It’s best to look at it this way: Your main type reflects the pattern (or strategy) you use most often in life, that you rely on the most and that has the greatest influence on your personality. Your wing, however, adds important (and sometimes contradictory) elements from a second type to your personality.
For example, if the basic concept of type Three applies to you – the strategy of getting things done, accomplishing things in order to receive praise and admiration – you will most likely blend the traits of this type with the traits of either type Two or type Four. You can find out what that looks like exactly in our descriptions of the Three wing Two (3w2) and Three wing Four (3w4) combinations.
If you’re new to the Enneagram, the most important thing is to get a good understanding of the key patterns, motivations, gifts and challenges of your main type before considering your dominant wing.
But many people, after getting to understand their main type, quickly realize that this isn’t the full picture of their personality, which is when your dominant wing should come into play.
It’s like the second side to your personality. Without it, many additional options for your behavior would go unexplained. A Six with a Seven wing looks markedly different than a Six with a Five wing. Sometimes only the combination of main type and wing can help a person realize what their main type is at all.
There is some debate among experts of the Enneagram as to whether someone expresses both wings of their type or only one dominant wing. Since we’re not here to solve academic debates, but give practical advice, we’ll only say this:
In theory, every combination of main type and wings is possible. So, yes, theoretically, you could be influenced by both your wings to the same degree. Or, your personality could show next to no traces of your wings at all. But in the vast majority of cases, there’s a dominant wing that is far more important than the other one.
What is certain though is that:
Each of us has something of both wings in us. It’s just that one usually plays a much bigger role than the other.
While, for example, a Two with a Three wing will also be influenced by their One wing, its influence is much smaller than their Three wing.
Actually, something that has been observed by many experts who have worked with the Enneagram for years is that a lot of people start expressing their second wing in later stages of their lives. While this isn’t always the case and doesn’t have to happen, it simply means that you shouldn’t be surprised when you realize at some point that traits from your second wing begin to play a bigger role in your life.
It’s not uncommon for people who are still figuring out their Enneagram type to ask themselves: Am I more of a Type X with a Y wing or the other way around?
What’s important to know here is that the combination of a type and its wing is not the same for two adjacent types. A One with a Two wing has a very different personality than a Two with a One Wing.
Because their core motivations are different.
For example, if you were to be unsure if you were a Five with a Four wing or a Four with a Five wing, merely looking at the behavior of the two types often doesn’t help, because you might feel like you show the same amount of traits from both types.
But looking at their core motivations can tell you the difference. To stay with the example:
Fives want to make sure they are safe against an overwhelming world and so detach from their own and other people’s emotions. Fours on the other hand want to have their inner emotional world be understood by the outside world and so indulge their emotions – and want others to express theirs. You can read more on how to tell two types and their wing combinations apart in our section on misidentifications.
Our free Enneagram test already gives you an indicator which of your two wings might be your dominant one. If you’re not sure though, the best thing you can do is to read both descriptions of your wing and decide for yourself which one describes you best. Simply click the button below to explore the Wings for each Enneagram type.