I once read that gut instinct is all subconscious. Your mind picks up on little clues about the environment around you and your body reacts by giving you a feeling about what way feels right to you. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I can tell you that I tend to use my gut when making decisions. And so far, it’s been very reliable.
We all know what it’s like to get a gut feeling about something. But should we really listen to it? Does it even exist?
According to one study, not only does your gut instinct work, but it can help you make some really good decisions. In the study, they took a group of participants and asked them to play a card game none of them had ever played before. The card game was specifically designed so no obvious strategy could be used. Players had to rely solely on their hunches.
Most players eventually found ways to win the game based on intuition rather than reason. Subtle changes to the players’ heart rate and sweating patterns affected how well each person played the game. The players interpreted those subtle changes in the moves they made. Eventually they could figure out what moves worked best.
So if gut instinct really works, are there any ways you can develop it and make it stronger? Well, I’ve come up with four ways to strengthen your intuition.
1. Study body language
Successfully interacting with people requires a good understanding of body language. Being able to spot someone across the room and just know they are upset can give you a really good insight into group dynamics and how to talk with that particular person. In general women understand body language much more than men. This might contribute to the notion of “women’s intuition”.
But if you’re one of those people who just can’t read others. I suggest reading up on it. There are many great books on body language, some good websites or you could just use trial and error.
The best part about getting good at body language is eventually you’ll be able to subconsciously pick up on micro-gestures. These are movements so subtle that they slip past your conscious thought completely, but will alarm your gut instinct. Often, they can only be noticed consciously if you’re videotaping someone and you slow down the tape enough.
Developing a good gut instinct is just like any other skill. The more you use it, the better it becomes. Make guesses about what a person is going to do or say. At first, you’ll probably be able to justify each of those guesses. At this point, you’re not using your gut that much.
Eventually, all this guessing will get your gut instinct to kick in. You’ll start to get “feelings” about people you can’t easily justify or rationalize. Go with those feelings and remember what your gut has been saying to you.
Remember when your gut has been wrong and when it has been right. It doesn’t matter if it turns out to be mistaken. In fact, when I first started developing my gut, I was often wrong. Each time it is wrong, you will learn from it and become better. Keep in mind that no decision-making process is infallible.
3. Go people-watching
People-watching isn’t just fun, you can actually learn a lot. And the best part is, you can do it anywhere. When you watch someone, don’t just look at what they’re doing. Take in their clothes, hairstyle, body language, what they’re carrying and if they’re with someone. Try to create their life story.
By looking at them alone, can you figure out if they’re married, have kids, are overworked, have a high or low self esteem? You can get surprisingly good at this if you do it enough. Just don’t stalk anyone.
4. Learn an activity that requires quick thinking
There a few hobbies you can learn that require you to make actions so quickly that you cannot possibly think your way through it. Instead of taking in a situation and formulating the best possible course of action in your head, you have to rely almost entirely on your gut instinct. It’s the perfect way to strengthen your intuition skills.
For example, surfing requires you to have a lot of gut level instinct in order to make sure you don’t fall into the water. There just isn’t enough time while you’re riding the wave to really think your way through. You have to act and react constantly without thinking and rely a lot on your intuition. Similarly, learning a martial art like Krav Maga can help develop gut reactions.
Using these methods to increase your gut instinct can really help develop some intuitive skills. They are what I’ve done to develop mine and so far my gut feelings have been incredibly accurate. And my gut right now is telling me that with some practice you can get your gut feelings to work really well too.
Do you listen to your gut often too? How accurate is your intuition?
photo credit: joaoloureiro
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