Can intuition be taught or learned?

I was asked this question on Quora today: Can intuition be taught or learned?

My answer:

It’s easy to run into problems of semantics on this. When talking about intuition, what one person means when they use the word ‘taught’ or ‘learn’ is often quite different to what another person understands.

Intuition – which is basically a sense of what to do or believe based on instinctive, faster-than-conscious reactions – becomes more accurate and thus helpful as your familiarity with some aspect of life increases. What your instincts urge is based on progressively better information and so it will gradually become more appropriate to gaining what you want. But it is the information about the circumstances that is improving, not your innate intuitive faculty.

This is equivalent to pointing out the obvious that it is easier to appear intelligent about things you know about than things you don’t know about. It is also easier to be intuitive about things you know about than things you don’t know about.

This is what is actually improving when most people say that their intuition is getting better.

It is also obvious that one can make a study of their intuition and get a better sense of when to listen to it and when not. In exactly the same way that we all learn how well to trust our sense of balance or our aptitude for numbers. You learn when to rely on them and when not to. So this is another form of “learning” about intuition which results in better choices, but the innate intuitive faculty hasn’t improved any more than your sense of balance has improved unless you undergo special training designed to improve it.

Finally, yes, it is also possible to awaken dormant instincts so that the wisdom of your intuition steadily and permanently improves. However, most people don’t know how to do this – even if they claim that they do. They simply appear to be improving intuition in the ways described above.

For more information on actually improving the intuitive faculty itself, see my Great Instincts blog.

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Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

What to do when fear shuts you down

Question asked me on Quora: What can you do if all of your instincts are overshadowed by your fears so that you have no instincts to rely on?

Answer from Gus: There’s nothing mystical about instinctive reactions. Instincts are simply a rapid-response system of the mind. ‘Conscious decision-making’ is a slower more considered response system of the mind. Between the two of them, plus the autonomic system which is supposed to keep the body running smoothly in most environments, they have evolved to help us stay alive and propagate.

Some people tend to attribute some special rightness or knowing to an instinctive response. This is just silly. Not possessing the ability to accurately identify causes in life, they end up “believing” in things which may not have any validity at all.

An instinctive reaction, like any other mental function, may competently deal with whatever stimulus triggered it – or it may not. It may be helpful to achieving your purposes or it may be unhelpful. So instinctive reactions are either appropriate to deal with current circumstances – in which case they make things better – or they are inappropriate – in which case they will make things worse.

Fear is an instinctive response. Something (maybe many things) is triggering your fears. From what you write, it sounds like most of your fears are inappropriate reactions: they are shutting you down instead of simply preventing harm from actual threats (the real purpose of the fear instinct).

If you had less fear reactions, then you would be freer to respond to life in other ways: both instinctly and intentionally. So to answer your question specifically: reduce your fear reactions and the other instincts will emerge.

One way to do this is simply to practise taking over the direction of your attention whenever you find yourself feeling fearful. Simply deliberately focus on a physical point and hold your attention on that point as best you can until you no longer feel your attention is being grabbed by how things could go wrong. Practice doing this whenever you feel your mind racing or freaking out and gradually you will find yourself taking over the direction of your attention at any time of day.

You can find more detailed info on how to do this here.

And here’s another answer which tells you more about the nature of fear: How do you know if it is fear talking to you or your intuition warning you?


That was my answer on Quora. Of course, if you already have the Instinx technique under your belt, you can do so much more … for yourself and for others. Imagine a community, or even just a family, free from phobia. Free to amaze themselves with what they can do when fear isn’t holding them back.

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Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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How can I reduce pressure stemming from self doubt?

Question from Quora: How can I reduce pressure stemming from self doubt?

Response from Gus:

Self-doubt most often stems from over-focussing on what you want to achieve that you haven’t achieved yet. In other words, you’re concentrating on becoming something better so much that you lose sight of what’s already good about you or your situation.

This produces the recoil effect of also making you especially aware of what you currently lack: and it is this effect that generates feelings of self-doubt.

This is the psychological equivalent of the proverbial donkey with the carrot hanging from a stick a foot in front of his nose. No matter how hard he reaches for it, he remains stuck in a state of becoming: which gives him a churning in the guts, a perpetual sense of life as struggle and an enforced awareness of his own shortcomings.

The difference for a person with this orientation, when it’s habitual, is that even when they do achieve things it never feels like its enough. They are still the donkey chasing the carrot.

The solution is instead to count your blessings: focus first on what you’ve achieved already, what you are able to handle well, what is already pleasing about your current situation. From this self-reinforcing orientation you will then discover you have a greater ability to add to what is already good in your life. This is a much more effective way of approaching life.

It may sound here like I’m just playing with words, but working to re-orient your attitude towards self in this way does actually give you greater ability to achieve what you want. Try it! When you doubt yourself, remind yourself of what you do have going for you and hold your attention on that. Greater confidence will emerge.

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Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:19 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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What are the characteristics of a mentally strong person?

Question from Quora: What are the characteristics of a mentally strong person?

Response from Gus:

Abraham Maslow, famous modern philosopher in the field of psychology, identified the most psychologically healthy people in the world as self-actualising individuals.

