On Being Intuitive

I have a frequently uneasy relationship with my intuition. Sometimes I know I know things, but the ever-logical side of my brain can’t quantify it and give good reasons for knowing it, so I doubt my instinctive reactions…until some circumstance proves me right.

Part of it is because of a longstanding fear of being unfair. I don’t want to use a negative first impression of somebody as an excuse for not taking the time to get to know them. First impressions can sometimes be wrong (haven’t we all had that experience?), and if you treat a new person you’ve met with hesitancy or suspicion, thinking you can’t trust them right from the start, it could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, I feel I need to be very careful not to justify a negative first impression based purely on something superficial, stereotypic or the result of anything I conjured up because I listened to someone else’s impressions of that new person rather than forming my own opinion. But, I remember reading a great paragraph once, written by the late Hugh Prather in his book Notes on Love and Courage (http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Love-Courage-Hugh-Prather/dp/0385127723/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1319736610&sr=1-1-catcorr), and it always makes me pause. He said:

“There may be some people who should be removed from my life the instant they enter it. However, there’s a difference between my dismissing a person because I am being controlled by some mindless, reflexive bias, and ridding my life of an individual whom I can see — because I am looking at him — bears me no good will.”

Whom I can see — because I am looking at him. Yes.

I had this experience again with someone recently. This person is socially very smooth. So smooth that I find myself doubting the manipulative things he/she does routinely, wondering if it was just my mistaken impression. If I’ve failed to give this individual the benefit of the doubt. If, somehow, I’m reading it all wrong. Yet, I know my reactions are not snap judgments. I trust what I’ve witnessed. I’ve been acquainted with this person for five years, and I’ve watched very carefully how he/she has behaved in a variety of situations. For every instance where I’m as certain as humanly possible that the intent was genuine, I could likewise point to a corresponding event where the scent of unmasked self-interest was as strong as perfume at a Chanel counter.

But what do I do with this knowledge? Sure, there’s a difference between a knee-jerk reaction to somebody’s behavior versus coming to accept the validity of my instincts because I’m really, truly looking at this person, but it isn’t as though having this proof of his/her insincerity and craftiness gives me pleasure. Would I have been better off trusting my intuition from the first and avoiding this individual altogether?

Perhaps. But life’s not black and white.

Unlike another person or two I’ve known, he/she isn’t so toxic that my core self is screaming for me to cut ties immediately. This person has some good qualities, too, and, on certain days, those positives overshadow the negatives and convince me that, while I don’t like this characteristic or that of his/her behavior, the manipulativeness may be so unconscious, so much a product of an insecure upbringing and other conspiring environmental factors, that I can almost forgive the behavior because I strongly sense it’s not intentional.

At least I think it’s not. Most of the time. 😉

So, I wanted to ask: Do you trust your intuition immediately and above all else? Or do you tend to rely more on reasoning your way through your relationships? If you do both, have you found there are some circumstances that lend themselves better to one of those ways of knowing versus the other?

Looking forward to your thoughts and wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

About Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant is a chocolate addict, a music junkie and the USA TODAY bestselling author of ACCORDING TO JANE (2009), FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE (2010) and A SUMMER IN EUROPE (2011), all from Kensington Books, as well as a number of light romantic comedies, including THE SWEET TEMPTATIONS COLLECTION (2013) and PRIDE, PREJUDICE AND THE PERFECT MATCH (2013). Her latest novel -- a coming-of-age romantic mystery called THE ROAD TO YOU -- was just released in October 2013!
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20 Responses to On Being Intuitive

  1. I’m like you, I feel things sometimes but I’m just not sure. maybe because the feelings is so subtle. There have been a few instances in which the feelings was very strong, about people and situations. So maybe if the feeling was more obvious and strong, I wouldn’t ignore them so much. Like once when I was in grad school (so in my 20s) i was sitting at a park. It was the middle of the day but no one else was around. A man came jogging by. I avoided eye contact and had my head phones on, yet he said hello, which I thought was weird for some reason. I instantly had this horrible, horrible, “get away” feeling. As soon as he past me I jumped up and raced to my car. He did turn around and start back, but I was at my car already. Who knows if he was really a “bad” person, and I felt a little weird running to my car, but I wasn’t about to ignore that feeling since I was sitting in a park by myself.

