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Mistyping Series: Type One vs. Type Three

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

One of the hardest parts of the Enneagram is finding your Type--Nine Types with 54 combinations can create a lot of confusion and lead to mistyping. If you are unsure which Type you are between Type One and Type Three, read on for ways to clarify your true Type.

Why Are These Types Mistyped? Because both Types can be:


  • Contrary to popular belief, Type Ones are not the only Type on the Enneagram that can struggle with perfectionism. In fact, each and every Type can claim this tendency in varying degrees of interpretation and meaning. Type Threes, in particular, can display high amounts of perfectionism, especially if their image is affected by their ability to be "perfect". The main difference for these two Types is this: Type Ones need almost global perfectionism in their lives to "be good" whereas Type Threes will strive for perfection in particular (usually highly visible) areas of their lives in order to be admired and considered successful.


  • Type Threes are frequently dubbed the biggest workaholics on the Enneagram (and, in part, that's correct) however this is another designation that can be assumed by every Type with varying meanings for each Type. For Type Threes, workaholism comes from the drive to be the "best" and willingness to reach their goals no matter the cost. For Threes, "The Best" is not a preference but a requirement of the ego--without it, they do not matter. For Type Ones, workaholism can result from their drive for absolute excellence (without exception) in every area of their lives--are you cleaning the house? It better be perfect; Are you finishing a project? Every detail better be perfect. This exhausting drive for excellence can cause our Type Ones to stay late, come in early, and work on projects with relentless drive.

Logical Thinkers

  • Both Type Ones and Type Threes are amazing problem-solvers who can cut out the emotion and drama of a moment and find logical paths forward. In fact, Threes and Ones are a part of the Logical Triad (one of the three Harmonic Triads) together which refers to how Ones and Threes respond in objective, logical ways to frustration from not getting what they want. These two can look alike in these moments and do enjoy a good problem-solving session, but Threes will likely participate in hopes of clearing the debris from their path toward their goal with as much efficiency and image-controlling skills as possible whereas Ones will be focused on the "right", just, fair, consistent solution for the sake of the overall goodness of the situation.

How Are These Types Different?

Frustration Type vs. Attachment Type: How Their First Relationships Shaped Them:

Looking at Types from a stance of Object Relations can provide a lot of clarity to the meaning behind some of the characteristics we see as similar between Types. For sure, Type Ones and Type Threes can LOOK similar, but if we look at their ego patterning from the early stages, we can see that they are in fact very different.

Type One: Frustration Type

Type Three: Attachment Type

What Does "Frustration Type" Mean?

Type Ones felt that Protective figure who is tasked with helping the child separate from the Nurturing figure by providing guidance, support, and "how-to" knowledge did not support them as they knew they needed. Their reaction to this "miss" (i.e. living up to the inner ideal) was not to change what they wanted, but to become frustrated that the figure who was "supposed" to give them this support and "should" have shown up for them didn't (words in "" are some of the most frequently used words by our Ones).

How Does This Shape Their Current Relationships? Type Ones react to this insufficient support from Protective figure by adopting the belief that they will never get the support they need and taking on the roll themselves. In this way, we'll see Type Ones take the heavy burden on themselves of always being responsible, "right", dutiful, and appropriate for themselves, others, and the world.

What Does "Attachment Type" Mean?

They didn't feel adequately "Seen" by the nurturing figure, so they changed themselves in order to be seen better. This will show up as Threes being high achievers and shape-shifters as this got them the praise that was the closest substitute they could find for being truly known and loved.

How Does This Shape Their Current Relationships? Type Threes frequently will pursue any goal that will get them the affirmation and admiration that their ego craves. They will change themselves--their preferences, mannerisms, goals, etc.--depending on who they are around all in service of feeling that "seen" feeling they desire.

