The Science Behind Intuition And How You Can Use It To Get Ahead At Work
So what exactly is intuition? It is the ability to know something without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind. Imagine being able to harness and further develop our sixth senses or what the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) calls “spidey-sense.” ONR is currently developing methods to measure the workings of intuition on the battlefield, hoping to give our soldiers the added edge in a life or death situation, as well as creating virtual simulations to help train and develop soldier’s intuitions in high pressure combat situations.
While your work situation may not be life or death, it can certainly be high-pressure. What if you could sense a problem exists even when the spreadsheet says otherwise, figure out the most opportune time to secure a raise, forecast a trend at work before anyone else or sense a problem with a pending deal? Call it women’s intuition but I have a sneaking feeling you already do this at some level.
Director of Global Technical Support at Evernote, Heather Wilde says using her intuition helped the company’s customer satisfaction rate. “I actually have relied on my intuition a lot to give me that extra emotional intelligence that you need to understand the context of a situation,” she says. “When handling customer interactions, you need to be able to look beyond the surface information and find the root cause of any issue they may have - and that is very difficult.”
Dr. Judith Orloff MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA and author of Guide To Intuitive Health and The Empath’s Survival Guide, says, “In my private practice, I work with women executives who come to me to develop their intuition. They see it as a ‘superpower’ to use in all decisions at work as well as a guide for how to be good leaders and organizers.”
According to Dr. Orloff, scientists believe intuition operates through the entire right side of our brain, the brain’s hippocampus and through our gut (digestive system has neurons as well). And this is where it gets interesting for us ladies. Women’s corpus collosum, the connective white matter that connects our left and right brain hemispheres together, is thicker than men’s. This more substantial brain super highway gives us women better and faster abilities to access each hemisphere, further integrating our emotion and gut feelings with the more logical left hemisphere into our decision making process. Basically women’s brains have superpowers and are actually optimized for rapid intuitive decision making. “Women are also psychologically more in touch with their emotions (perhaps because they’ve been given more cultural permission to be this way) and are more likely to integrate hunches, emotional ‘hits’ about people and logic. Because men have a thinner corpus collosum they are more compartmentalized in their thinking and less about to move back and forth from intuition to logic.”
Here are some Steps on how to Access, Develop and Amplify Intuition.
Pay attention to your gut. When the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in your gut fire up, you may be feeling either “butterflies” or queasy sensations. Pay attention to those. It’s no accident we use the term intuition and gut feeling interchangeably because science has now shown us that our gut has a brain of its own, a second brain so to speak. In fact, our gut has an entire network of neurotransmitters called the enteric nervous system. My queasy sensation served as an important alarm for me a few years ago. I was working on closing a round of financing for one of my companies years ago with a VC. Every time I was about to meet with this VC, I was immediately queasy. At first I thought maybe it was coffee on an empty stomach but it didn’t matter the time of day. Eventually I walked away from a term sheet (a story for another time) and subsequently found out that this particular VC was not founder friendly and had a reputation of kicking founding CEO’s out. My queasy sensation served me well and probably saved me.
Take a mini meditation break and inwardly pose a question. Everyday we are making decisions and the higher up you climb the ladder the bigger the decisions seem to get. More often than not executives are faced with situations where decisions need to be made quickly and with limited data. Quieting your mind and inwardly posing the decision as a question can help amplify your intuition and guide you towards the answer. Sometimes it’s not possible to take a full on close your eyes, om it out situation at work but even taking a deep breath or sneaking away into the bathroom for a few moments can help guide you towards the best decision. For instance, one of Dr. Orloff’s CEO patients took a quite moment and asked herself “Is this deal the best for me to get involved with?” Then she saw a flash of the Titanic sinking. Using this image + her gut feeling that things were not what they seemed with this potential business acquisition-she opted out. The president of the prospective business turned out to be a horrible leader and the business failed. Dr. Orloff says, “My patient followed her gut and listened to the intuitive flash to protect her financial investments.”
Pay attention to your energy. How do you feel around a co-worker or potential customer? Drained or energized? Using your intuition to read people can make you a more effective leader or negotiator in your business dealings.
What is your intuition telling you?
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