In our discussion of being short term rental hosts (or — engaging in property rentals of any type) much attention is given to many of the practical details of hosting — the linens, the house rules, the check in and check out procedures, marketing, how to succeed. Yet something that I haven’t seen much discussed, is how your personality type relates to the hosting business, and how it can help you understand your orientation to hosting, your strengths and weaknesses, how you relate to guests, and how you relate to some of the challenges this business may present.
A lot of light can be shed on these subjects by a better understanding of personality typology, so let’s take a look. (NOte; I will continue to work on this article over time, so stop back later on to see if more has been added)
Also, in terms of my background and authority on speaking on these issues — let me mention that I have a master’s degree in psychology and have worked as a psychotherapist. I have also taken coursework in Enneagram studies. However, that does’nt mean I know everything about these systems, and many of you readers may know more about them than I do.
There are two main personality typology systems in use in the west– and these are not some “new age” hokey pokey, they are solid systems with solid psychological science behind them, which are used in the fields of psychology and psychotherapy, as well as in many business settings, and by career counselors. These two systems are the Myers-Briggs system and the Enneagram.
HEre are some links to websites that give more info about each of these:
Wikipedia Article on Myers Briggs System
Forbes Article on Myers-Briggs system
Let’s take a look first at the Enneagram.
If you want to take a test to try to discern which type you are, here’s a free version of the test ( the two first Enneagram links above offer the test but charge a fee for it)
You can also buy a book on the Enneagram to take the test.
This diagram shows the 9 different personality types in the Enneagram. Each type has 2 wing variations — it can have a “wing” on either side, eg the 7 with the 8 wing, or the 7 with the 6 wing. As well, each type has 3 possible subtypes — the sexual type (oriented to one on one relationships), the social type (oriented to community), and the survival type (oriented to own security). So when combining the wing and the subtypes, you can see we’re expanding even beyond Baskin Robbins and now there are actually 54 different flavors (9 X 2 = 18, 18 X 3 = 54). Then when you consider that for each type, there is a gradient from “healthy” to “unhealthy”, in terms of the relative psychological health or “degree of maturity” of each person in that type, if we call “healthy” pole 1 and “unhealthy” pole 2 and set those as yet 2 other types, you can easily find about 108 types in this chart which on the surface appears to have only 9. And this is why sometimes people who know the Enneagram well or know their own type well, don’t recognize other people’s Enneatype or their own type in others. Because each type has several flavors.
This image shows some of the subtypes for each of these 9 types:
Let me give some very generalized (eg basic) illustrations of how each of the basic 9 types might relate to the hosting business, or what issues might arise for them. Note that the 9 types fall into 3 areas– mental or head types, “gut” or somatic types, and feeling or heart types.
TYPE 1: The Perfectionist or Reformer
The type 1 is sometimes called “The Perfectionist” and sometimes “The Reformer.” This type is strongly oriented to right and wrong. They love justice. They tend to carry out their responsiblities and have trouble understanding why others can’t just do the same. “Why can’t others be responsible??” is a frequent complaint of the One. They are also very likely to be heard saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!” And it is sometimes the One who’s the only one doing things right, in a group, or a business, or any organization. However, the One doesn’t mind being alone — some of them are very courageous and self -sacrificial and will also step up and be the lone whistleblower when the corporation or whole police department has gone corrupt.
As a short term rental host, the Type 1 is likely to be continually annoyed by guests who dont’ read or dont’ follow house rules, because for the One, this is how they go through life — they are responsible, and they do what is right. As well, Ones may have certain ideas about what is right and wrong in hosting, and feel impatient or judgemental of other hosts who dont’ see these things which to them are obvious. They may lecture other hosts about this. Though Ones arent’ always “letter of the law” types of people who think that if a law exists it must be right, they are not likely to be patient with hosts who violate or ignore laws, rules or policies which they do think are right. These may be Airbnb rules, such as non-discrimination policy, or city state or national laws. In fact sometimes the Type One can be so angered by someone else’s ignorance of, oblivious to, or refusal to follow the rules/laws, that they begin a campaign aimed at seeking to obtain greater compliance, or perhaps become “snitches”, telling on or reporting those who don’t do what’s right (because Ones love justice) — for instance guests who didnt’ follow house rules, Ones are likely to want to report this to Airnb.
