When Should You Trust Your Gut Feeling About Someone Or Something?

So what do you call it when you know something without using your sense of sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell?

This poorly defined other sense has been called the sixth sense, extra-sensory perception (ESP), second sight, psychometry, clairvoyance, precognition, and intuition, among other things.

It also often is referred to as a “gut feeling” as in, “I’ve got a gut feeling that something isn’t right with that person.”

The stomach, after all, houses an emotional part of the brain. There’s neural tissue in there.

The fact that this sense has many different names tells us it’s a common experience.

Ideally, these gut feelings should have the same credibility as your ears and eyes. Yet both of those sensing organs can be fooled. Why should this other sense, whatever you call it, be any different?

There are cognitive biases, counterevidence to consider, and confidence in yourself to consider.

When can you trust your gut feeling about someone, something, or some situation? It’s often a good question.

Some people have a stronger, more accurate intuition than others

Whether you call it a “gut feeling” or “intuition,” it can be fooled sometimes, just the way your eyes and ears can.

Add to that, some people have better senses than others.

Some people see better than others.

Some people are hearing impaired or deaf.

Others seem to have a parabolic hearing without supersonic hearing aids.

Lots of people play basketball; not a lot of them could compete one on one with an NBA basketball player like James Harden.

While this article might not be able to turn you into the James Harden of intuition, this article will acquaint you with building skills. How good you ultimately get seems to be a function of practice and innate ability.

Intuition isn’t going to reliably see through the backs of cards and tell an examiner whether you see three or four dots. For some people, it may. For most of us, it isn’t.

It’s far better at picking up emotion and general vibration.

If it does work that way for you, you need to understand why if you’re going to trust it significantly.

If it’s not you, if it’s not purposeful, it’s liable to let you down when you least expect it.

Keep in mind, too, it’s a sense like the other five. That means it’s shaped by factors like personality and experience. Someone who’s neurotic and feeling apprehensive in a situation doesn’t have any special insight into potential danger.

“What creeps you out about this situation?”

“I don’t know. I just feel that way. Something tells me that it’s all wrong.”

It’s difficult. The neurotic person is claiming intuition tells them something. How do you know if they have credibility?

If we’re being honest, we don’t.

If you’re the neurotic person, it’s even harder.

Yet, as the saying goes, a broken clock is right twice a day.

Just because they’ve been right once before doesn’t mean they’re right again.

3 ways to become more intuitive

Keeping a dream journal, meditation, and trying to be creative have been repeatedly touted as a way to increase intuition.

It makes sense. The interpretation of dreams and the process of sensing the components of the dream relies on intuition. You’re taking a dream, using your intuition, and asking again and again, “What does this mean?”

If you’ve ever recovered information from a dream, you’ve not had any other way of knowing, you’ve had an intuitive experience.

If you’ve ever felt a warning or got a sense from someone else that they made your skin crawl or thought you were in danger, you’ve had an intuitive experience.

The corner of Logic and Intuition.
Good decisions often incorporate both logic and intuition.

If you’ve sensed something about someone, you’ve had no other way of knowing, you’ve had an intuitive experience.

It’s a case of having the feeling, trying to understand where the feeling comes from, and then deciding whether to trust it.

Intuition is a big deal. The U.S. Army recognizes gut feelings can save lives.

Studies of people in various occupations note how it can help them do their jobs better.

You can sharpen the accuracy of your gut feelings by practicing.

This is the shortcut to learning what it can and cannot do.

You can try using it to guess the winning lottery numbers.

Of course, you can try, but you probably won’t be successful. It doesn’t work that way. If it did, it would be impossible to have gambling in any form. It’s not. Gambling is a big business that’s getting bigger every year.

That’s not a graph suggesting psychics and intuitives will bring down the lottery business for states any time soon.

A variety of emotions, feelings, and hunches are in the domain of intuition. These can be positive and negative emotions. It doesn’t produce exact numbers precisely enough. People need to stop trying to make it do so.

Practice also builds trust and confidence in your intuition.

1. Practice intuition

The first step is to simply try using your intuition. Like so many other things, you’re bound to improve with regular practice.

Practice means setting up a feedback loop of some sort. Were you right? Were you wrong? You need to find out, not just make guesses.

Learn from experience.

An easy way to do this is to sense first and then look for physical confirmation of what you felt.

The second step is to pray or imagine yourself surrounded by a protective white light. You can also ask your guardian angel for protection.

Whether you are surrounding yourself with white light doesn’t matter. It’s a safety-first attitude, meaning you will do this activity safely. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. String theory proposes we live in a multiverse. Religious faith and science intersect in many ways when considering broad truths, not specifics. The specifics can’t be verified with experiments. It’s easier to make good decisions if you feel safe and that’s what’s mainly going on here with this step.

Yet that’s a discussion for another time and place. The point here is when it comes to any kind of activity, one of the first things to do when you’re training is to ensure you’re going to have a safe experience.

