority would not want to admit to being External. So the “upwardly mobile social climbing” unhealthy Three, resorts to more “subtle and covert” ways to get their needs met.

This is when the unhealthy Threes become Covert Externals.

The Covert External denies any need for recognition whilst driving the sort of status symbol vehicle that shouts look at me, see how well I have done.

The real shift comes from when the unhealthy Three begin to “base friendships on the relevance to their goals” The pursuance of a relationship that is based on “what can this person do for me”.

This a  the shift from Person to Thing. Another shift is indicated in their Stress Response trait form Choice to Thinking, as they “begin to submerge their feelings” and become more “concerned with presentation” and “packaging and marketing the Self as a commodity to get results” – a further slide into the Thing trait.

At this level threes tap into Options to “become chameleons; able to change and react to the expectations of others”. A combination of External, Options and the “cool facade” of a Thinking trait. Their ability to “learn how to simulate emotions – say the right things and drop names” creates an elusion that is a bluff, a Fake Person.

From another NLP perspective, average Threes would be the blueprint for what is one of the cornerstones of NLP teachings; “Outcome Thinking” – as people who naturally “start with a goal they want to achieve and work back” they were probably the very “high achievers” originally modelled for their know-how. (see Essay on Outcome Thinking)

Unhealthy Threes

The shifts for unhealthy Threes are more an entrenchment of certain traits.

As unhealthy Threes “cut themselves off profoundly from their heart” the Thinking stress response takes  increasing hold.

Supported by seeing other people “merely as objects to be used to aggrandize themselves”; People into Thing Threes become more narcissistic.

Driven by the need to maintain the External image of the successful achiever, Unhealthy Threes desperately avoid failure by deception.

Not only are others objects, they have reduced themselves to objects; Thing.

As they drop down the levels, so the pretence of being a False Internal – through refusing to “acknowledge how much they rely on others” which prompts an “outpouring of hostility that triggers Slander, vicious remarks and ugly lies”.

Even at the average levels, Threes may have attempted to be Independent of others, now though, their illusion that they do not need others is even stronger. It is illusion, because to be superior requires others to compare themselves to.

In the same way, the defence mechanism of projecting their own fears and desires onto others, allows unhealthy three behaviours to become acceptable to them because they are still External in their judgement.

If they can perceive behaviour that is the same as theirs in others, any sense of guilt around their own behaviour is alleviated.

At level 9, with no sense of emotions or responsibility, they have become Thinking, External Things.

Healthy Threes at level 1

When Threes are at healthy level one, they have truly found their Internal “genuine self acceptance” and are now  “inner-directed and self generating”.

The shift from External to Internal means they are “no longer motivated by what others think about them”.“

Emotional vulnerability” comes from when they are “willing to confront and accept their feelings of rejection and self abandonment” The Stress Response shift from Thinking will probably require an initial excursion into Feelings (“areas that average threes do not want to go into”) before a more healthy Choice response.

Given the Person trait was have re-emerged at level 2 and 3, Threes at this level they can “drop the mask and start living authentically”

A note about Threes and their attention to detail

From the profile research, the only clues to the trait of Specific vs. General can be found in RHETI questions;45 “I have excelled at dealing with details” – Specific

I’ve often felt the need to perform perfectly” – Specific (perfection requiring an attention to detail) and 129 “When I’ve needed to confront someone, I’ve often “beaten around the bush” too much” which implies a certain General  approach.LAB profile is about Language as well as Behaviour.

The above data would suggest that Threes lean more towards the Specific trait.

However, my own experience of the Threes I have encountered, has suggested a more General pattern. They have tended to want the “big picture” and the “overall strategy or goal”.

This may then lead to them wanting the details. Of course, one needs to take on board the perspective of the interpreter.

My own Specific perspective on the world (which we will see as on of the traits of my own type) can affect other peoples response, the claims of “ too much information” becoming a familiar refrain.

Whilst further research may uncover the details” of a Threes specific or General pattern,The usefulness of LAB is to improve communications that are happening in real time.

Therefore, if one is picking language patterns that the other person prefers a more General approach, then that is what is required. The reasons why Threes might be presenting a more General pattern of behaviour may have more to do with the level of development they are at.

The unhealthier a Three is, the more they begin to make things up in order to perpetuate the deceit and pretence of success. The goals and achievements become more woolly and undefined as they attempt to impress to many different people (whom they are External to) who will have different values and definitions around what it is to be “successful”. (Nominalisations ——-Find out more on

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