Recently, I found myself intrigued by the article "Women's Intuition: Myth or Reality?" Because I've witnessed women do some amazing and also straight-up crazy things, both under the guise of their intuition, I wanted to see what a professional had to say about it.
I must admit that when I first saw that it was a man who wrote the piece, I was tempted to give a bit of side-eye. But I must say, a lot of what he shared was actually quite insightful. The CliffsNotes were, because we as women are better at picking up on non-verbal communication cues (facial expressions, body language, etc.), and also because we're more open than men are on an overall emotional level, that makes us more tapped into what folks are thinking and feeling than (most) guys are. At the same time, the author also said that while this makes us more skilled at non-verbal communication, he wasn't completely sold on if "intuitive" was the word that should be used. Therefore, I decided to dig deeper.
Next, I checked out what a neuroscientist had to share on the topic of whether or not we could trust our gut instincts or intuition. Keep in mind that it's a neuroscientist talking so it's not exactly black-and-white reading, but what did catch my attention was this—"Because intuition relies on evolutionarily order, automatic and fast processing, it also falls prey to misguidances, such as cognitive biases."
Meaning, like an article that I penned for the site on gut instincts a while back, relying solely on your intuition can cause you to be a pretty presumptuous individual. Impulsive too, if you're not careful.
Another article said that one reason why we shouldn't get too cocky about our intuition is because it oftentimes can be mistaken for overthinking. Here's an illustrative scenario. Your man sends three of your calls to voicemail one night, you see him two days later, confront him about it and he breaks eye contact as he stumbles through his words. You've been cheated on before, so your intuition is telling you that could be what's going on now. Once it gets to this point, oftentimes one set of people will immediately react while the other will "feed the monster", so to speak, and stew on it. They will set up a stalker IG account to see what their guy's been up to. They will Google track his whereabouts. They will talk to 10 different people and only retain the convos from the ones who agree with their hypothesis. They will mull over it all for days on end. So much to the point that, by the time they see their man again, they are in full accusation mode and totally ready to call it quits—all the while saying that they are following their intuition. Brother.
Why are a lot of people like this? Some are just uber-dramatic and/or have a lot of baggage that they are carrying around (cue Erykah's "Bag Lady" here). But for those who aren't, there is a bit of a scientific reason; especially when it comes to women. The reason why a lot of us overthink is because there's a greater amount of blood (which means nutrients and energy) that flows to the prefrontal cortex part of our brain; it's the part that is responsible for feelings like empathy, concern and yes, intuition. OK, so that sounds like we are designed to be intuitive, right? Kinda.
According to even more scientific research in this area, it is true that we are able to make faster decisions when we rely on our intuition and oftentimes, those decisions are accurate. That's the good part. However, researchers also warn that sometimes intuition is nothing more than wishful thinking or projecting your feelings onto something—or someone. It's the someone part that made me want to pen this piece to begin with.
I don't know about you, but a lot of people I know who profess to do just about everything based on their intuition are also individuals who think they know others, even better than those individuals know themselves; that because they are so "intuitive", they are basically mind-readers. They know what their significant other really means, even if it is totally different from what they actually say. They know what their friend is truly up to, even if their friend has stated the complete opposite. They know all of what the future holds simply because they "feel it in their bones"—all because of their uncanny intuition.
If that is you, not so fast. Something that a therapist who has conducted studies and focus groups on mind-reading has stated is no matter how much we may pride ourselves on picking up non-verbal signs, unless we straight up ask for the information that we seek, oftentimes what we perceive is totally different from the actual facts; that most of us aren't as "in touch" with reading others as much as we think that we are.
That makes sense too when you think about the actual dictionary definitions of for "intuition". Did you notice how the first one (provided here) said that it's about having a perception of truth that doesn't include reasoning? Reasoning is "the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises". Why should anyone feel overly confident about always operating from that space? They shouldn't. No one should. Folks do it all of the time, though. Unfortunately.
An example that the therapist gave was showing up five minutes late to meet someone and the person not having a welcoming look on their face. While you may think it's because they are upset with you, it could be that they just got off of an unsettling phone call, their server was rude or they're simply not feeling well. Since your intuition is telling you that it's you, you may already be hyper-sensitive or on the defensive. That can make the energy of the meeting go all kinds of wrong. Only by asking can you know for sure what's up. Yet sadly, because a lot of people who lean so hard on their intuition don't ask, they tend to make quite a few mistakes when it comes to how they communicate with others (whether they choose to admit it or not); especially if they are operating from an anxious place or they think in a way that is biased.
So, what does all of this boil down to? Does intuition exist? Yes. Do women have more of it than men? When it comes to reading non-verbal communication, yes.
When it comes to assuming, presuming and reading people's minds, most of us are cockier than we need to be—and functioning in that space can do more harm than good. And no, a woman's intuition isn't always right. When we are anxious or biased, it can be wrong. Very wrong.
I already know. Some of y'all are going to be like, "Girl, bye. My intuition is totally on point." Maybe it is. Maybe it ain't. But when it comes to dealing with other people, how about asking them about what your intuition is telling you? That's one (humble) way to know for sure. Hmph.
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