Your plan should be to practice for 15 minutes a day for at least a week. Depending on your circumstances, it can be hard to time your practice. Alternatively, you can set a practice goal by the number of encounters you have with others. You’re better off if you divide your time rather than doing it all at once.

The goal should be to try sensing information on one to five new people daily. Try when you’re turned away from them. They might become alarmed if they see you looking at them in a way they perceive as strange. Try to intuit what kind of feeling you get from them. How can you describe it? Try.

After you pass the first week, keep your intuitive skills sharp by practicing at least once a week afterward.

Another way to practice is to sit with your eyes closed in a place with a moderate amount of activity. Don’t do this in an area with many people passing through, however. All of the different energy will be confusing. It’s best to do it in a place where the people you’re trying to sense information from will there for a bit. Good places to do this are doctor’s offices, standing in line at the post office or the bank.

If you’re in a position to evaluate many people from different backgrounds, all the better.

Try to sense what kinds of feelings and emotions are in the background. Can you describe them? Try to discern what other factors may influence your feelings about the area you’re in. Do you notice any smells or any tone in the voices? If you do, those other triggers can help you match those feelings you’re sensing with your physical senses.

It’s essential not to look directly at the people you’re sensing information from. If you do, don’t look in detail at them until after you’re finished sensing.

And, as always, keep dream journaling, keep meditating. All of these activities feed in on each other and build third-eye eyesight, intuition, sixth sense, or whatever else you want to call it.

2. Check the veracity of your gut feelings

Try to verify the information you’ve sensed; close the loop. Being right builds confidence. Was it luck or was there something that triggered your gut feeling?

This is so important to this skill it deserves to be mentioned twice.

Many times you’re not going to be able to do this.

Sometimes, if you’ve got a strong danger feeling from someone, you don’t want to verify this. It’s good enough to sense this. You don’t want to put yourself in any danger testing something.

If it’s safe, say you sense someone is sad. Try to see if this is true by talking to them. Validate and verify as much of the information as you can.

You can do that same thing if you sense they’re happy.

Other emotions that are relatively easy to sense are anger, impatience, wistfulness, envy, and lust.

The most critical aspect of building a sixth sense is objectivity. You won’t feel in danger all the time, even when interacting with someone who’s a verified murderer or has become a verified murderer. The reason is that many people have huge problems controlling their impulses. Everyone does to some degree, but in some cases, it’s so bad they kill someone.

3. Try projecting a different emotion from the one you feel

When you’re tempted to feel one way about something, decide you’re going to project another feeling. The goal here is to increase your emotional mastery.

If you’re in public, you don’t want to send an odd vibe. For example, you don’t want to be in a situation that would typically make someone feel angry and then project that you find it humorous. People would sense there is something off about you.

Instead, try to project a tangential emotion. You could try, for example, projecting you feel sadness. Try not to go overboard with your body language.

Then try to understand how others perceive your feelings.

This is work on emotional intelligence. With this exercise, you’re controlling and shaping emotions and understanding how others go about perceiving you. You’re controlling emotion from an objective part of your mind.

It’s useful in any situation where you have to sell others on your ideas, a product, or to make a connection.

An actor’s job is empathy, actress, and filmmaker Natalie Portman said. If you’re in a field where you’ve got to be objective and fact-based and don’t do much acting, this skill may be underdeveloped.

Why try to develop an accurate intuition?

It can save your life, get you in some interesting conversations, and help your career.

It’s also fun, at least I think so.

The best reason, however, is regular practice helps you not to misuse it. You’re not going to foresee the next card in the card game. That’s out of your hands.

It was even out of the hands of Nostradamus. With the way they bend the interpretations of his quatrains, they can mean anything.

You can do divination like that. Anyone can.

You want your intuition to be as accurate as your other senses. If you’re driving and you see an object in the road, you avoid the object. If you’re in a room and someone says something to you, you understand what they say perfectly. If you sense the sadness in someone you love, you want to find out what’s the matter.

One of the most important reasons, however, is it helps you understand what comes from within you and what comes from outside of you. If you’re trying to reach out of yourself and develop this better sense of intuitive perception, that’s you. On the other hand, if it’s a message coming from an unseen spirit of some kind, that’s coming outside of you.

As always, be objective and keep being skeptical. It helps you act reliably.

You’ll never be able to pinpoint exactly where the source is with 100 percent certainty. It could even be your subconscious. If you’re dedicated to the truth and facing up to what may or may not be in the world, it’s interesting.

A good guide is to ask yourself whether there is any way you can know what you’re perceiving. For example, are you having a dream referencing things you didn’t know? Could it be a repressed memory? Could it be something you did know but have forgotten? By figuring out what comes from within and what might come from without, you can get closer to perceiving the world a little more accurately with your sixth sense, your intuition, gut feelings or whatever you want to call it.

In short, you should trust your gut feeling if your experiences have given you good reason to do so. You can gain experience with this by practicing using your intuition with some low-stakes encounters. Some people are going to be negatively influenced by fear or confirmation bias. Others are going to only have a sharp intuition in certain circumstances. Having well-developed instincts is quite a gift if you have it.

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James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 

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