Or Ones can become advocates for more enforcement or punishment for those who are not doing what is “right” in their view….such as paying city taxes or registering with the city to do STR when that is required. However, Ones can be independent minded, and their own idea of right may not be the prevailing viewpoint. So they might, in fact, believe that state or city laws on STR hosting may be wrong (for instance if the laws are overly restrictive or unfair in some sense) and may refuse to follow laws they feel are wrong. Ghandi was a Type One, and he engaged in a great deal of civil disobedience because he felt that certain laws were wrong, and that he was right and had the moral authority on his side. And as most of us would agree today, Ghandi was right and the laws were wrong. It often takes a strong and determined Type One with vision to change society for the better.
Type 2: The Helper
The Type 2 is called “The Helper”. Many psychologists or others in healing professions are Twos, because this type of career fits very well with their interest in helping people or serving people…as indeed does the hospitality business. Type Twos are in a sense the most natural “fit” to be Airbnb hosts. Particularly the Two with a Three wing, which subtype is actually called the “host/hostess.” !! However, when not optimally healthy, Twos can create problems in that their giving is not unconditional — they may need to be needed, and expect something in return — namely flattery, or other’s dependence upon them. Unhealthy Twos as hosts can crowd in on others and without realizing it, invade guests’ space with their own needs for socializing or being valued. They may ask prying questions, and make guests feel that they can’t get enough privacy or that their boundaries are being violated by the host.
They can be pushy, and sometimes can be seductive without even realizing it…so that they can dress in revealing clothes and then wonder why they are getting all that extra attention. Thus, the Airbnb host whose profile photo shows her in a skimpy top with a lot of cleavage showing, may well be a Type Two. In the host community, we’ve actually seen some very provocative photos in host profiles, or guest profiles, and these strike me as less aware Twos who just dont’ realize quite how they are behaving in terms of drawing other’s attention to them and soliciting others to need or want them. However, when the Two is healthy, they can give more unconditionally, and are generous, emotionally expressive (the types Two, Four and Three are the emotionally based types on the Enneagram) and enjoy doing good for others and as hosts would probably be able to shower guests with special gifts and treats and thoughtful little additions, all the while making them feel loved.
Type 3: The Achiever or The Motivator
The Type Three is the type of person most likely to become the CEO of a corporation, a successful entrepreneur, or president of the United States. Threes are very focused on success and achievement, and because of that, they usually are very successful people, often wealthy. In the hosting world, Threes are the ones most likely to expand their Airbnb business to include more properties. They are the ones most likely to write books with titles like “How I became a Millionaire Airbnb Superhost and how you can Too.” Or, “How to Make a Freaking Ginormous Amount of Money as an Airbnb Host so you can retire from Your Day Job.” Yes, the Three is very heavily oriented to success and making money, and focused on this, and they usually have good strategies for accomplishing their goals. They are indeed the people to turn to if you want to learn how to be successful — though if you’re not a Three also, their methods might not work so well for you, because their methods involve their Three values.
Often Threes are involved in “motivation” type work, as career coaches, or doing paid gigs around the country on how people can overcome thier own inner resistances or their mother-in-law’s nay-saying, or what have you, and succeed. Or, the Three may not do any talks or coaching at all, but simply put in one 70 hr workweek after another and make a mint, or work their way up the corporate ladder. Brian Chesky is likely a Three, as is Bill Clinton.
As hosts, Threes are likely to be a bit impatient with guests who need much attention, as the Three is probably running at least 3 to 5 different Airbnb listings at the start, (and more as they get money to open more) , and so they don’t have much time to spend on this one guest when they have all the others to attend to. Threes will be very good at organizing and putting in place all the things that are needed for success, from good cleaning to quality linens and furniture, to all the needed appliances, to use of all the hosting apps that can assist them. Where they might come up short is in taste and uniqueness. They aren’t particularly original people, and they are not often eccentric, so they are probably not the ones offering weird treehouse listings adorned with spiritual quotes.
The goal of the Three is success and maximizing their business, so they are not likely to make personal statements at their home, in their listing or have house rules or policies, or decor or anything else which could potentially put off some or in any way limit their business. There is likely more focus on quantity of guests over quality time for themselves. As a whole they are likely to accomplish excellence in all things related to hosting. In terms of emotionality, even though they are an emotionally based type, they tend to be the most out of touch with their feelings of the 3 feeling types, so until they reach the more healthy level for their type, they may not come across as quite as personable and genuinely caring and warm as Twos or Fours or Nines might be.
One of the areas where Threes might have trouble as hosts, is a drawback to being so oriented to achievement — their own needs for rest and relaxation, down time, and their own health might get compromised by what they do to succeed. Taking enough time off and vacations will be important for Threes.
