Trust Your Gut

And your intuition. Just maybe not your immediate interpretation of what your gut & intuition are telling you.

Example: A while back I was sharing with a friend, a series of complex ideas I was working with. I’d recently interviewed a physicist who’d helped me get the tiniest clue as to what Einstein was talking about, and I was weaving it together with some of the philosophical and psychological theories with which I was much more familiar.

To say I get enthusiastic when I start connecting & sharing ideas is an understatement.  I get exuberantly exuberant.  I was talking at a rapid fire pace.

At one point in our discussion, I noticed a barely imperceptible – but perceptible to me – shift in my friend’s eyes. I immediately thought “she’s bored.”

We have the kind of relationship where we can be honest with each other, so I asked her if she was, indeed bored.

She was stunned by my question. It shook her up. “On the contrary,” she said. “I’m fascinated! What made you think I was bored?”

I said I just thought I’d seen a sign she was. I couldn’t even name what I’d seen. My gut had picked up something. I “could just tell.”

She assured me she wasn’t.

So I continued regaling her with my scintillating synthesis of theories.

My friend is exceptionally gifted at self-reflection in the moment.

She stopped me a few seconds later. “Wait,” she said. “I think you did pick up something. I did shift my eyes away. I can remember.”

Ah-ha, I thought to myself!

“But I wasn’t bored,” she said. ”I was fascinated. It’s just that I was still back on the first idea, which so interesting, I was still thinking about that…..and you’d already moved on to all the other ideas. I still wanted to think about the first part.”

OMG! What a head flip.

How many times in my life had this happened, and I’d assumed the person was bored? Just assumed! And believing my assumption was true, let myself be led down the rabbit hole of self-recrimination, shifting the conversation to something more light-hearted, chit-chat?!!!

Way too often!

Thankfully, my friend, being a psychologist and all, helped me explore those questions…and wow, what a change it’s made in how I check my immediate, reflexive interpretations of what I perceive. And being a highly perceptive person I’ve had more than my fair share of opportunities to do this questioning….and learn how often I’m right that I HAVE perceived something, but I’m wrong in how I’ve made meaning of that interpretation.

Exercise: Check with yourself. How often do you perceive or intuit something, then immediately think you know what the person is “communicating?” Have you ever checked with someone to learn if you’re right? How often is it an assumption you take as a truth? And what would happen if you learned there may be much more to the story than what you originally tell yourself?

My life changed, for the better. Maybe this can help you too.

{Btw, for a much more complex and sophisticated account of what I’m trying to say here, I highly recommend Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)}.

What is a warrior?

Here’s a good example of a time I had to “unpack an assumption.”

One of the joys & benefits of A Better Conversation is learning new meanings for words that expand & enhance our previous interpretations.  Particularly for words that might push our buttons or rub us the wrong way.

The word “warrior” was always one of those for me.  But when interviewing a professor of business communication (someone I greatly respected), I learned a new meaning.  A new meaning that changed my life.  Here’s what she said.

“A warrior?  …Being a warrior is a way of standing, a way of positioning yourself in the earth, a way of being rooted.

 It’s that a kind of rootedness in terms of the heartfulness that is important to me – that living in the heart, that kind of rootedness in the heart.

 And from that place you move forward into living. And you move forward with grace.

 And you also move forward with courage – with energy and with strength.”

Now I want to be a warrior.

Thank you Ana.

(Next I’ll tell you how she defines courage!  Read on!)


Another example of “unpacking an assumption.”

After Ana described “warrior” she kept talking and added this:

“I find that sometimes, it takes a tremendous amount of bravery and courage to take a lot into the world.

Particularly when you know that the world may not be receptive to the message you’re bringing or… that in some parts of the worlds that we live, that message might not be able to be heard.”

I had to ask her what she meant by courage.

“Courage? Courage, well….it’s finding the energy to get up and to go out there and to do the work that needs to be done, and to do it.

…knowing that maybe you’re NOT going to feel a lot of support….

…that you’re not going to have a lot of sweet words coming back to you or even feel appreciated, but knowing that you’re called to something

…and trusting that calling.

It’s not out of a blind faith.

It’s much deeper than that.

It comes from a kind of weathering of the soul…

a kind of growth where you’ve been challenged,

and you’ve opened,

and you’ve grown,

and you’re open to continuing growth.”

More gems.  I loved all of this.  But the phrase “weathering of the soul” has particularly stuck with me.  What about you?

Not only did I get new and expansive conceptualizations of words, via my better conversations with Ana (& everyone I interviewed).  I also found new, compelling descriptions of what I wanted to be, how I wanted to live and what I valued in this world.  Because, to use Ana’s words, I’m “open to continuing growth.”

That’s at the heart and soul of A Better Conversation.  Learning how our words can mean so many different things, carry with them different connotations and significance, and being open to hearing those differences.

Genuinely Listening Example

In the Genuinely Listening post I mentioned asking someone why “he likes electronic dance music.”  I came up with that example because I have a nephew (whom I love dearly – hope that public admission doesn’t embarrass him!), who loves this stuff.  Me?  Not so much.

I wanted to make sure I was calling this kind of music by the correct title, so I texted him to make sure.  What followed was a fun, illuminating conversation about why he loves this kind of music.  I learned so much!  And as his aunt, I’m so glad he has something in his life that provides this type of joy, creativity and stress relief.  It was 1 of those conversations – via text – I treasure.

Curious about the exchange?  Read below (copied directly from text exchange, so please excuse typos):

Joan Blanusa: What do u call the kind of music u like? Electronic music dance? I’m writing a blog & want to be accurate.

Nephew: Well electronic dance music has evolved into many different sub genres. But to people like me there’s a difference between electronic music and electronic dance music -If that makes sense

Joan Blanusa: Which do u prefer?

Nephew: Well it all depends on the beats per minute of the song. Personally I have no preference between electronic and EDM, but I generally prefer dubstep, trap, trip hop and deep house. All four of those sub genres could fall into either category.

That’s the beauty of electronic music

So basically, the guys I like make dirty bass heavy music and the guys I don’t like make repetitive club music

The stuff adults hear on the radio is stuff I don’t like

Nephew: For example, if you want a good example of clubby house music that teenager would love, look up artists like Martin Harris, tiesto or afrojack

For more of an idea of what “cool” people are listening to, check out Flume, Jauz, Odesza, or Zeds Dead

Joan Blanusa: i wouldn’t have known any of this if i hadn’t asked you.

Nephew: Seriously I’m a pro when it comes to this  Ask any question you want

Joan Blanusa: i know…that’s why i asked you. that’s the point of the blog i’m writing.

Nephew: This is one topic I can answer any question to or I can ask literally any of my best friends. Electronic music means so much to me you have no idea

Joan Blanusa: i knew if i wrote to you & asked about this you could tell me why you like what you do.

Nephew: After years of hearing nothing but b.s. pop music, listening to Bassnectar for the first time when I was 16 was life changing. For the first time I listened to new music that actually had feelingly. No one was trying to copy anyone or be someone they weren’t

Joan Blanusa: that’s the other point i’m making.  ask a person about something that means so much to them, but not to you & try to understand what it is about that thing they like, and really appreciate what they’re saying.

seriously, can i use this text exchange to illustrate my point?

Nephew: It gave me an escape from stress, it gave me a reason to go out and meet people, I became my outgoing . Yes please do. Use this all you want