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Going With Your Gut Instinct

“Going With Your Gut Instinct”

There are some who consider intuition just another old wives’ tale. Then there are those who use intuition to guide important decisions and even to win over the big clients. Which camp would you rather be in?


Intuition. It’s a tool that, if nurtured, can help us boost sales, close deals, make better hires, make smarter investments and improve our growth-oriented decisions. And it’s a tool we all have — studies have shown that decision makers in a range of fields use intuitive techniques more than 90% of the time. Yet many of us ignore our gut-level impressions. We hire the person with the impressive resume, despite the unexplainable "feeling" that it won’t work out. We form partnerships, merge businesses and take on clients because rationally and analytically it appears to be the right thing to do, even though our skin is crawling with anxiety. Intuition works best when used in conjunction with our rational and emotional reasoning. By trusting our gut we have a competitive edge that aids us in every decision.

In this Quick-Read you will find:

  • Methods of developing your intuitive sense.
  • Times when intuition can help you make better decisions.


Intuition is working all the time. All we need to do is pay attention and learn how to tap into it. Before making any decision, take a minute to form a specific question such as: Is this partnership going to be productive? Or, is this person going to work well in this office? Then slow down, and pay attention to the images and feelings you get. This is your intuition working to provide you with the information you need to make the best decisions.

Methods of developing and using intuition for decision-making

Confidence in one’s intuition is especially important when a decision must be made under time pressure without necessary facts. How can a manager gain that confidence?

  1. Know you have it. Simply by accepting intuition as a legitimate decision-making tool, you will open your mind to the possibilities it offers.
  2. Ask questions. What information do you need to know? Be specific: Should I hire this person for this job? Will I have a productive and enjoyable relationship with this client? You start the intuitive process by making requests of your mind.
  3. When a decision is needed, first get all the available pertinent facts. Determine what results are most important, identify options and make a best guess regarding the outcome of applying each option. Intuition is important, but it needs facts to work from, just like the rational mind.
  4. Slow down. Pause before answering the questions posed to you. Take a breath. Reflect on the question and be aware of any impressions you receive before answering. Flashes of intuition are immediate.
  5. If time permits, step back. Experts almost all agree that working harder and focusing more tightly on a problem inhibits intuition. If possible, do unrelated work for a while; the mind that is no longer focused on a problem is likely to use new combinations of concepts and options to arrive at a new conclusion. Some experts advise periods of meditation and reflection to allow creative incubation of information to reach the best decision.
  6. Pay attention to physical feelings. Is your hair standing up on end? Do you have a sour taste in your mouth? Physical signals are clues that provide you with decision-making information. Often an uncomfortable feeling later translates into a negative or unpleasant situation. A warm or energetic feeling usually indicates a positive outcome.
  7. Remain neutral and open. Consider all the information without bias, ego or desire, which can cause you to falsely interpret any intuitive feelings you may have.
  8. Give thanks. While this seems corny, it helps to reinforce your mind’s good behavior. When you receive information that aids you in your decision, appreciate it.
  9. Foster creative thinking. Initially, consider all possibilities, and evaluate the impressions and ideas of your staff without a limiting view. At first, some of the best ideas don’t seem to make sense. When encouraged, these off-the-wall notions are often intuitive insights and the basis for creative and innovative programs and products.
  10. Practice. Start with small decisions, and then evaluate the outcome. Practice will strengthen your intuitive sense, and outcomes will indicate whether you should or should not use your intuition to help with larger decisions.
  11. Check it out. Compare your intuitive impressions with the rational and analytical data. Used in isolation, any one of these decision-making methods is not as effective. If your intuition is telling you to move ahead and the data suggests you shouldn’t, the best answer may be to wait.


When Will and Suzi Helmlinger, owners of The Resource Development Group coaching and business development firm in Portland, Ore., decided to relocate their office, it took more than a real estate agent and a listing of available spaces to find the right building. "We wanted a place that felt good to be in. A place that people would be drawn to," Suzi Helmlinger said. Instead of limiting their search to statistical details like square footage, location and cost, the Helmlingers also evaluated how they "felt" while in the elevator on the property. They considered the impressions they received while looking at each office and when talking with others in the building.

Suzi says she often feels a physical vibration &#151 a boost of energy &#151 that accompanies the best option in any decision. After comparing her feelings with the analytical information, the two chose a space in downtown Portland. In one year, their business has tripled, a fact Suzi attributes partially to their office space and her use of intuition in that and other business-related decisions. What do their clients think? They have all commented about how good they feel when working in the new building.

DO IT [top]

  1. Each morning, take a couple of minutes to jot down your impressions of the moment or the day ahead. Record sounds, feelings, words or pictures that seem to pop into your mind, whether they make sense or not. Look at those impressions at the end of the day and compare them to what actually occurred.
  2. Practice will strengthen your intuitive sense. The more you use it, the better you can get at knowing when to trust your intuition.
  3. Before meeting with a new or potentially difficult client, consider what information you already know and what things will make the meeting go smoothly. Compare that information to what actually occurs during the meeting.
  4. If you have no desire to use intuition, seek out and hire managers who do, so intuition will not be a missing element in executive decisions.



Trust Your Gut! Practical Ways to Develop and Use Your Intuition for Business Success by Richard M. Contino (AMACOM, 1996).

Intuition in Organizations: Leading and Managing Productively edited by Weston H. Agor (Sage, 1989).

Internet Sites

What’s Your Intuition? by Bill Breen. Fast Company (September 2000): 290-293+.

Intuitive Decision Making, excerpted from To Live Deliberately by Gary Lynn Harr ( Brooks/Cole / Thomson, 1998).

Article Contributors

Writer: Polly Campbell