The Type Four: The Individualist
The Airbnb listing that’s highly unique, aesthetic, and particularly the one with tones of eccentricity, probably belongs to a Four. (This is my own Enneatype, and my house — certainly unique and perhaps eccentric — fits the Four pattern this way) Fours are “the artistic temperament among the Enneatypes”, which is not to say that they alone can be artists. All types can be artists, but for the Four, they are in search of their own identity through their art. Their art defines them for themselves in a way that it is less likely to for other types. Fours place very high value on creativity, whether that be in creating a creative home/listing for guests, (it will be unique) or whether this is their private world of art or music or writing. Some (eg Riso and Hudson, in their book on the Enneagram) say the Fours are “the most profoundly creative of all the types, as intuition with insight, emotional sensitivity with intellectual comprehension, often with stunning, prophetic results.” This gift doesn’t necessarily translate so well to hosting, though, as guests don’t book listings in order to be endowed with prophetic utterances. Thus the Four can easily feel (as with —-sigh — so many other places in life) that hosting does not allow them to express their real self, (which they so crave to do!) because —if they are healthy and have worked on themselves — the spiritual and psychological gifts and insights they’ve obtained, aren’t necessarily needed in simply providing a guest a nice clean room and generous hospitality. Ideally, for the Four , the guest will also look beyond the clean sheets and efficient check in procedure, and appreciate the aesthetics of the environment, or even better, recognize something unique and creative in the person of the Four host. Fours crave to be seen in this way. However, Fours also tend to be loners/introverts, so while they crave being seen and appreciated for who they are, they also are less likely than others to spend a lot of time socializing with guests, making it hard for them to get this recognition.
Other types can also create aesthetic environments for guests, but the Four is the type the most likely to say of the listing or their home, “This is me, I am expressing me. These are my values. ” And their values and self WILL be unique, for Fours abhor the ordinary. For a Type Four, one of the most upsetting things they can hear is, “You’re just like everyone else.”
Others may just say, “I thought this would look interesting, had a nice texture.” For the Four, it’ can be “This texture represents my soul.”
Thus for the Four, bringing guests into their home is revealing — they are revealing to the guest who they are. A rebuff by a guest thus is taken personally — when the guest criticizes the environment, they are perhaps without knowing it also criticizing the very person of the Type Four. Thus the Four has a tendency to take things more personally than say a Three or a Five. This can make them more vulnerable, and become a significant challenge when hosting.
Also, the Four more than other types, tends to feel shame. Criticism by guest about the dust bunnies under the bed, or a couple dirty dishes in the kitchen, can trigger the Four to feel awful shame, personal shame. A dust bunny under the bed for a Four isn’t just a dust bunny under the bed! It could mean, “I am a worthless person, I’m a disgusting excuse for a host” or even, “, I should give up hosting”. This shame can go quite deep, particularly in the less healthy Fours, and perhaps trigger rage. Fours can really transform their lives when they learn to “give people back their stuff” and not allow others to shame them. This they can best do by going in the direction of growth for a Four, toward the One.
The Four is not the best one to turn to for advice on being successful and obtaining more wealth. Because the Four doesn’t really care about that. In fact they find the pursuit of wealth and success a bit — ugh — so ordinary!
But, if you want counseling on how to deepen your spiritual life, learn to see the enchanted realm behind the surface appearances, have someone to share poetry or esoteric studies with, or learn how to most definitely not be ordinary, then the Four will be your go-to type!.
Type Five: The Investigator
The Types Five, Six and Seven are the “thinking” or mental centered types of the Enneagram. Fives are the scholars or scientists of the Enneagram, and so for them too, as for the Four, this orientation doesn’t translate so easily to hosting as for some of the other types. Fives as hosts are the most likely to make a thorough study of the subject of hosting before getting involved in it. They are the most mentally alert and curious of all the types, so they are also the ones most likely to ask a large variety of astute and penetrating questions about the hosting business. One of the biggest challenges for Fives in hosting, is having someone in their space. They are often much more comfortable with the idea of renting out a space that they dont’ live in. Fives can be quite reclusive and feel threatened if their protective cocoon of isolation is threatened, as may occur with a guest in the house.
If they do have guests in their house, they might come across as a bit stiff or perhaps eccentric. They are also likely to often run off to their room to hide, where they can be safe from intrusion. Fives will be challenged as hosts in the area of bodily comfort, and might completely inadvertently furnish a room in a way that makes it too bland or sterile, too dark, with uncomfortable linens and mushy or too-hard pillows. They are often alienated from their own visceral or somatic experience, so the creation of a cozy and attractive , sensually pleasing guest room is going to be quite a challenge for them. They might want to hire a feeling type like a Four or Two, or a somatic belly centered type like an Eight or a Nine, to help them set up their listing for maximal guest comfort.
