In much of our life, we take this sense – to know beyond what we see and hear – for granted. It just happens. We feel the connection with another person behind their smile. We effortlessly change lanes when we sense a car coming over before it does. When a friend tells us that everything is fine, we know whether they’re telling us the truth or not.
Intuitively, we know this sense is part of our life – one of the many things that makes us uniquely human. And yet, somewhere along the way, we learn differently. Sensing morphs into thinking and analyzing.
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I learned a long time ago, that when I’m presented with a choice between 2 options, I need to look carefully. More often than not, situations and choices are not as simple as they first appear. The options function as a clue to see that there’s more than what meets the eye.
What would it look like to consciously re-integrate our sense to go beyond the words into our trained abilities to think, analyze and draw conclusions?
First, it’s relevant. The fast pace of information, technology and the media increasingly captures the attention of our physical senses. And, in the business world, we’ve expertly honed our data gathering and decision making skills to support thoughtful, analytical conclusions.
Re-integrating our intuitive sense to go beyond these mechanisms would enliven our ability to relate to others, to get to the root of what’s going on, behind the words. In fact, researchers at MIT recently released a study about the effectiveness of teams. Their conclusion was that women engage their intuitive sense to identify issues behind the words. As a result, teams with more women are more effective getting the job done.
Second, it’s practical. For example, many of my friends take great pride in having a “sense of direction” only to discover that when their phone and GPS aren’t working, they have to scramble to reboot the connection to their internal guide.
Third, it’s effective – though, as I learned first hand, a bit uncomfortable at first. We all have stories about who, what when, how – I’ll share one of mine.
In my first, full-fledged healthcare-technology entrepreneurial position, I was VP of Sales and Customer support – the place where the rubber meets the road in young companies – no customers, no revenue, no business. On this particular day, the CEO joined me for an important prospect visit to a large health insurance company.
After the meeting was done and we were walking to the car, the CEO gave his assessment “That was a great meeting! We’ll have a new customer soon.” I started to laugh – I thought he was joking, “You’ve got to be kidding, that was terrible!” With barely a breath, came his intense reply that started something like “That’s crazy..they said this and that… the right people were in the room….”
Somewhere in the midst of his litany, I realized I had not verbalized the cues I picked up behind the words. So, I explained why I drew my conclusion. “We didn’t have their attention – they were polite, but not all that interested. Their body language and side glances across the table were not encouraging.” And then I concluded “We did our best with all of this, but they weren’t buying, don’t quite know why, but they weren’t.”
Two perspectives. Two sources of information. Two different conclusions. We could’ve argued all day about who was right and he could’ve pulled the CEO trump card. But we were curious about what would happen next and what we could learn. So, we created an experiment. With a detailed plan on what we would do for next-steps and follow-up, we’d track the prospect’s responses and what happened. Though our plan and actions were intense, the result was not – there was no response. None.
Although this prospect didn’t become a client, many did because of that day. We, as a company, learned how to have a conversation about the dynamics within situations. We developed a rapport with each other to discuss both the facts and what we sensed behind the words. We didn’t always agree, but we got better at understanding what was really going on, the problems that needed to be solved, and how to work well with the people who made decisions about our technology.
The result of integrating our mindful and intuitive approaches? We had great track-record of closing business after the verbal “yes”. And, once a customer came on, they stayed.
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It makes sense to use all of our senses – the factual, the actions, the words and all that’s behind them. Yes, it takes practice; along with a sense of curiosity and adventure to get through the sticky, uncomfortable spots, but that’s how we learn, everything.
Thanks for reading!
If you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s a few sources that are a good start.
- Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
- The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky, Alexander Grashow
- Emotions Revealed, Paul Eckman
If you’re interested strengthening the channel to your intuitive senses, there’s a number of ways to get started.
- A meditation, contemplation, prayer practice is a great way to quiet the mind and begin developing a relationship with your inner senses. It’s easy to start. In a quiet moment, pay attention to your breath. In and out. Over time, let it expand beyond a few breaths, into minutes.
- If you already have an exercise routine, consider switching the news and talk channels on your iPod to music that puts you in touch with your movement. Then, watch your breath, feel the muscles and bones in your body move as you do.
- One of my favorites is to re-acquaint myself with the non-mindful books on my bookshelves. They draw my attention to the world I know by feeling and sensing. Sometimes, it’s a fun book – on cats; other times Rumi. Sometimes it’s an art book or a nature book; other times it’s a contemplative author. If books aren’t your thing, go to the web. There are fabulous websites to tickle our inner senses.
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