Intuitive Decision-Making

intuition-arrows-HENDRIE WEISINGERIt’s obvious why we want to make good decisions. Yet, it’s also obvious that too many people make too many wrong decisions, from taking the wrong job, marrying the wrong person, to selecting the wrong college. How does this happen?

Recent books have made “cognitive biases” the frequent culprit, but I have found a major cause for poor decisions is the tendency to listen to the advice of others instead of using the natural intuitive decision makers that Mother Nature has provided to all of us. Using your natural decisions makers is the act of applying intuitive decision-making. Here’s how:

1. WATCH YOUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

Use your facial expressions when making an important decision. Emotions are directly linked to facial expressions. Before an important decision, stand in front of a mirror and think of the decision you are to make. Does your face show fear, anger, happiness or anxiety? If your face does not look happy or satisfied when you think about the decision you are to make… you’d better think twice, because you will be ignoring your instincts.

I had a client, a young lady who was about to become engaged, do this. When she spoke about her engagement, she said it was right for her, but when she saw how she looked in a mirror, when she was discussing her relationship, she opted out and soon came to realize that she would of been making a huge mistake. Her facial expressions helped her realize that she was fooling herself. Later on, she told me that deep down, she felt something was wrong, but tried to convince herself otherwise because she didn’t want to hurt her boyfriend. The mirror on the wall helped her become the fairest of them all.

2.  IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY BUT HOW YOU SAY IT.

Listen with your third ear… the practice of “listening to your voice,” is based on the fact that sound carries emotion, which is why some sounds of music make you enthusiastic, others scared, others depressed.

When a patient would tell me they were feeling great or happy about something, I would often notice that their voice communicated the opposite. You say you are happy, but you don’t sound happy or enthused.

Talk about a decision into a recorder or out loud and ask yourself, “How do I sound?” This often brings forth the incongruence between what a person says and what is really going on. Sounds of silence or when the person cannot talk about their decision enthusiastically often indicates not listening to one’s instincts/intuitions.

3.  ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS

Emotions are complex systems with three components: thoughts, physical arousal, behavior. Many times, with our thoughts, we “lie to ourselves,” but our behavior speaks the truth. You might tell yourself you have found the perfect mate, that the uncomfortable feeling is just your normal nervousness, but your behavior will speak the truth. One woman told me she found the perfect mate, but when I pointed out that her behavioral avoidance of sex didn’t match her thoughts, she finally confessed that she felt she knew she was kidding herself. Observe your behavior, and if it doesn’t match what you say or feel, think about why and you will get closer to your intuitiveness for helping you decide what action to take.

4.  Visualize & Feel The Outcome of Your Decision-Making

Many times, when we are anxious (uncertain) about a decision we have to make, we can help ourselves by visualizing and feeling the outcome if we were to decide one way or another. Ask yourself, “How would I feel in year if I go down this path? Answers of joy, engagement, interest, are telling you it is a path to take and that you are in turn with your nature. If the answers are different, you are going against your instincts – the “bad feelings” are saying, “This isn’t for you. Don’t do it.”

Not long ago, I was giving a presentation to the 200 most successful women in a major financial institution. Shortly after my presentation, while I was waiting to be driven to the airport, one of the participants approached me and asked if she could ask me a question. “Go ahead,” I told her.

She told me that she worked in Florida and had been offered a new position in a new firm with great opportunities in LA. “Sounds good,” I told her.

She told me it was everything she wanted but for some reason, felt uncomfortable about taking it. A few questions later, she told me she had lived in Florida for several years, had good friends, and had moved there from NY because she wanted to be close to her parents who lived in a retirement community in Miami. She saw them frequently. She said she had to make her decision in a week and didn’t know what to do.

We sat down and I gave her the following instructions. “Imagine yourself living in LA. It is six months from now.  How do you think you will feel about not seeing your parents frequently? How will you feel about not seeing your friends? Does it make you feel good to think of yourself in Los Angeles. Does the type of work you’re doing excite you much more than your current work?”

After these mini-visualization exercises, she exclaimed, “I’ve decided… When I think about how I will feel if I took this job and moved so far away, I realize that it would not make me happy. What does make me happy is being close to my parents – after all, they are not going to live forever, my good friends, and the truth is, I like my work a lot but these other things are more important to me. I think I was feeling the pressure to take a move-up position, but it wasn’t making me comfortable; that is the nagging feeling I was having. It was telling me something was wrong. Now, I feel good about my decision, she said.”

Decision-making is a task for life. Now you can use Mother Nature’s intuitive decision makers to help you make your best choices.



Hendrie Weisinger

Hendrie Weisinger

Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D. is a celebrated and influential psychologist, pioneer in the field of pressure management, the originator of criticism training and the author of two New York Times bestselling books. He has consulted with and developed programs for dozens of Fortune 500 Companies and government agencies and has taught in Executive Education and Executive MBA programs at Wharton, UCLA, NYU, Cornell, Penn State, and MIT. His work has been featured several times in The New York Times Sunday Business Section, and numerous popular magazines. His article for The Wall Street Journal, So You’re Afraid To Criticize Your Boss, was selected as one of their 60 best management articles and reprinted in Dow Jones on Management. He has appeared on more than 500 radio and television shows including Oprah, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, and was the featured expert for 5 consecutive days on The Today Show for their anger management special. His newest book and NY Times Bestseller is Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most You can learn more about Dr. Weisinger and his new empowering E Workshop Experience, Performing Under Pressure at hendrieweisingerphd.com

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