How Do You Know When You Are Using Your Intuition Or Intellect?

Pondering insights from life and relationshipsI teach how to listen to your heart and gut before these bits of wisdom travel to your brain where your insights are adjusted before you speak so you don’t say something stupid. The coaches and leaders I teach tell me they regret not sharing what initially came to them. In the 43 countries I’ve trained, no matter the language, people say, “I should have listened to my heart.” Or “I should have trusted my gut.”

When I ask them what they think is stopping them from sharing a sensation, they say they aren’t sure they are hearing intuitive insights or the voice of their own reactions. Consistently, I’m asked, “How do I know if I’m sharing an intuition or interpretation?” They want me to give them a quick, easy answer for knowing if their emotions or intellect are getting in the way.

Even if you have developed your capacity for empathy, you may still have difficulty discerning the difference in body intelligence from intellectual invention. I will give you some tips in this post but know that in the moment, it might not matter the actual source of your words because you are only offering what you observe and sense with curiosity, not certainty. They can then confirm, deny, or alter what you offer with their words or reactions. Then you explore what they think about what you said.

Accessing intuitive insights

Develop your intuition like the muscles in your body; bring your senses alive with consistent exercise. Throughout the day, practice full body presence. Plant your feet on the ground and shift your awareness into your body. Feel the fullness of your heart and then the warmth generating from your center, just below your navel.  You can listen to a visualization for accessing the three centers of your nervous system in this audio recording, or scroll down on this page to copy the printed version.

Practice making this shift in awareness a few times a day. Then, when you can comfortably make this shift without thinking, take your practice into your conversations. Not only will you be able to access deeper truths and imaginative ways forward, people also tend to feel you are trustworthy and accessible when you are grounded in the moment with them.

When you listen, if something stirs, share what you sense without worrying if it’s right or rational. What emotion did you feel them express? What seemed to stand out when they talked about what they want or fear? State what came up for you as an offer to consider. Ask, “What do you think about this,” encouraging the person to deny, confirm, or play with what you shared.

In the moment, it doesn’t matter if came from your intuition or intellect. You will get better at sharing what comes from your body wisdom over time.

Relax into the moment

Author Anne Lamott said, “You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering mind.” When you must think about what to say, you “squeeze out what is rich, juicy, and fascinating.”1

As children we were very intuitive. Then we learn to use and only believe our analytical minds. Can you remember how to speak what you feel? Then don’t worry if it is a thought or feeling. You speak it to further the dialogue. They understand their own thoughts and reactions more deeply.



1 Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor; 1st edition (September 1, 1995).

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