Gut feelings and decision making: Do you listen to your intuition?

By Vanessa De La Rosa

Intuition: that strange gut feeling about invisible information surrounding us, an influence we usually are taught to place on the backburner to other means of productivity like focus and logic. But listening to those subtle feelings can have major rewards, as I learned one December night five years ago.

As I lay in bed drifting to sleep, my usually optimistic mind wandered onto a depressing tale about a man who used his wife’s car to jumpstart his car battery. Leaving early for work, he closed the garage door, not realizing his wife’s car was still running. The exhaust seeped into the house, and carbon monoxide killed his sleeping family.

Why did my brain choose this as my bedtime story? Feeling negative and confused, I thought I smelled smoke, but waved it off as paranoia. A very strong voice disagreed, telling me to turn on my bedside lamp, to open my bedroom door, to investigate. I tried to reason with it and go to sleep. After 20 minutes, I gave in and wandered out the door and into the living room, where black smoke billowed from the fireplace and onto my father’s sleeping face. Someone had closed the flue while the fire was still alive. I put it out and opened all the windows. It took a long time to shake my dad awake.

A week later, an inspector discovered that our carbon monoxide detector had run out of battery without ever signaling its near-dead beeps. If I hadn’t opened my bedroom door, would we have known of the smoke? Would we be celebrating another Christmas around the same fireplace?

Intuition can be powerful when we listen to it, and it can sometimes mean life or death for your profitability. For advisors, businessmen and sales people, it is common practice to analyze options, craft a strategic plan and remain disciplined. But with changes in regulation, the economy and business models, the most successful people are those that have perfected the art of adapting quickly and listening to their hunches, as one Forbes article highlights. Many ProducersWEB contributors have also voiced this perspective, with content about tuning in to clients’ emotions and not resisting change.

But you can’t rely on intuition alone. Expertise must take priority, and by expanding your level of knowledge on any particular subject, you open yourself up to new opportunities to inspire and help your clients, to sell your products and gain more prospects. You become more sensitive to subtle cues in your clients’ questions and more insightful into what they want and need. As another article notes:

“Gut feelings and rules of thumb from experts in their field are so useful as a method of business decision making. Because, consciously or not, such experts are processing the available information, information simply not available to those not expert, but approaching the same decision in a more structured and formal manner.”

How many times a day do you shrug off a hunch or ignore an urge to ask more questions and follow an instinct? Something tells me it’s more than it should be.