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A Look into the Enneagram: Wing, Stress & Security Numbers

We’re back with another look into the Enneagram and how this resource can be utilized in the workplace and in our personal lives. Hopefully, at this point, you have been able to get a general understanding of what the Enneagram is, how you determine your number, and possibly the numerical personality of those around you.


Today we dive into the different variations of this unique personality typing system and how variety is truly the spice of life. The beauty of the Enneagram in comparison to other personality typing systems is that it recognizes and considers the fluidity of personality, allowing and understanding that different circumstances and situations will determine variations of one’s self. You may have recently been shocked to discover that you and a co-worker or friend may both have the same Enneagram type, yet appear to be so very different. Let’s dig into the why behind the variations of personality within this nine-type system.


In addition to a single number denoting your personality, teachers of the Enneagram use the term “wing” to explain a more in-depth variance of each individual’s’ unique type. Your wing is one of the numbers that physically sits next to your number, either to the right or the left, on the diagram. While an individual can lean into either of their wings to pull from the different traits, we typically favor one direction more than the other. Your basic type dominates your overall personality, while the wing complements and adds important, sometimes contradictory, elements to your total personality. We are dynamic beings, so we should view and understand our personalities with dynamic varieties as well. Just as there are many shades of a color, there are many variants of each type on the Enneagram.


Just as there are variations of a number with differing wings, each personality lies on a spectrum of healthy to average to unhealthy. Each of us travels either up or down this spectrum depending on what is going on in our worlds, and it is important to understand where our personality “goes” in times of stress and security. Your stress number is the number your personality moves toward when you are overtaxed, under fire or the unhealthy version of yourself. In the Enneagram diagram, this is represented by an arrow moving away from your number. Your security number, on the other hand, indicates the type your personality moves pulls from when you’re feeling secure. This usually occurs when we are healthy or in situations that feel familiar or trustworthy. This is represented by the arrow moving toward your number on the nine-point diagram.


The Big Question: Why are our wing, stress and security numbers important? The goal of the Enneagram is to be a tool for personal understanding and growth. If we are not growing and assessing how we can be better, knowing where we land on this typing system is irrelevant. It is important to understand where your number is likely to go when you are under stress to gain a better knowledge of how to internally audit unwanted reactions, emotions, and misunderstanding. Likewise, it is important to know where we travel in security or safety because to change and grow we need to develop our security number’s healthy behaviors in our daily lives. Our wings add variety and important aspects to our being that cannot be identified in the solo number itself. Essentially, this is a personality formula that is all about knowing yourself and being able to identify when you are headed towards a breakthrough or a breakdown.


My encouragement for you is to be brave, dig in, and learn the good, the bad, the ugly and the glorious of your Enneagram type and use it as a launching pad in becoming the best version of YOU, as an employee, manager, leader, lover, and friend.  


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