The Five will be quite good at giving the guest their privacy and not intruding on them. They also will likely be able to deal with problems with guests without flying off the handle or getting emotionally reactive.
As Carl Jung astutely pointed out, “Thinking is difficult: that’s why most people judge.” It’s also why many people use assumptions and prejudices instead of employing thinking. But if there’s a type who is able to really think clearly, it’s the healthy and well-developed type Five.
Type Six: The Loyalist
The type Six is fear-based and craves security. Of all the types, they are likely to have the hardest time making decisions. Whether or not to be an Airbnb host might be one such decision…another might be, “Should I accept this guest?” So as hosts, they are likely to be indecisive and often asking other hosts for the right or best way to do things…such as how to decide whether to accept a guest who presents in a certain way that raises some concerns. They will appreciate other hosts offering tried and tested ways of screening guests or lists of “red flags”. However, the Sixes tendency to anti-authoritarianism may lead them to harshly criticize any lists of “red flags” which in their view might involve prejudice, or are issued by “authority” figures or host community leaders whom their anti-authoritarian posture leads them to distrust.
Being fear based and also a mental type, Sixes have likely thought through all possible major earthly catastrophes, and so are the most likely of all the hosts to have working smoke detectors and CO2 detectors in all appropriate rooms, as well as working fire extinguishers. In fact maybe they will have extras of all these. They will have flood supplies, earthquake supplies, and a backup generator. They will have exits labelled and already made a list of what they will pack up and evacuate in the event of a fire or major natural disaster.
If you find a listing with the world’s most excellent set of Earthquake , Flood or Fire readiness supplies, this may well belong to a Six.
Sixes are likely to be aware of their fears regarding hosting — and be quite effected, more so perhaps than most others, by the “Airbnb nightmare guest” stories.
Sixes are in search of “reliable”: ways of running their hosting business. They want a sure thing, some guarantee of security, and one of the things that bothers them most may be the unknowns in the hosting business.
Loyalty and reliable support structures are important to the Six, so they are a bit more likely than other types to be a part of some host community, and help build communities of mutal support. Less healthy Sixes can have paranoid reactions and anti-authoritarian responses to the host community groups they are in, sometimes engaging in relentless campaigns of attacking the group leader(s) or moderators. Anti-authoritarianism and a tendency to attack the leader, just because that person is in the position of authority, is a trait quite possibly found more often in Sixes than other types.
More healthy Sixes, however, can be some of the best members of host groups, putting in the hard work and commitment it takes to keep the group going.
Type Seven: the Enthusiast
The Seven as a host wants their guest to have fun. They themselves tend to engage in a lot of fun projects, hoping not to miss out on any of the fun in life. They are likely to have an infectious enthusiasm that rubs off on their guests. Now that Airbnb offers “Experiences”, this is a place the Seven can really shine, as they have lots of ideas for fun experiences, and adtually make excellent travel guides.
The characteristic vice of the Seven is gluttony, but this doesn’t necessarily apply only to food. Sevens want to stuff themselves with fun experiences, and mental stimulation. So very likely the Seven will not only be signing up to host “Experiences”, but they will be taking lots of Experiences as guests as well.
One of the biggest challenges for the Seven as host may be follow through. Hosting may just be one of many exciting ideas and experiences they get involved in. They may not have much staying power when challenges arise and guests become annoying, and may too easily abandon hosting for the next fun adventure.
Type Eight: The Boss or the Challenger
Eights are physically centered, very physically vital people. They are domineering and self-confident. As hosts, Eights are the least likely to be negatively effected by problem guests, because they are the type most likely to be able to powerfully and authoritatively confront the guest and subdue them. Eights like straight, direct communication, and may actually come across too direct for many guests, who might find their style a bit confrontational. Eights can easily intimidate others.
Eights dont’ like taking direction/instruction from others, so the hosting business and other types of self-employment can suit them very well indeed. Also, Eights have so much physical vitality, that they are not likely to get tired out by the work required to keep up an Airbnb, even if there is a lot of physical work and cleaning involved. My father is an Eight — he has more physical vitality than anyone else I”ve ever known. And at age 88, he’s still going downhill skiiing in winter!
A challenge for the Eight will be in helping a guest who is a much meeker and milder type, feel comfortable in the home when the energy of the Eight is so powerful. Their guests could actually feel scared of them, Eights can be so imposing and have such a powerful aura. However, Eights in their growth direction go to Two, so this means that at their best, they are able to direct their power and energy to caring for others. IF this energy is directed towards generosity and helping the guest and making them comfortable, this is likely to turn out very well for both.
