Questions and answers about Intuition
Excerpts from a recent interview
Interviewer: OK, what is intuition? Does anyone really know? Do you know?
Susan: Well, that’s how I started years ago when I learned that intuition (or “gut
feeling”) was an Emotional Intelligence competency (my area of expertise), and I
was going to have to figure out not only what it was, but how to teach it to others.
I had a teleclass, and I asked if anyone on the call knew a lot about intuition.
There were two people. I said, “What is intuition?” and they both replied, calmly
and with great self-assurance, “It’s when you’re absolutely certain about something.”
Interviewer: And so you agree with that definition?
Susan: Well sure, but there’s more to it. After years of studying it up one side
and down the other, so to speak, I have several definitions. One is that it’s “implicit
memory” – things we know, but don’t know how we know them. For instance, you interview
lots of people, right? So you probably had a keen sense that I’d be a good one to
interview … or not, right?
Interviewer: That’s true! I read one of your articles and knew I wanted to interview
you. That’s intuition?
Susan: Yes. We also call it “gut instinct”, and at deeper levels, we call it “basic
instincts”. For instance, there’s a company in the UK – I work with the owner –
who teaches occupational safety and accident investigation. They work with people
in highly dangerous professions, such as engineers in nuclear plants. They teach
them how to use their intuition, or gut feelings, to keep themselves safe.
Interviewer: How does that work?
Susan: Well, think about when you take your dog to a new place. He’s “all ears,”
right? Sometimeshe quivers. He’s smelling. He’s using all his senses to figure out
whether he’s safe there or not. And we have to get back to that. I say “get back
to that” because consider, well, an engineer for instance. Years of training in
logic and reason, data and facts. But what will warn him that something’s about
to explode? Only his basic instincts. Reason is of no use. Do you see what I mean?
Interviewer: Yes. Like when you walk in a dark alley and feel funny, or your hair
stands on end. Or I guess when I meet someone I … well, there’s that word … someone
I instinctively don’t like.
Susan: That’s when you’re using your intuition.
Interviewer: Well, does everyone have it?
Susan: Yes, but we’re not all using it.
Interviewer: What do you recommend using it for?
Susan: It’s the quickest and surest way to “know” something. I mean, don’t you know
right away whether you trust someone or not? You might do what I call “over-ride”
it with your logic and analysis, but time and time again I hear someone say, “I
KNEW he was a rat … but I …” and that’s when we outthink ourselves. We go to using
the thinking brain, the neocortex, when we should go with our feelings.
Interviewer: Well how do you know when it’s your intuition instead of, for instance,
Susan: If you’re new to this, you may NOT know. We all have intuition, but in some
of us its poorly developed, in the sense that we aren’t familiar with how it speaks
Interviewer: What do you mean “How it speaks to us.” Isn’t it the same? What is
Susan: Some people get a visual picture. Others receive words. One person I know
will start humming a tune, and when she gets conscious about what she’s humming,
there’s a message in there for her.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Susan: Well, she was having a terrible time financially. She lost all her money
in the stock market, then tried to start a new business and lived on her savings
and credit cards, and at some point realized she was in a deep hole. As she dealt
with the reality of it, she kept humming – well silently really, just a message,
“I’ve come to the end of the rainbow.” It was a very dark time for her. Then she
started to work on the problem, checked on filing bankruptcy and found out the options
weren’t so bad. Then the internal ‘song’ became, “The long and winding trail.” She
was on the path toward recovery.
Well, she’s also a coach, and she gets these songs sometimes with clients. One time
she was listening to a client talk, and realized afterwards she was humming a tune
that 'got' the essence of the client and what he was doing. It was “Ramblin’
Man” and he was having an affair on his wife. "A rambler and a gambler and
a sweet-talkin' ladies man..." She knew she was being led down a primrose
Interviewer: But what about decisions?
Susan: You get an absolute and sure feeling. Now think about that for a moment.
How often, in important decisions, are you 100% sure and certain? If and when you
are, it’s your intuition.
Interviewer: How would you use intuition?
Susan: It’s particularly good for the harder decisions in life; when the data runs
out. For instance, you can meet someone who meets all your requirements for a partner.
