My inquiry into the concept and practice of intuition among my peers led to many interesting responses. I’ve organized these questions and their responses below in a way I hope you’ll find useful.
What is intuition?
Intuition: 1. a. The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition. b. Knowledge gained by the use of this faculty; a perceptive insight. 2. A sense of something not evident or deducible; an impression.
It’s the part of me that speaks to possibility. It’s the part that pays attention to not just what is, but what might be? It’s the part of me that asks questions in the moment. Where is this activity, discussion, exercise heading right now? How are people responding? Does this feel like the right course to take, or should I choose another?
Intuition is a “gut feel,” a “sense,” a “knowing,” that may not be supported with logic.
It’s about trusting what I’ve learned and experienced, with a little bit of self control. The “self control” comes from asking the questions:
– Is this an area in which I know I’m weak and possibly mis-directed?
– Am I advancing the goals of the situation? (group, coaching client, etc.)
– Could I possibly be generating conflict or creating unwanted disturbance?
For me, these questions are so internalized that I can usually answer them within a second or two. It’s my “gut feel” about whether I’m doing the right thing.
I believe intuition is evidence of the connection between me and the Consciousness that created me. It’s communication on all levels; it’s what I hear when I listen with my heart. I don’t mean that in a sentimental or ‘soft’ way, but rather, expansively and courageously being willing to consider that I can’t think of everything or notice everything with just my brain (there’s a reason my brain is encased in a box!). Through intuition, I can be aware of ‘more’ of what’s available, coming through all of my senses, without the limiting filter of logic, judgment, or reasoned thinking. This is a very valuable tool available the facilitator.
How does one typically receive intuition?
Through active listening. By noticing the emotion and the energy in the room. By intensely paying attention on multiple levels to what is happening for the participants.
It seems to be a non-localized, very simple and sudden inspiration or insight; it’s like the feeling you get when you want to shift position to be more comfortable. You can feel the shift coming; it feels like a pulling or prompting, a subtle encouragement to move. The sensation lasts only for a moment, regardless of what I decide to do after my brain gets hold of it.
I receive intuition first of all via a feeling that either something doesn’t add up despite it looking OK on the surface or, something does add up (seems to be the right way to go) even though logic would say otherwise.
Intuition seems to show up for people in different ways. For some, it’s a physical feeling in the gut, for others a vague prickle on the skin somewhere, for others it may seem like a direct knowing.
Intuition has a lot to do with trust. If you don’t trust that your intuition is available to you whenever you need it, it’s as if you closed the door to that resource. Intuition is the trust that all you know, all you have experienced, all you have heard and seen is there for you. The process of intuition is the alchemy of this knowing and experience that makes it possible to do the right intervention at the right time. Intuition works best when you are in a state of “‘flow.”
Intuition sometimes comes to us when we’re in action, often coming to meet us when we express the courage to act boldly without exactly knowing what we’re going to do. In the action lies the answer.
How can we best use intuition as facilitators?
I use it to course correct, to change activities on the fly (shorten them, lengthen them, dump them, make them up in the moment). I check in with my client at the next pause or break to find out if what I am feeling is a good read on the group. My intuition may not always be right or appropriate to act upon, so I get validation to help me make better decisions from it.
I’ve learned to pay attention to it, and to risk trusting it, even when I don’t understand it. I let my coaching clients and my students know that I do this and that I’m not attached to being right, but rather, to being receptive. Many times they make sense from it, even when it makes no sense to me. I’ve decided that sometimes the meaning of my intuition is really none of my business! What’s important is that I can use it as a resource to help me stay present and tuned into my clients and students so that I’m fully engaged in providing the coaching and facilitation that is called for, rather than limiting it to what I think they should get. Coaching and facilitation are much more fun, enjoyable, and effective when I’m coming from this place, rather than trying to force an outcome or operating from “up in my head.”
