How do you make judgments? Are you a more rational person who likes to compile factual evidence and remove feelings from the decision-making process, or are you the kind of person who says, “I go with my gut”?
The most powerful people in the world rely on their gut feelings when they make decisions, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The results were shocking to me. So many powerful people seem cool as a cucumber, not emotional, not easily rattled. Journalists like Jon Ronson believe that the most successful people in the world might be psychopaths — people who can’t empathize, don’t consider the best interest of others, and have no reservations about lying or cheating to crush the competition.
So I never considered the fact that some powerful people might just have really great intuition and are in tune to their internal body cues.
It’s hard for me to trust a feeling because I was always taught that my feelings make me weak. Even the researchers cautioned that, “We need to make sure that the power holders at various levels — be it in organizations or in politics — are aware of this potential bias so that they can counteract it if necessary.” Sounds like they’re saying that following one’s gut is bound to end in failure, although it’s the antithesis of their results.
I’ve been trying to ignore my gut feeling for most of my life. Instead, I defer decisions to people I think are less emotional and more laid-back, like my mother or my husband. That’s how I was convinced crossing the Rockies in the snow would be safe and nearly became part of a pile-up just outside of Denver.
From an early age it seemed obvious to me that expressing emotion was only going to hurt my reputation. In a patriarchal environment, women are considered silly little things. A girl could either be quiet or be judged as an overly emotional nuisance. Maybe you knew girls who grew up in these households, where the parents constantly complained about what a hassle their daughters were, but you knew them to be perfectly normal? These parents reacted differently to boy children and their needs. “Her brother was always so easy. But she always had very strong opinions.”
Over the years I realized a lot of the mistakes I made were because I didn’t trust my gut. Friends who didn’t have my best interest at heart, jobs that didn’t compensate well enough (or just generally treated me like chattel), and ex’s who sucked me dry emotionally and financially. All of those situations had red flags in the beginning that I ignored. After all, what did my gut know?
How does one begin making emotional decisions? How do you trust yourself? First of all, it requires resilience. You need to know that no matter what happens you can cope and recover. I always tell myself, “You can get through it because you always have.”
Everyone has a long history of coping with change. Sometimes we just don’t acknowledge it.
Secondly, you have to change the way you look at decision-making. Rather than thinking about it as a challenge that could potentially blow up in your face, think of it as an opportunity. Even if you make a misstep, it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s also a gift you give yourself. Trusting your internal cues means being compassionate towards your own feelings. We all need to feel like we’re in our own corner. It builds confidence and makes it easier to recover from mistakes.