Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron

In the few days since she died, author and movie director (You've Got Mail), Nora Ephron (1941-2012) has been described by people who knew her as funny, curious, knowledgeable, observant, clear, kind, smart, sharp, self-deprecating, funny, witty, wry, wise, cynical, loyal, sardonic, insightful, fast-thinking, charming, fascinating, inspiring, warm, honest, direct, revolutionary... and did I mention funny?

 In looking for her personality type according to the Enneagram system, this cluster of words suggests the anti-authoritarian types on the left side of the Enneagram symbol: the 5-Observer, the 6-Questioner, the 7-Adventurer, or the 8-Asserter. Sharp, knowledgeable, self-deprecating, and observant especially fit the Observer. Witty, wry, sardonic, and cynical especially fit the Questioner. Honest, direct, and intimidating especially fit the Asserter and the counter-phobic form of Questioners, who look a lot like Asserters. Even though charming, funny, curious and an obsession with food can fit both the Adventurer type and Ephron, I believe she was a Questioner.


Enneagram figure

Enneagram figure

One thing that stands out for me through her interviews was her ability to be honest in a kind way with someone who has missed the point. I wish I had that ability. How did she do it? By using humor. Ephron was probably too diplomatic, extroverted, and warm to be either an Observer or an Asserter type. If she was a Questioner, she must have had a strong Adventurer wing.

The Questioner type comprises almost all professional comedians. Questioners can be witty, energetic, and good at judging what will go over well with an audience. They can access the 3-Achiever and work efficiently and hard. Ephron first achieved attention as a journalist using her intellect (the Observer wing). Her movies are generally light-hearted (her Adventurer wing).

 I like it that she could be bold in professional worlds run by men, that she was kind and loving, and that she was a feminist. The following by Meryl Streep is my favorite of dozens of memories I’ve read of her. 

“Nora was a person whose gifts of mind, amply displayed as a young person in her sharply observed journalistic pieces and in her personal wit, were, when I first met her, kind of scary: aimed and airy at the same time, an insouciant sharpness that could be intimidating, because you could never catch her ‘trying,’ everything seemed effortless. But as I got to know her, I understood what drove her was her acute curiosity, and her desire to observe and find out stuff. It’s what made her great as a journalist, and as a director, too. She thought fast, loved new ideas, processed swiftly, decided what was valuable and what was not with clarity. It’s hard to credit how very smart she was, cause she was always deflectively feminine and funny, the sharpness of mind softened and smoothed by genuine charm.” 

The Dinner Party

The Dinner Party

Please check out my web site and my Famous Types section. For more about Famous Enneagram Types, see entries in this and my other blog ( Since she said she loved food, here’s a cartoon Ephron might have liked.

About the Author

Photo by Gail Wread

Elizabeth Wagele was the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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