You’ve probably had a gut feeling about something in the past. Maybe you acted on it and maybe you didn’t. If you spend more time practicing or trusting those inner feelings, however, they can give you an edge in business, says Rick Snyder, intuitive leadership consultant and author of Decisive Intuition: Use Your Gut Instincts to Make Smart Business Decisions.
“Intuition is our deeper intelligence that is able to read the room or the marketplace, make decisions from a wiser resource, and extract data faster than the conscious mind can analyze,” he says. “We make better decisions when we integrate intuition with critical thinking.”
Intuition is often thought of a gut feeling, but Snyder says there are three distinct dimensions.
Directional intuition is your inner compass, orienting you with the day to day, says Snyder.
“It’s listening to your gut sense around any key decision,” he says. “Maybe you need to take the company in a different direction or launch a product, but your inner compass says it’s premature.”
Snyder calls this type of intuition “the navigator.” “We all have it,” he says. “It’s the intuition that’s between me and me–the most personal form of intuition.”
The second dimension is social intuition, and this involves being good at reading what’s happening in real time with other people, says Snyder.
“It’s often referred to as interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence,” he says. “It involves social dynamics. It’s not just me and me; now it’s me and another.”
Social intuition reads the nonverbal communication that could be one-to-one, or one to many. Someone who has honed their social intuition might change a presentation after reading a room, for example.
“Someone who is amazing in business, especially sales, often has social intuition,” says Snyder. “They’re good at managing others or intuiting the needs of the customer. I call this kind of intuition ‘the vibe detector.’ It’s being good at detecting vibes in the room and using that data to anticipate what wants to happen next.”
The third dimension is informational intuition. This involves having a gut sense connected to the environment at large, and Snyder calls it “the integrator.”
“Someone who has this intuition is able to gather a large swath of data, analyze it fast, and integrate and synthesize it,” says Snyder. “People who excel in this area are often data scientists or day traders–people who deal with a lot of data points and can see patterns, or notice right away when something is off.”
How to tap into intuition
Seeking an answer from your inner guidance system by trying to force a connection won’t work, says Snyder. “When you create enough space to be receptive, you allow your deeper intelligence to find you,” he says.
Identify how it speaks to you. “Do you get audio messages? A feeling in a part of your body when you have a gut sense about something?” Snyder asks. “Tapping into your intuition is about becoming more self-aware.”
Then be still, and practice mindfulness training by being present in the moment, letting go of your thoughts, and focusing on your breathing. Taking a walk outdoors can also help.
“When you allow time to slow down in order for your intuition to find you, you arrive at a decision more quickly,” says Snyder. “By relaxing your mind and accessing your deeper consciousness, the answer is already there waiting for you. Steve Jobs was famous for walking around his neighborhood barefoot whenever he was pondering a big change.”
When you’re receptive, you’ll start to notice body language, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and social dynamics that will help you activate your social intuition. Sense what is happening with others. Are they trustworthy? Or do you feel something is off?
“Professional poker players constantly utilize social intuition to discern who they are playing with,” says Snyder.
Extending beyond yourself and others in the room and tuning into the whole environment will help you hone informational intuition.
“You might feel positive about the deal and the other players involved, yet something still doesn’t feel right,” says Snyder. “This is where you rely on your own experience and all of the variables involved.”
Learning how to tap into all three dimensions of your intuitive intelligence will help you make a better decision.
“Someone might have a natural talent in a certain dimension, but intuitive skills can be taught,” says Snyder. “It’s vital for employee satisfaction, team cohesion, better management, productivity, and profit. It’s getting to the next level by learning how to use your own inner signals.”