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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

More by this author

Lucy Gower

Founder at Lucidity. Coach, trainer and consultant as well as a best-selling author and international speaker.

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Last Updated on September 23, 2020

6 Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

6 Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

We all know a person with a charismatic personality when we see one. They seem to radiate a certain magnetism that turns heads when they speak. They know how to command attention with not just their words, but the cadence of their voice and their body language. From celebrities to titans of industry and world leaders, charismatic people just have a certain something that draws others in.

For a long time, conventional wisdom held onto the belief that you were either born with charisma or you weren’t. Psychologists believe that charisma is a mix of nature and nurture.[1] Yes, some people are simply hardwired with more of a charismatic personality than others. The good news though is that, yes, you can learn to be more charismatic and develop the qualities of a charismatic leader.

Before we jump into what those qualities are exactly, it would help to define first what exactly charisma is.

The word is derived from Greek and means “divine gift.” (Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something that can be learned, but let’s hold out hope.)

Charisma is steeped in a certain amount of mystery, but to boil it down, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.”

It’s easy to see how “a personal magic of leadership” could be so appealing for a leader and give them a cutting edge over the competition. Having that certain “It” factor might come more innately for some than others, but all successful leaders have at least some of it—even if they learned it along the way.

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Here are the characteristics of a charismatic personality and why they’re so beneficial.

1. Adaptability

Psychology professor William von Hippel, from the University of Queensland in Australia, believes that adaptability is the number one trait that all charismatic leaders possess.

“There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful, but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning.”[2]

-von Hippel

There’s nothing charismatic about sulking when plans don’t work out exactly as expected. Instead, charismatic leaders find a way to make lemonade with the lemons they’ve been given.

This adaptability was further broken down by von Hippel into several offshoots of adaptability:

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  • Being quick-witted
  • Knowing how to handle subtle changes
  • Staying cool amid distraction

According to von Hippel, charismatic people may not always know the right answer to a tough question, but they can come up with alternative answers and choose the one that best works for the situation. They’re also in tune with what’s going on around them in a situation and can quickly modify their behavior to subtle changes to handle any conflicts that may have arisen.

Moreover, charismatic leaders are cool as cucumbers—or at least project that confidence—regardless of whatever distractions there may be. It’s this sort of adaptability that allows them to close business deals and push ahead, even when things don’t go according to plan.

2. Confidence

Trust is one of the most important things for leaders to establish with their teams. When a leader is confident and not afraid to take a bold stance, it allows others to relax a little bit and stand behind that leader because they trust them. Charismatic leaders exude confidence almost without falter.

When it’s a celebrity like Bono or Lady Gaga, they call this confidence swagger as it allows them to strut across the stage like they haven’t got a sliver of self-doubt in them. They have a certain confidence about them that can be felt throughout an entire arena.

Showing confidence isn’t always easy, but it can certainly be learned and is paramount for success. Confident leaders are always going to be those who see the glass as half-full, and this sort of optimism can be a powerful motivating tool for those they lead.

3. Vision

Charismatic leaders may have a respect for the past, but they’re not going to be stuck in it. They have a mindset for innovation and are almost always looking for ways of how things could be better. It’s this sort of forward-thinking that made somebody like Martin Luther King Jr. such a charismatic leader. He had a clear vision that he was passionate about and knew how to communicate it (more on that in a second).

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Charismatic leaders have clearly defined goals that they’re looking to achieve and combined with confidence, that can be incredibly intoxicating to people. Next to adaptability, this may be the second most important quality of a charismatic leader, and how they go about sharing their vision often results in a strong emotional response from those listening.

4. Determination

If the vision is the far off summit on the horizon, determination is that drive that keeps charismatic leaders pushing forward. If that vision is ever going to be achieved, then milestones will have to be accomplished along the way.

Take Amazon’s vision of having a zero carbon footprint by 2040, for example. To make that happen, Jeff Bezos and his team are going to need unwavering determination and hit certain goals at certain points in this timeline.

Determined leaders don’t give up when they hit roadblocks. Instead, they put their head down, adapt, and push forward. This drive to keep pushing ahead can trickle down and motivate those they’re leading to work harder at accomplishing whatever the collective goal might be.

5. Clear Communication

There’s a reason why crowds will show up in droves to hear a politician speak—the most captivating politicians know how to communicate their vision effectively in a clear manner. Those with an especially charismatic personality often have strong beliefs and can be incredibly persuasive both with their words and body language. To put it rather simply—they’re good storytellers.

Charismatic leaders draw listeners in with good posture, eye contact, and hand gestures that work to help connect their words to the audience. They articulate their words to help convey their vision and deliver their message with the same confidence, whether they’re speaking to a single individual or an audience of 10,000 people.

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This sort of clear communication is key for the formulation of new goals and in gaining the trust of those around them to follow.

6. Creativity

The economy is changing faster than ever before, and you don’t have to look very far to realize how creativity and adaptability will drive the successes of tomorrow. So, what’s this have to do with charisma?

Well, charismatic people tend to think outside the box and look for new ways of doing things. This, of course, ties into having a passion and a vision. Not only do charismatic thinkers tend to be creative people, but they also challenge the status quo and take risks to make those visions a reality.

The best managers not only think outside the box but also encourage those around them to tap into their creativity and look for better ways of doing things. A charismatic leader rises to meet the challenges that face them and view problems as opportunities for innovation.

To put into perspective just how important this quality is, a global survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries found creativity was the most sought after attribute in a leader.[3] When leaders show that they have a creative spirit, they come across as incredibly charismatic and inspire others to follow that creative lead as well.

In Conclusion

The most charismatic leaders don’t just have a vision and know-how to effectively communicate it—they know how to adapt to the sudden changes thrown their way and still be persuasive and motivating.

The truth is, some people may be born with a little more natural charisma than others. Make no mistake about it, though—the traits of a charismatic leader can all be learned and developed.

More Tips on How to Develop a Charismatic Personality

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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