    I think too, with people we meet, we tend to see things black or white, like you said. A person is either good or evil. Truth is there is in between. We might meet someone and they might not be evil, so maybe we don’t get a screaming warning from the universe. But maybe they just aren’t good for us and might drag us down, so the warning is more subtle. Who knows! But it’s def. interesting. Funny enough, this past week there was an Oprah show about listening to your instincts and after watching that, I decided to start listening to mine more often. I wonder if we listen to them more often, if we’ll start noticing them more easily.

    • Ooooh! I waited until I finally had a block of time where I could relax and respond to all these great comments! Love them ;).

      Lori, you’re right. Those feelings can be so subtle…it’s not like someone’s shouting in our ear. (It would be much easier to be sure then, LOL.) And I know the Oprah episode you’re talking about!! I only saw a snippet of it online, but it was the one about listening to life’s whispers. I’ve always appreciated the Maya Angelou quote that I saw online yesterday, too. (“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time…”) Very wise.

      Your comment below about distinguishing between whether you’re afraid of something based on a true instinctual reaction — versus just a fear — rang true for me, too. I’ve debated that with myself a number of times. But, that situation you mentioned above at the park, isn’t one I would doubt overly much. I think you were really smart to move away. It wasn’t as though you were doing anything that should have inspired a sense of apprehension — you were just sitting on a bench — the feeling came when the jogger appeared and made a remark that felt out of place. I would have left right away, too…
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  2. As if i didn’t say enough… i’m back. lol. The problem for me is not letting my fears take over. For instance, you might be nervous about flying and have this feeling that you shouldn’t. Yet, you get on the plane and the flight is fine. Was that your instinct warning you not to fly, or just your fears? That’s where I have the problem.

  3. Liz Kreger says:

    Kinda tough call, Marilyn. I don’t think that I’m particularly intuitive. So if I get a feeling about a person … one way or the other, I do a wait and see. I will use other clues to verify what I’d been feeling. There are people that I’ve met and I immediately know will be a friend and who will be an acquiaintance.

    I try not to let other people’s comments color my opinion. Did that once … long time ago. There was a co-worker on another floor who was drop dead gorgeous. Blond hair, blue eyes, a figure to kill for. Model material. Another co-worker kept saying how she was stuck up, a bitch … you name it. Well, I was prepared to absolutely despise Sue even before I met her. When I did meet her at a picnic (or something), she proved to be one of the sweetest, most generous people I’d had the pleasure to meet. We hit it off immediately. Didn’t stay in touch after I left that job, but I still remember her fondly.

    So, I’ve learned never listen to someone else’s opinion until I can form my own. I suspect jealousy had a whole lot to do with those nasty remarks.

    • Liz,
      I’ve had a similar experience to the one you mentioned with Sue. Someone I worked with had a lot of opinions about someone else I hadn’t yet met. The picture she painted of the other woman made sense circumstantially, but it felt all wrong when I actually met the person. I just didn’t get the same vibe AT ALL. So, I think those kinds of experiences are an interesting exercise in “point of view” — esp. good for us as writers, isn’t it? 🙂 — since everyone perceives things through his/her own unique filter. I’m pretty obsessed with making sure I judge for myself. Not that I’m always right…but I’d rather be wrong because of my own mistake than wrong because of someone else’s prejudice.
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  4. Marilyn, I’m naturally reserved, that’s just how I’m built. So I always feel my way carefully into any relationship I forge. Time and again, I’ve avoided forming a closer tie to someone whom other friends have embraced, only for that to bite my friends in the bum later when the person turned toxic. I can’t tell you how often that’s happened. Enough for me to really trust that feeling of mine to keep away.

