The wings are the types on either side of a given type (e.g., types 8 and 1 are the wings of type 9). The premise is that the wing types have an additional influence. They're most often used to describe variations of a type where one of the wings (i.e., preferred wing) has more of an influence than the other wing. For example, type 9 can have a preferred 1-wing (9w1) or 8-wing (9w8). An individual might identify as type 9 or more specifically as 9w1 or 9w8.
People new to the Enneagram types sometimes mistakenly assume that the preferred wing type is the second most dominant type for a person, but the preferred wing is simply a preference between the types on either side. The simplest way to understand the preferred wing is that it places an individual on the circle (i.e., on the dominant type or to the right or left of it). Taking type 9 as an example:
- Someone who identifies their dominant type as 9 would place themself at point 9 when not taking wing preference into consideration.
- Someone who identifies their dominant type as 9 with a strong influence from type 1 would locate themself to the right of type 9 (9w1).
- Someone who identifies their dominant type as 9 with a strong influence from type 8 would locate themself to the left of type 9 (9w8).
The books Quick Guide to the Enneagram and Personality Variations explore the eight variations of each type associated with the wings. Personality Variations also explores how the focus of the preferred wing influences the focus of the dominant type.