As a facilitator, intuition helps me assess the group processes, determine when to change its direction or my approach, guides me to helping the group move forward, leads me to ask the tough questions, gives me insight into what the group may need or how and where the group may be going. Ignoring me intuition usually results in inflexible processes and results
Intuition is linked to trust for me as a facilitator. I love people. I find them amazing and I love their varying energies and personalities. They all fascinate me. And, I think that I build rapport and trust so that I am open to subtle changes in energies, emotions, and moods that cannot be seen or described, just felt. As a facilitator, this means that I can send and receive messages on a nonverbal level–an understanding is built–and energies are recognized sooner than if I were waiting for direct verbal or even visual messages.
When I work with individuals or groups I prepare carefully everything that is needed, but then I let it go. When I start working I am focused on the other(s), what happens to them, between them, and in relation to myself. At the same time, I am self-aware, grounded and relaxed. The interventions I make based on my intuition sometimes surprise me. Afterwards I try to understand how I came to this intervention and how effective it was.
Sometimes the gut feel is misinformed. So part of using intuition is to carefully listen for feedback after I’ve taken action, to see if I’ve done something wrong. I often test my intuition by challenging my client with a questions such as, “I’m sensing that you’re avoiding talking about X.” Here are some important points about this approach:
– By saying “I’m sensing that…” I’m indicating that I might well be wrong.
– I’m also indicating that it’s only my observation, which may not be what the client’s experiencing. If I want to challenge the client further I might ask, “What would happen if other people observed that too?”
– I’m trying to be as nonjudgmental as possible.
The critical thing here is to deeply listen to what the client says next. She might be silent, or dismiss the observation, or argue with it, or avoid it entirely. But any one of those responses gives me immediate feedback about whether my intuition was correct, and what I can learn from it.
Here’s a Story to illustrate this point during a meeting I led a couple of years ago…
We had a diverse set of people who were focusing on brainstorming and organizing, and I had a process that had worked well before. One of the key influencers in the group said, “Gee, Carl, every time we do this you approach it the same way. I’m getting tired of it. How about if we did it differently?”
At that point I realized I’d fallen into a pattern of convenience, and had a quick decision to make about whether to redirect the process. I asked the group as a whole whether they would support doing this. Fortunately my “gut feel” to their responses helped me understand that there was little danger in redirecting and that I would gain the enthusiastic support of this key person if I supported her suggestion. So we changed the process right there, and things worked out great. My intuition was telling me that although the approach was different than I had planned, that I would create more total positive energy in the group by supporting the change. I quickly analyzed the change and decided that it would reach the same goals.
And, of course, I was tuned in during the rest of the meeting to sense whether we would go off-course, or people would feel disenfranchised by the new approach. But everything turned out great, there were no surprises.
How can one further develop intuition as a skill?
Don’t judge, don’t assume. Be open, listen, pause and check in, reflect, be more aware of your own responses, feelings, and inner sensations.
Be open, patient, and set aside your ego as best you can. The more you practice trusting, acting upon, and assessing the results of using your intuition, the more powerful this resource will become. But the key is trust and believing.
Incorporate internal practices such as meditation, affirmations, surrender, and loving and trusting yourself and your inner promptings.
Acting on your intuition often requires that you take a risk sharing something or doing something for whose purpose you don’t quite understand. This takes courage. You can get better at this by practicing releasing your need to be right, and/or give yourself permission to be wrong!
I often ask my clients to imagine that their intuition has shape, form and texture, and then describe it in detail; what does it sound like, where do they feel it in their body; what color is it; what is the texture, temperature and tone? I encourage them to keep track of their intuitive ‘hits’, to pay attention to when and where they show up. It isn’t about proving it right or wrong, but about developing the skill of subtle perception.
Become an intensely active listener, on all levels. Listen beyond the words. Listen to tone, notice body language patterns, degrees of engagement, listen to the buzz in the room. Pay attention to what is working for a group and what’s not. Risk going “off script” every once in awhile and notice what happens. When you notice a feeling in your gut, check it out with your group or with someone your trust. Eventually, you’ll learn what feelings to respond to, and which you can ignore.
What can you do to fine tune your intuition? What action can you take this week to tap into your intuitive resources further? What question is really bugging you that you’d be willing to surrender to your intuitive guidance? Share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic in the box below. I’d love to hear from you!