    And then again, even though I am reserved, I have hit it off instantly with some people, and they are all still in my life, still great friends (I can tell you that meeting you after the RITAs in Orlando was one of those moments!). So I feel pretty good about my intuition, and listen to it all the time.

    Like the person you are describing in your post, I have a couple of friends who do behave in a way that sets some alarm bells ringing, but there is something else about them that attracts me. Obviously in their case, the good outweighs the bad, and I can acknowledge and watch for the bad stuff, anyway.

    Great post!
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Discussing scenes

    • Michelle, I felt that way about meeting you in Orlando, too!! Your warmth and genuineness was something I sensed immediately. xo (Plus, I admired you for attempting to walk in those heels! 🙂 ) Amongst my local friends, I tend to be one of the more reserved ones, especially when it comes to sharing very personal information. A couple of times, when I disregarded an instinct I had about somebody and shared a little more than I felt comfortable with, I regretted it later. I’ve tried to learn from those experiences and just be more aware now. In another 40+ years, I hope I’ll get it right every single time 😉 .
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  5. Marilyn, I have a sense of people that has often given me pause. Because I get strong feelings whenever I meet people, I tend to be careful about who I allow into my world. Believe it or not, I can get these “feelings” from people I meet on-line. A note from someone that smacks of something I find uncomfortable, the tone of their written voice that has the same impact as the tone or look of a person I meet in person.

    Toxic is everywhere and our best bet is to hang back and let the person “tell” us who they are before we let them into our comfort zone. A famous child pchycologist did a study of todders and broke them down to three arch-types. The children were brought to a birthday party. One type walked right into the middle of the crowded room without hesitation, one type clung to their mothers and refused to participate … the third type strolled around the edges of the party, hung back and observed the happenings and then happily joined in the celebration. I fall into the third category. People assume I am extroverted, and while in the end I might even become the “life” of the party, I am not one to go willy-nilly into a crowd of strangers 🙂

    In a group or at a luncheon, I like to sit back and let the first group dominate the conversation, I watch body language and other people’s reaction to what we might call the alpha type. Once I know the “scent” in the room, I decide to either sit back or to join. Knee jerk has happened to me so often since childhood, that I trust the feelings I get. While I observe and listen, have I ever found my first impression was wrong? Not too often or not often enough to convince me to open up to another toxic waste of my time. Gee Marilyn, you certianly got us going here. Writers are the best observers and as you can see, we also fall into one of those three categories 🙂
    florence fois`s last blog was …The “Write” Way …

    • Oh, Florence, you really hit on something with those 3 categories! I know people who easily, clearly fit into each of them. I can just see a few friends who’d go running into the center of a birthday party and basically announce, “I’m here! The party can start now!” 🙂 And, of course, there are others who aren’t comfortable being there at all. I’m very much in that third group, too — one of those observer types. The thing I’ve told a few of my dearest friends is that I know how close they to my heart because I *feel* like an extravert when I’m around them…LOL. It’s always so interesting to notice in myself how quickly that feeling stops if someone new walks into the room. I need to start from the beginning with this new person — watching all of those body language cues, catching their tone, etc. I don’t doubt many of us became writers because of these observational tendencies — it’s so fascinating to hear about your experiences and everyone’s here. Lots of similarities!
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  6. Jill Thomas says:

    Oh, do I know what you’re talking about, Soul Sister! My problem is not trusting my intuition, at least not when it comes to people. I KNOW when someone is not the kind of person I want in my life, my problem is having the backbone to remove them from my life! Oprah said once, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I only wish she would have said HOW to distance yourself from them. Great, thought-provoking post! 😉

    • Jill, I know just what you mean!
      I think what’s especially tricky is that people change…and so do we. It’s one thing when we can recognize someone as toxic from the very start — you simply don’t let them into your life very deeply. But, if you’ve let someone in, *and they change* (or if *you* change), then it’s a different situation altogether. It’s more painful to cut someone out once they’ve been there, and much harder to do in a compassionate way, even when you know it’s the best thing… And, yes, Oprah needs to do a show on that sometime! 😉
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  7. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Marilyn,

    I’d have to say I’ve very intuitive and generally I trust it. There have been serious confirmation that I need to trust my instincts in my life and I’ve learned to listen. The problem as Lori stated above, is when my intuition and my fears are both involved.