You know how people tell you to make a list? So you make a list, and this person
comes along, and they’re the right age, right education, right background … but
still there’s something wrong. You just don’t feel good with them, or they make
you feel bad about yourself. You feel ambivalent, then, in conflict. Part of you
says “yes” and part of you says “no.”
If you continue logically thinking about it, you may convince yourself the person
is right because they meet the criteria, when they’re wrong, because they don’t
work for you. It’s not a good fit. They treat you badly, or make you feel bad about
yourself. I’m sure a number of people have married people for the wrong reason –
the logical reason. And we all know partners who seem so odd, so mismatched, but
they’re madly in love and singing a great song together. It’s love, and it’s beyond
reason. You know how we say, “The heart has its own reasons”?
Interviewer: OK what about business or finances? Should we consult a psychic then?
Susan: This is about your own internal knowing. And yes, it’s quite good for business
decisions. Think about investing in the stock market, for instance. You (and stock
brokers) can read the prospectus, and learn the fundamentals, and still lose your
shirt. It isn’t that easy. Unless you have good intuition and can go with that.
That’s what helps you pick a winner. The best stock broker I know also bets on horses
Interviewer: When would you recommend NOT using intuition?
Susan: When you aren’t experienced in it. Then it can be wishful thinking, or fear,
or both. You can get in trouble.
Interviewer: Do you have some recommendations for how to develop your intuition?
Susan: Yes. I teach it all the time. Start with something small and of no consequence.
For instance, stand around in the produce section of the grocery and try and figure
out what produce which person will buy. Or when the phone rings, try and guess who
it is. It’s a way of inviting your intuition to stand up and be known. That’s how
you develop it. Invite it into your life and start listening. Or seeing. Some people
get it visually.
By “invite it into your life,” I mean this. When you’re falling asleep at night,
just silently say, “I’d like to have good intuition” and leave it at that. It’s
a time when your brain is very receptive, and of course you leave the details up
to your higher self. It will get you there.
Interviewer: Why are some people leery about it?
Susan: Because it seems like blackmarket knowledge; too “easy” for some people to
accept. Also because it can’t be explained. It’s knowing without knowing how you
know. People who are highly intellectual and rational, want reasons. They want a
logical explanation for everything, and that’s not what intuition is about. However,
many people turn around and rationalize it for others. In the business world, some
of the best people go on their “gut instinct,” but then they turn around and give
reasons. That’s okay. That’s fine. It’s just now becoming acceptable in the work
world, so a person’s justified.
Interviewer: Can you give an example?
Susan: Yes. Say you have narrowed it down to three candidates who all look the same
on paper, same credentials, all equally qualified. How do you choose the right one
for the job? You have to go on your gut feeling. That’s your guide. Great HR people
have keen instincts.
Interviewer: What about in science, or medicine for instance? Would anyone use it?
Or accept it?
Susan: Well, I work with a physician now. He’s been practicing medicine, internal
medicine, where it’s all hidden, for 40 years now, and of course he’s uncanny in
diagnosing. He’s also a friend of mine, and when we’re out, he’ll say,“That person’s
got ulcers,” and I’ll say, “How do you know that?” He’ll wink and say, “A little
birdie told me.” He sees the most incredible things … from years of experience,
you see. Sometimes he gets tests for confirmation, but it’s his instincts that have
to lead him to the right test. There are millions, you know, and they’re expensive.
Interviewer: Is there anything you’d like to add about intuition? How someone could
develop it, or learn more about it?
Susan: Belleruth Naparstek has written a great book called “Your Sixth Sense: Unlocking
the Power of Your Intuition.” They can also work with a certified EQ coach. And
then try the exercises I mentioned. You can’t just read about it. That’s why coaching
is good. You have to put it into practice, for months, and it’s good to get feedback.
Interviewer: And everyone has it?
Susan: Yes, I think, or they wouldn’t be here. Think of all the times “something”
has saved you from an unsafe situation. That was your intuition. Thank it, use it,
develop it, and enjoy the certainty and safety it brings to your life.
For Further Reading