4 Strategies to Help You Trust Your GutBy Steve Calechman
Intuition, the ability to know something without needing to think about it, gets a bad rap when it comes to decision-making. What makes it sound easy (no data or analytics to sift through!) also makes it feel iffy. People like to know why they’re doing something and be able to explain their decision to others. “We’re told, ‘You need a reason to do this,’ and a gut feeling doesn’t come with a reason,” says Art Markman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin and author of Bring Your Brain to Work.
But intuition isn’t pure fiction. It comes from experience; and, experts say, it turns out your gut can be a reliable instrument for making a good decision. Nonetheless, going with your gut can still feel risky. The problem is that it’s still speculation, and that lack of definitiveness can create anxiety. But there are ways to lessen that.
Here are four ways to start trusting what your gut is saying to help you move forward without endless consideration.
Know the Time for Your Gut
There are two areas where leaning on intuition make the most sense. One is any time a reason is hard to articulate, for example, when you make an aesthetic judgment, such as deciding what to hang on your wall or what to order for dinner. It’s based on a qualitative feel. You like it because you like it; and, if it also involves buying something, well, you’re the one who has to live with the choice, Markman points out.
The other instance when the gut is an effective decision-maker is when you have experience with a subject and there isn’t a definitive, correct answer. Intuition works this way: Rather than breaking down a situation into small pieces, it takes in the big picture and sees patterns. For example, an experienced manager may be able to quickly assess a combination of factors and determine if an applicant is a good fit for the company. “You may not know exactly why you think that way, but you can make an accurate judgment,” says Michael Pratt, Ph.D., a professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. He co-authored a 2012 study that involved two tests. In one, subjects watched basketball games and rated the difficulty of shots. In the other, subjects looked at handbags and decided if they were real or fake. In both, those with previous experience or knowledge of the topic were able to make quick and effective j