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Hornevian Triad Overview

Ok, so you walked into a room full of people you don't know very well. It could be a job interview, an awkward birthday party, or meeting your new partner's family for the first time. What. do. you. do? That's what the Hornevian Triad is all about (and much more). Ready to learn more about the Triad with the weirdest possible name? Well, let's get into it!


The Hornevian Triad is named after the psychiatrist Karen Horney. I know, I know…already an unfortunate last name and then 2020 goes and destroys the name Karen as well...RIP Karen.


Anyway, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, the founders of the Enneagram Institute, named this triad after Horney because she did some great work expanding on Freud's theories about the different ways people manifest their internal desires in social situations.

In short, The Hornevian Triad describes three basic ways people behave in society to get what they need.


Everything from walking into a job interview, to showing up at a friend's birthday party. That's what this triad is all about. And it's so foundational to how we see ourselves and how people experience us, that this triad can often be the main reason people misidentify their enneagram type. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


The three groups within the Hornevian Triad are as follows:

  • The Compliant Group is made up of types 1, 2, and 6.

  • The Withdrawn Group is made up of types 4, 5, and 9.

  • The Assertive Group is made up of types 7, 8, and 3.

Like I said a moment ago, personality types in the same Hornevian Group will tend to look and feel similar to each other. So depending on how self-aware a person is, they may be more likely to think they're a different type because of the way people respond to them in their current social setting - be it working at a strict company or living in a chaotic home. These external, social influences put pressure on us to see ourselves through the eyes of our closest friends, family, and coworkers.


For example, some of the most popular misidentifications are 3s testing as 7s, 1s and 2s testing as 6s, and 9s testing as 4s and vice versa. Your friends and family may even pour gasoline on the fire by saying you're totally like a different number than you actually are because of the similarities in your Hornevian Group. That's why it's so important to spend lots of time reflecting on your core desires & core fears - because only you know what's truly driving the behaviors that people around you are experiencing.

Alright, with that said, let's dive into the specifics of each group within the Hornevian Triad.


The Compliant Group


The Compliant Group gets its name because people in this group "comply with people" to get what they need. Compliant types believe it's best to go along with the rules or current authority structure to thrive in the world. They are plagued by the word "SHOULD" and the voice of their conscience telling them to be respectful and moral in all situations. Sometimes if their best behavior is not rewarded, they become arrogant and judgmental about other people who don't behave appropriately yet somehow still find success.


Type 1s

Type 1 Reformers may actually comply with the rules as a subversive way of proving how inadequate or stupid the rules are. 1s naturally think they could refine the process if only they were in charge. However, they have a deep need to be seen as flawless - so they'll only challenge structures and authority figures if they feel deeply secure in who they are as an upstanding, moral person. 1s typically need a solid support network if they're going to break social norms or speak out publicly against an authority figure.


Type 2s

Now, Type 2s walk into a room and immediately have a radar for where the biggest needs are. 2s more readily take on their role as just another team player. However, their pride tells them that their title will never match the true value they bring to everyone around them. 2s comply with structures that allow them to be needed and will sacrifice their ambition or opinions for the sake of maintaining a secure, support role.


Type 6s

6s are the most traditionally compliant of the three compliant types. They comply because they're afraid and insecure about being on their own. They like being inside the saftey net of a large structure or institution and typically do whatever they have to to ensure their place within it. They may seem confident or even daring on the outside, but this usually stems from the feeling of pride in their association with a stronger or more prominent group. (I'm hearing USA USA chants in my head).


The Withdrawn Group


Withdrawn types get their name because they "move away from people" to get what they need. They withdraw from stress and adversity because their subconscious thoughts, feelings, or instincts build up and eventually overwhelm their sense of peace.


Type 4s

Type 4s actually long for attention but don't like to fight for it. They'd rather attract people by being unique or mysterious. They don't often feel truly seen, since they have a romanticized, internal narrative going on all the time that they need others to feed into. And if others aren't feeding into their narrative - 4s either lament publicly to elicit the pity and attention of others, OR they simply do the ole irish goodbye and leave without a peep.


Type 5s

Type 5s are withdrawn because they just have a very small social gas tank when it comes to any situation. They see relationships and people as threats seeking to steal their precious resources - which most of the time - is their physical or mental energy. However, they may actually enjoy a social gathering if they have a defined role to play - whether its having a clear conversation topic with a clear ending time like a book club, or providing a service like taking photos at an event. But the more ambiguous the social situation gets or the newer the faces are - the quicker the 5 will think about leaving the group behind and finding a quiet space to recharge.


Type 9s

Type 9s may surprise people by being withdrawn types because they're so easy to get along with and they always seem up for whatever the group is doing! However, 9s withdraw in a much more subtle manner than 4s and 5s. 9s "tune out" the world around them while still remaining pleasant and positive on the surface. They may be laughing along with the group all night, and when the question arises of "Should we have one more or call it a night?" They will most assuredly respond with a "Yeah sounds great" - when deep down they're screaming to go home and watch Netflix in bed.


The Assertive Group


Assertive types get their name because they "move against people" to get what they need. It's not necessarily that they're combative, though some are, it's just they just believe the solution to their social problems is to show up bigger or more often.


Type 7s

Type 7s always show up with oodles of enthusiasm and smiles even if there's a catastrophic problem on the horizon. They usually have quick solutions to problems and seem to have an unlimited energy supply that makes them look unstoppable - or at just highly medicated. This often overwhelms people who resist them with negativity or doubt, and inspires people who don't have the confidence or motivation to drive results. Either way, they catalyze team work simply by looking like the "Fun Team" to be on. I've seen this working for non-profits & churches with leaders who epitomize Type 7's positive energy. I would watch them woo groups of volunteers to work all day & night for free to pull off massive events or fundraisers. It may seem crazy, but I've even seen volunteers PAY to be a volunteer at events led by these larger-than-life figures.


Type 8s

Type 8s show up in a similar way - BIG and LOUD, but often lacking the positivity of 7s. If Type 7's assertiveness sounds like "Here I am, let's make it happen!" then Type 8 would sound more like "Here I am, now get it done or I'll do it myself." 8s lead with command while 7s lead with charisma. In my experience, I've only seen commanding 8s work effectively when they've proven themself beyond a shadow of a doubt - like a soldier or a CEO who's worked for decades in their field and had great success. And not to be too superficial - but commanding 8s seem to have far more social success when they're actually physically big as well. So short guys - good luck being an 8. You get the old "Napolean Complex" thrown at ya REAL quick. So guys you can be an 8, just don't be 5'8". Ladies idk if this applies to you.


Type 3s

Alright last but not least, Type 3s. 3s look a bit different than the other assertive types, because they rely on the approval, affirmation, and attention of groups as a whole. They would much rather earn their way to the top or be elected from within the group rather than show up and immediately be top dog, like 7s and 8s would prefer. Their assertiveness is far more political in nature - so they will perform their talents for the group and shift their behaviors to be the most likable version of whatever personality type thrives in a given environment. They want to be remembered and revered. 3s want no part of being feared or looking overly enthusiastic if the group does not value charisma for charisma sake. 3s believe if they can just have a conversation with you in person - you'll love them. And thus their social problems will be solved by asserting their physical presence.

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