    There’s been many a time when something seriously unnerved me and I went ahead and did it anyways, only to wonder afterwards if it had been fear holding me back and not a warning from my intuition. I get strong feelings when I meet people and I LISTEN to those. Good or bad, in this instance my intuition is usually right on.

    Great post!

    • Dale,
      Exactly! It’s that never-ending question about whether I’m hesitating to do something because of a fear I don’t want to acknowledge or if it’s really my intuition that’s calling the shots. I wonder about that all the time in regular daily life. Sometimes, though, the instinct is strong enough to override even my doubts and my tendency to second-guess myself. I’m always appreciative of the clarity of those moments, even when I don’t actually understand how I came to understand whatever it was… 😉
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  8. Edie Ramer says:

    As much as I can, I stay away from negative people, or people who lie or are jealous. I do try to keep an open mind. I’ve been watching Project Runway. One of the contestants was Anya, who was a former Miss Trinidad and Tobago. She’d only been sewing for 4 months, and only got accepted as one of the final contestants because Heidi Klum championed her. I felt that she was chosen because of her beauty and personality, and that she knocked out a more deserving candidate. But my opinion changed during the season, and last night she was the one that my husband and I were both rooting for. (And she did win!)

    I don’t even know what my point is. lol I do listen to my instincts often. I’m doing that right now in a business decision. And if a person is toxic or someone I distrust, I’m more likely to ignore her/him now. But in some cases I have to not be as quick to judge, like Anya’s.

    • Edie, I loved your comment and especially the round-about path you took to get to your point 😛 . That was perfect, actually, because that’s the very real way we think…and I’ve gone through a process, like you did with Anya, many times. You *think* you know what someone’s like, based on signals and first impressions, but as more information comes in — verbally and nonverbally — it can shade things differently. Sometimes it makes it even more clear that we were right from the beginning. Other times, the new data overtakes the old and we have to rethink everything. So, I guess it’s really just about a willingness to be open — not just to intuition in the first place, but to changing reactions as time goes on. (Reminds me very much of Pride & Prejudice, particularly Darcy and Elizabeth’s reactions to each other!! 🙂 )
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Travel Delights

  9. Misty Evans says:

    Marilyn, this is a great topic and I’m sorry I’m late getting here, but I’m sort of glad I am late because all the discussion gave me lots to ponder!

    We all click with certain people and situations…and I love feeling that click. Finding a new friend who feels like an old and dear one is a true treasure. Connecting with an old friend and starting again where we left off is as well. Recognizing a new opportunity fits perfectly with my goals gives me a secret thrill.

    I have a strong personality and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way, so I’m working on balance – in my intuition and in what I project to the world. Having grown up with more than one toxic person in my life, I’ve learned to trust my instincts for the most part when it comes to recognizing other toxic people. On the flip side, no one’s perfect, least of all me, and I try not to judge others too harsly. If we don’t click, so be it. There are plenty of people in the world I do click with and I’m happy to hang out with them!

    • Misty,
      I loved the discussion on this topic, too!!
      And I know what you mean about feeling that click — that’s always such a wonderful moment of recognition — a “yes, I found my people!” kind of thing 😉 .
      BTW, I’m always a bit envious of people who have strong personalities and know it. I’ve had to learn to assert myself more as I’ve gotten older because my natural reaction is to just back away from anyone and anything that seems to be pressuring me, and it’s not always intentional on the part of the other person. I think it’s my responsibility to speak up… If I’ve done that and they *still* ignore what I’m saying, then I feel justified in stepping back! 😛
      Marilyn Brant`s last blog was …Happy Halloween!!

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