Type Nine; The Mediator, the Peacemaker
The Enneatype 9, is highly oriented towards love and peace and well being, and the Nine is very uncomfortable with conflict. So the Nine is likely to let their guests do what they want and may have quite hard time “enforcing” any house rules. IF they even have any house rules at all…Nines are so “laid back” that they may have that house rule that more experienced hosts know is a basically the same as saying “anything goes, ” eg, “Treat my home as you would treat yours…..and be cool“.
Enforcing house rules could well seem not very peaceful or loving to the Nine. And at the same time, they may tend to lecture other hosts to place as much value on love and peace and a “let them do what they want” orientation to guests, as they themselves do, because though they don’t realize it, they could be expecting that all other hosts see through the eyes of an Enneatype 9..but they dont’, because they aren’t. Nines can sometimes be passive aggressive in this way. Understanding that there are other types who are oriented differently might help.
Given that love and peace and well being are the orientation of Nines, they as well as Twos are really the most “natural” Airbnb hosts, they are highly oriented to taking care of guests and being generous and hospitable and making sure that the guest has all their needs seen to. The guest is likely to feel loved in the Airbnb listing run by a Nine. They are also very likely to feel peaceful there as the Nine at their best just exudes peace and ease.
Nines have sloth as their weakness, so they are one of the types which will have the hardest time keeping the Airbnb listing very clean. I have a Nine friend for instance, who very rarely dusts or vacuums her house. I have another Nine friend who not only doesn’t clean his house, he never picks up anything off the floor if it falls down. His house looks like it was hit by a hurricane or everything fell down in an earthquake, but there was no natural disaster. He’s just the epitome of slothful. (Unhealthy Nine)
Nines can be SO heavily oriented to taking care of others, that they can have a very hard time saying NO to anyone. Ironically, this can mean that even though their type is so ideally suited to being a host, that they have a very hard time hosting because they are unable to articulate boundaries or set limits, and end up feeling very taken advantage of by a demanding guest — to whose every whim they will give in.
For instance, I have a Nine friend, who is so temperamentally incapable of saying no, that this part of her actually went into the physical structure of her home. She has a very small one bedroom house. At one point, she wanted to add a room to it, and had the money to do so. It would have been natural to add a 2nd bedroom. But because of her exceeding great difficulty in saying no, which among other things meant that she was unable to say no to any relative who wanted to stay or even live with her, she spent her money to build a room addition to her house, but the room was only 6 ft wide by 10 ft long. In other words, completely unsuitable size for a bedroom> WHy the small size of the room? Because, she reasoned, it was only by having an additional room which was too small for anyone else to permanently live in, that she could be sure that no relative would take up permanent residency in her home. She herself was unable to say no, so rather than learn to say no, she had to build a room that would say no for her. And by doing this, she spent her money unwisely and added a room to her house which is not likely to be as of much use to anyone else as a real sized bedroom would have been, and it is also quite crowded and difficult to use even for her.
This situation reveals another personality characteristic of the less healthy Nine which could become a problem in the hosting business as in other areas of life — there can be a tendency to stubbornness. And this stubbornness can involve a refusal to develop parts of one’s psyche or new skills…such as the skill to be able to say no. When Nines are quite healthy and learn to say no and keep their boundaries, they can be excellent hosts indeed, and easily help others to also feel loved.
It’s believed that Carl Jung, the founder of Archetypal Psychology, who provided the origins of the Myers-Briggs personality typology system, was a Nine, as Nines also can have a strong ability to synthesize information.
Why Catering to the Guests’ Every need and Pampering them is not good for every Enneatype to Do
Now after covering some basics on the types, I want to present some information that can be enlightening for some when it comes to understanding the differences in types. Though the hosting business is highly oriented to providing hospitality for guests, and catering to their needs, it’s also true that being “too” concerned with guests’ needs can be detrimental to some Enneatypes. I gave the example above, of the type Nine who was unable to say no. This would mean that she would end up doing whatever the guest asked, but be very resentful afterwards, and very likely this would quickly burn her out on hosting. (This friend I refer to isn’t a host).
As another example, consider that each type has a “direction of growth” and a “direction of disintegration.” This means that for instance, for the Type Four, it’s a GOOD thing for the Four to be more like a type ONe. That is growth for the Four. But if the Four is more like a Two, taking care of people, attending on their every need, rescuing orphan cats and dogs…that is BAD for a Four to do, it’s disintegration. It’s not the activity they need for growth. So, paradoxically, what looks on the outside like “good hosting” to one person, may be deleterious for a certain Enneatype.