Compliant Type vs. Aggressive Type: How They Get Their Needs Met and Relate to Others' Expectations:

Type One: Compliant Type (works with others' expectations to get their needs met)

Type Three: Aggressive Type (works against others' expectations to get their needs met)

What Does "Compliant Type" Mean? Type Ones work to meet others' expectations of them in order to achieve their own needs and the perfect amount of justice and autonomy for themselves. Even though Ones can be intense and rigid in their stance at times, they ultimately try to meet others' expectations of their behavior, duties, tasks, and responsibilities as they do not frustrate the Ones' moral structures. For example, Ones may not totally agree with an organization's rules, but they will at least TRY to work within the rules to get what they want/need and will be frustrated with others who totally disregard rules. Aggressive Type (works against others and expectations to get their needs met)

What Does "Aggressive Type" Mean? Though the Three hides it well, they are squarely in the Aggressive Triad, meaning that they are totally ok with moving against people's wishes and society's expectations to get the ideal amount of attention and significance through high-achieving in areas lauded by their first family. Threes still care deeply about people (in fact, many times they only achieve so that they can feel loved by those they love), but they will not let anyone's expectations (unless those expectations helped them meet their goal) keep from meeting their goal. They disguise this against energy by first trying to inspire or persuade others to their side before resulting to blowing past people toward the finish line.

Helpful Typing Questions:

Ask "Why", "What Does It Mean", "How Would You Feel", and "What Would Happen"

Ask these questions in regards to any characteristics that a person is claiming as the reason for choosing their Type will help them gain a layer of clarity on the motivation behind the behavior. For example:

Question: What does it mean to be perfect and what does it signify about you if something is not perfect?

Answer Hint: Watch for answers that hint about being good (Type One) versus appearing good or successful (Type Three).

Question: What does it mean to "perform" for you? What would happen if you couldn't perform?

Answer Hint: Watch for answers that hint at achieving excellence for oneself (Type One) versus achieving excellence to help with their appearance (Type Three)

Question: What does working hard accomplish for you? What would happen if you didn't put so much time into work?

Answer Hint: Watch for answers about ensuring each detail is perfect (almost an insurance against being criticized) (Type One) versus make sure something is "The Best" so that they can be lauded by others (Type Three).

Question: What does success do for you? How would you feel if you got all the success you wanted?

Answer Hint: Watch for answers that success would mean feeling significant, loved, esteemed, or like belonging (Type Three) versus answers that hint at feeling relaxed, that they did the right thing, or freedom from criticism (Type One).

NOTE: Type Threes will have a more "outward" stance toward others--trying to win their approval and esteem. Type Ones will have a more "inward" stance--trying to be perfect to avoid criticism from their inner critic and others.

Ask About Their Triggers:

Triggers say a lot about what we value and what we fear. Try some of the questions below to bring clarity between these two Types:

Question: How does it feel when you follow the rules (even if you don't want to), but someone else doesn't?

Answer Hint: Listen for the "weight of the world" responsibility that Type Ones carry. Type Threes don't get too hung up on rules (though they'll play any system's game in order to meet a goal) because they are likely to go against them at some point anyway.

Question: How would you react if you realized you were totally wrong? What would it mean about you and how would you go about addressing it?

Answer Hint: Watch for visceral signs of distress, because this question can make a Type One's skin crawl. Ones will vehemently deny being wrong and go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid even the mental position of being wrong. Type Threes don't get as worked up by this and can easily pivot situations and conversations to make even "wrong" an advantage.

Ask Questions That Clarify Their Triad:

Asking for reactions based on the Type's Triads can also give a lot of clarity based on how they act in certain situation:

Question (Compliant versus Aggressive): What would you do if you wanted to work on a certain project, but your manager asked you to work on something else first?

Answer Hint: In these situations, Type Ones are more likely to work on the manager's project first (being that this is working within others' expectations) than the Type Three who would want to reach their goals first (or would at least be very frustrated if they did).

Question (Frustration versus Attachment): Do you ever find yourself changing yourself (image, reaction, preferences, accent) depending on the people you are with?

Answer Hint: Type Threes are shape-shifters not because they love to deceive others, but because this helps them gain the feeling of being "seen" they crave. Type Ones, on the other hand, are almost rigidly the same in 95% of their interactions.

For Typing help, questions, or to schedule a personal coaching session, email Kimberly at


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