When to Trust Your Intuition…and When Not To

Do you trust your gut? Have you ever had that feeling that pulls or pushes you in a direction and you can’t fully rationalize the nudge? You might call this intuition, instinct, or your gut. Have you ever followed it and regretted not thinking it through? Have you ever not followed it and regretted not trusting yourself?

Our intuition can reflect our unconscious biases, fears, trauma responses, and reactivity that once served us but no longer does. I love this quote from Nick Horby’s book High Fidelity (I saw the film) where the main character reveals his mistrust of his intuition.

Photo of author Nick Hornby with text: “I've been thinking with my guts since I was fourteen years old, and frankly speaking, between you and me, I have come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains.'
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity"

On the other hand, our intuition can be a tremendous resource reflecting cognitive processing that takes place below our level of consciousness. It can reflect pattern recognition, sensory subtlety, and rapid cognition that might escape our overt awareness.

Here is how you can distinguish between when to trust your intuition and when not to.

When to TRUST your intuition

Trust your intuition when you have high awareness, knowledge, information, and context. When well-informed about the topic, person, or context, you can trust your intuition to reflect deep levels of processing below your consciousness.

When NOT to trust your intuition

Do not trust your intuition when you have low awareness, knowledge, information, or context. When you are not well-informed about the topic, person, or context, you don’t want to trust your intuition as it will likely reflect your fears, baggage, and unconscious biases.

For example…

I have a coaching client who loves real estate. He pays attention to the market, has bought and sold many homes and other buildings, has done many renovations, and is deeply connected to the real estate market in his community. When his instincts tell him a property is overvalued, he should trust it. He is pulling from massive amounts of information and pattern recognition. I know very little about real estate. I’ve only ever bought one home (the one we live in). Outside of watching House Hunters a lot in my late 20s, as we were planning to buy, I know very little. If I think a property is overvalued, it more likely reflecting my uninformed opinion about superficial aspects, my unconscious biases about the neighborhood, or the green and yellow Green Bay Packers colors (ok, that one is conscious).

Trust your intuition if you ask your partner how their day went and their answer seems off. You know this person well (I hope) and have enormous amounts of history, information, and context. However, your intuition may not be as reliable with a stranger where you do not have all the context.

This topic often comes up in conversations with my coaching clients. I hope this helps you trust your intuition when it can serve you and be more skeptical when it might lead you astray.

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