In the early ’80s, when Toronto’s Spadina Avenue was still home to some of the very best Jewish delicatessens in the country, I entered the lobby of a heritage building. I was there to pick up the final prints from a friend’s recent photo shoot. While it wasn’t a tall building, I was drawn to the elevator. It was one of those tiny, antiques. The ones with the gate you pull across before the door closes and then it moves slowly, ever so slowly, up to each floor.
As I was standing waiting, delighted by the elevator’s creaks, squeaks and leisurely pace, a man came and stood behind me. And I knew, instantly, that I needed to take the stairs.
I can’t really remember anything about him. Only that there was some unnamable thing that ignited my intuition. It told me that getting into a tiny, slow elevator with this man would be a very dangerous thing to do.
For a moment, I hesitated. The elevator was so compelling. My thoughts were “Don’t be silly” and “There’s nothing to worry about.” But my body was rigid, firmly listening to my intuition. I turned around and took the stairs.
To this day, 38 years later, I know I avoided a terrible situation, that my intuition kept me safe. This knowing, this instantaneous wisdom, is available to everyone. It can be cultivated, honed and amplified. And it plays a vital role in storyfinding.
How can you tap into your intuition? What role does it play in storyfinding?
The word “intuition” comes to us from the mid-15th century Latin “intuicioun” meaning insight, direct or immediate cognition, spiritual perception. The connection to the “spiritual” is what makes intuition uncomfortable for many people. They might prefer the word “instinct” instead, which also comes from the 15th century, Old French, meaning animal faculty of intuitive perception. Whichever word you prefer, it is an instantaneous knowing that we all employ – and ignore!
As storyfinders our goal is to deeply understand our prospects and clients, to build trust and cultivate long-lasting relationships. When we tap into our intuition, we create moments of absolute clarity that allow us to accelerate this process and deliver excellence.
Here are two examples:
- Working for an executive team on a three-month contract to identify and solve the company’s sales challenges: During a quick conversation with the CEO, his microexpression ignited my intuition and revealed knowledge no one would ever have put into words. It allowed me to deliver accurate, actionable results in one month.
- Working with a CEO who wanted to be an example to his sales team but struggled with the process: His conversations were brimming with polite and deferential language. My intuition prompted me to ask him about his upbringing. His family, going back many generations, was deeply religious and spiritual. With this insight we were able to create a subtle distinction between his personal preferences and his business language … and he embraced sales conversations.
The first step to working with your own intuition is … acknowledging you have it.
Everyone does. The challenge is that it’s not logical. It isn’t a cognitive ability. And it isn’t really an emotional reaction. It’s sudden wisdom, so exceptional and unexpected we are all tempted to ignore it. Or to start analyzing, considering, debating. And this is when it evaporates, leaving us with thoughts and ideas that lack a deeper truth.
“Let’s not go and ruin it by thinking too much.” – Clint Eastwood
How can we cultivate, practice and support our intuition? We want to set aside our assumptions and our intent. We want to bring our empathy and vulnerability to our conversations. We want to stay curious and be alert for the subtle nuances of silence, body language and words. And we want to listen, not only to our prospects and clients but also to ourselves. Meditation, journaling, walking, hiking, doodling and taking time away from technology all contribute to our ability to tap into our intuition.
Then, we need to act on it – quickly – before our logic or emotions take charge. It is by trusting our intuition that we come to fully understand its wisdom and its power.
What’s your experience with intuition? Feel free to share your stories below.