Intuition is the reason that you know more than you think you know. Once you recognize how much of your mental activity takes place subconsciously, you can make better use of the knowledge and abilities you already possess.
These are strategies for finding a healthy balance between critical thinking and gut feelings.
Relying on Intuition in Your General Routine
1. Acknowledge the role of intuition. Cognitive science is giving more and more credit to the part our hunches play in our thoughts and behavior. You might mistakenly assume you’re making rational decisions when you’re really operating on autopilot. Just think of the times you’ve driven home out of habit while you were lost in thought about something else.
2. Challenge gender stereotypes. Even the experts are divided about whether women have stronger intuitions. Many studies suggest that women in general are more sensitive to emotional cues but individuals vary widely in their abilities.
3. Look for connections. Your intuitions are most reliable in the areas where you have the most experience and expertise. Study a situation in terms of its similarities to something you’ve handled before and look for ways to categorize it.
4. Train at making snap judgments. Gut feelings enable you to respond quickly when necessary. When the stakes are low, practice building up your confidence by deciding things quickly, like what to eat for dinner or which movie to see.
5. Nurture your sense of curiosity. Those who are curious about others are often the best judges of character. Experiment with putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand the reasoning for their conduct.
6. Put your emotions into perspective. We often exaggerate how much external events will affect us. Whether you win the lottery or lose a bet, you’ll probably soon return to being as happy as you ever were, so listen to your feelings without getting carried away.
7. Be realistic about your limitations. It’s tempting to see what you want to see and overlook errors. Be disciplined about scrutinizing your actions and learning from mistakes.
Relying On Intuition In Specific Circumstances
1. Make friends and fall in love. Our first judgments about people are often reliable. You’re likely to recognize the people who will enrich your life as long as you keep an open mind about seeing the good in everyone.
2. Know when to stay silent. For the sake of your relationships, it’s often better to keep your hunches to yourself even when they’re accurate. For example, your friend may not appreciate being reminded that her consumption of ice cream doubled after her divorce.
3. Take pleasure in major purchases. Pick out a house you’ll enjoy living in rather than getting distracted by real estate trends. You’re likely to feel more satisfied in the long run. On the other hand, listen to experts when you’re making financial investments.
4. Evaluate your fears. Evolution makes us vulnerable to exaggerating fears that have immediate and vivid consequences rather than more probable but subtler consequences. Keep that in mind if you get more alarmed by killer bees than obesity.
5. Listen to your conscience. Most healthy adults usually distinguish right from wrong spontaneously. If you feel comfortable with your actions and at ease with people knowing about them, you’re probably on the right track.
Go ahead and play your hunches as long as you also take the time to weigh the facts and test your conclusions.
Your gut feelings already play a big role in your relationships and decision making, so becoming more conscious of the process will help you to make better use of your intuition.