"You should trust your gut!" You've heard your mother say it. You've heard your girlfriends say it. You've heard police say it if you see a creepy guy walking near you on the street. Now an expert in business and psychiatry from Harvard University is saying it! Srini Pillay, M.D. is the author of "The Role of Intuition in Business: Why and How Much Should You Really ‘Trust Your Gut’?" He says the same advice absolutely applies at work! He shared a few of his insights with me recently.
Galtime’s Consumer Watchdog Mary: First of all, when you say “trust your gut” and talk about intuition what do you mean, how would you define that? Is that the little voice in your head? (You hear those too, right?)
Srini Pillay, M.D. : Intuition is an intelligence that bypasses the conscious brain. It is data that is processed as a result of subliminal stimuli entering the brain. The "brain conclusions" then become a message that impacts your body. If it is anxiety provoking, for example, you may feel queasy or your heart may start racing for no apparent reason. You may be tempted to ignore this - but don't. It is real information that has simply not been processed by the conscious brain yet. "The little voice in your head" is another way of expressing brain processing that has not occurred consciously as yet.
Galtime’s Consumer Watchdog Mary Women hear they should “trust their gut” when it comes to men and relationships, but you’re saying the same applies in business too?
Srini Pillay, M.D. Yes, in business one should trust one's gut by not ignoring it. Unconscious information may be subtle but it is usually processed very fast. The tradeoff is that it is sometimes inaccurate. When you "trust your gut" you would benefit most from first asking questions: Why do I feel this way? What is making me feel awkward? Is there something that might have bypassed my conscious brain. Then, once you prevent yourself from ignoring this gut instinct in business, ask yourself: when did it first occur? The probe your memory systems to search for subtle information that might have been registered too fast. For example, you may have noticed that people at a place of a new interview are subtly nervous. This may help you decide to not apply for that job. Or you may mistrust someone without any evidence. You can look out for why this might be the case rather than completely ignoring this.
Galtime’s Consumer Watchdog Mary What would you tell someone who struggles with how much to trust their gut?
Srini Pillay, M.D. Trusting your gut does not mean instant belief without evidence. It is simply allowing yourself to examine the sensation you are feeling. By looking more deeply into possible reasons, testing our hypotheses and then drawing conclusions, you stand to gain more than if you simply ignore what you are feeling. If you tend to be evidence based, remember that intuition does have evidence - it is just not conscious. Also, your memory system may simply not be telling you what you remember. You may have to probe. Intuitive reasoning is very fast, and often incorporates subtle information that can make all the difference. Brain imaging studies show that intuition is simply "pre-emptive brain processing" - which means that your brain preempts what is going to happen before you know this consciously. Therefore, it is more valuable to lose your doubt about intuition and rather spend brain resources examining this feeling.
Galtime’s Consumer Watchdog Mary How reliable would you say most people’s gut instincts are?
Srini Pillay, M.D. It depends on the person. Gut instincts are always telling you something. If they are true, they are telling you to process what is outside of the conscious brain. If they are false, they are telling you about your own fears. Either way, this is valuable information.
Galtime’s Consumer Watchdog Mary And what are the most important things to remember about trusting your gut?
Srini Pillay, M.D. There is a science behind gut feelings. There are three kinds of feelings: rational, irrational and non-rational. When you have a gut feeling, you have to first examine it before you decide if it is irrational or simply non-rational. Non-rational information is every bit as important as rational information. Before you discard your gut feelings, dissect them. You will be surprised at what you find.
What do you think? Has trusting your gut ever helped you in a situation? Leave us your story or advice and you could win a free copy of his book !