I mostly use the books.
On a personal level, the enneagram is really good for understanding how I react to things and why. I understand how I work under stress, even if I don't consciously realize that I'm stressed because the behavioral patterns of my type/subtype at a given level of health bear out that I am under stress. This, then, allows me to understand how to move to a position of health -- how to acknowledge and work through the stress, and when confronted with a similar position that creates a similar anxiety, I can act in a healthy way instead of the more reactive unhealthy way (for my type, the phobic/counterphobic behaviors are the unhealthy, whereas the healthy way is to stand in faith and confidence in the process -- in who I am and my own ability to wade through the situation so to speak).
It also does help with relationships. THrough the study of the enneagram, I can better understand how my behaviors -- both healthy and unhealthy -- affect others in terms of their personality types and levels of health under stress. I can better understand why a person may behave in a certain way, and likewise figure out how to best meet their needs (without total self-compromise of course) to create better relationship outcomes.
If, like my husband, the other individual is interested in working with the enneagram for their own health, we can actually work in-tandem. It gives us a language to best describe each of our situations under stress, how we are acting/reacting, and whether we are moving to positions of health. It makes it easier for us to work together -- both in our relationship (personal) and in our relationship to the outside world.
For example, when we started this business there were people here who were outright hostile to us. It was simply their own fear of change, and several aspects of the enneagram as well as other articles that some psychologist friends of ours gave us (about organization structures that are unconsciously designed to abate anxiety and what happens when that structure is basically cracked to pieces by an outsider who comes into a unique position of power in that structure. . .such as taking over an existing business). So, we were both under a great deal of stress.
At this point, both of us being conscious of our processes within ourselves in terms of the enneagram, were able to analyze where we were in health and where we were not, and support each other in coming up with methods of how to act in health. So, each of us was able to support the other in our individual processes.
In addition, we were able to make sure that within our relationship, the stresses didn't "seep over" and create struggles within us, so we were better able to discern each other's needs and consciously adapt our family life to meet the needs that help decrease stress and move the relationship toward health.
And out of this, we were also able to -- as a couple -- demonstrate and act in health "in tandem" toward those who would deal with one or both of us in terms of our work, social life, etc. And therefore, also moving toward health.
In a work environment, it's also possible for people to pick up the enneagram and work together in order to create healthy and dynamic organizational structures. When everyone understands and knows everyone else's types, they can work *with* that information rather than having normal frictions at work. It also makes it easier to communicate and have two or more people create a healthy, cohesive plan of action when a stress does come up in the group (or with an individual in the group), which then in turn allows everyone to work together in a healthier and more successful way.
This, of course, requires conscious buy=in. I do some "amateur" guessing at what people's types are when observing them over time, and then do my best to see how my personality type can "rub" them the wrong way (and then avoid those behaviors), while also seeing where my personality type can help them feel more comfortable and successful -- or facilitating a state of health/wellbeing in them. While some people see this as manipulaiton, I really see it as understanding people's needs and seeking to meet those needs, even if they are unconscious to it themselves. It's just a tool that I use to create a better social and work environment fo rmyself. Then, if the individual is interested in learning abuot the enneagram types, then it can be a two-way street -- they can observe me and provide information for me, and I can also for them, and again, we come to that point of cohesion.
But in the end, it's really just for me. I use it all the time to best understand where I am and am not moving in health, how I work, and what is happening when I feel truly frustrated and/or out of control -- how am I reacting? What are my common behavioral patterns? Am I acting in those patterns? What outcome does that pattern truly create for me?
And from there, I can move forward in health.