Assuming that “psychologically healthy” equates with “mentally strong”, here is a list of the traits of such people. This is based on decades of research by one of the great geniuses of the psychological world:

  • keen sense of reality – aware of real situations – objective judgement, rather than subjective
  • see problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than see problems as personal complaints or excuses
  • need for privacy and comfortable being alone
  • reliant on own experiences and judgement – independent – not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views
  • not susceptible to social pressures – non-conformist
  • democratic, fair and non-discriminating – embracing and enjoying all cultures, races and individual styles
  • socially compassionate – possessing humanity
  • accepting others as they are and not trying to change people
  • comfortable with oneself – despite any unconventional tendencies
  • a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships
  • sense of humour directed at oneself or the human condition, rather than at the expense of others
  • spontaneous and natural – true to oneself, rather than being how others want
  • excited and interested in everything, even ordinary things
  • creative, inventive and original
  • seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression
  • Source: Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and diagrams of Maslow’s motivational theory

(Students of Instinx will notice how much these points also provide an accurate description of the Instinctive Enthusiast. I wasn’t familiar with Maslow when I started researching instinctive behaviour in 1989, but caught up with his work around 2004 and was greatly heartened to see how much we were both on the same track, albeit from very different starting points. The path to becoming a truly self-actualising individual is now fully surveyed and easy to travel.)

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Posted May 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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The very best kind of salesmanship

I came across this Q & A on Quora today:

Question: What are the skills you learned as an FBI hostage negotiator that you use the most in business?

Answer from Chris Voss, Author of Never Split The Difference, CEO of The Black Swan Group:

Getting a “That’s right” out of a counterpart using the “summary” skill. It’s awesome! If you do a summary right, you get a “that’s right” out of whomever you’re negotiating with followed by a breakthrough of some sort. You don’t always know what that breakthrough will be so you have to remember “Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better”.

We used a ‘summary’ in a negotiation in the Philippines to take a ransom demand from the millions of dollars to $0 in one conversation. The terrorist had all sorts of ridiculous reasons for the multi-million dollar demand. And he didn’t call it ransom; he said it was “war damages”. 500 years of oppression from the Spanish to the Japanese to the Americans. Economic damages, violations of fishing rights. Injustice. You name it, he thought it up.

None of it made sense and that still didn’t matter. We tried reason for months to get him out of it. No progress. Finally I had our negotiator summarize everything the terrorist said and how he felt about it in one conversation. Give him no room to say anything other than “that’s right”. My negotiator did a great summary and the key part is including how the other side feels about it. It almost sounds like you’re talking them into it! The terrorist said “that’s right” and never mentioned money again.

This same skill of “summary” to get a “that’s right” has triggered breakthrough in everything from a Korean negotiating with his Korean boss to support him for a promotion to an advertising executive in LA trying to hold her price for some work.

The advertising executive told me she was negotiating with a client and was about to give in and cut her price. Instead of cutting her price, she just repeated a full ‘summary’ of the situation and facts to the client and how the client felt about it. “You’re really looking for a good value here to boost your business. It’s really important to you and this seems expensive. You’re whole livelihood is on the line and you don’t want to waste money. You want to put a lot of trust in me and it’s really important to you this is effective.”

Client: “That’s right. We’ve got a deal.”

‘Summary’ is amazing. You’ve got to be willing to let the good deal come to you.

The real reason this summary technique that Chris describes works so well (when it does) is because the person is feeling heard at such a deep and complete level. Professor Jacob Needleman of the University of San Francisco has done some excellent work on listening in depth to someone in order to resolve conflicts and disagreements. These two answers of mine to earlier questions on Quora apply:

Quora Question: What is the best way to nurture a true relationship between a mother and her daughter?
Response from Gus: Listen.

In a disciplined, receptive, respectful, non-reactive manner – listen – no matter how much you might disagree with what you are hearing (or expecting to hear). The moment you react and thus begin to resist what your daughter wants to communicate to you is the exact moment your relationship begins to diminish – and in direct proportion to how much such resistance exists between you.
For a clear idea of how you can listen to things you don’t agree with, see this Youtube video :

I suggest you search out other material from Prof Needleman so you learn to do this well.
Question from Quora: Should answers on Quora be confined to literal direct answers to the question?

Response from Gus: I think the key word in this question is “confined”. When people feel that their communication is being constrained or impeded they begin to get shitty. This happens especially quickly with Americans because they’ve been propagandized (about free speech) since birth that no bastard is allowed to shut them up about anything. The rest of the world might take a little longer to get there, but everybody’s temperature eventually goes up in direct proportion to how much he or she feels their communication is being prevented.

So poor old forum moderators often unleash much more fury than they expect. And if he or she tries to be too efficient, they spoil the game – and we Users pack up our opinions and take them elsewhere.

So the critical factor is not how much the Moderator’s view of what is appropriate differs from the Answerer’s. Obviously, the higher the agreement the better – but people will put up with a helluva lot of things they disagree with as long as they feel heard.

For a happy forum it is vital that Users have someone to express their disagreements to – and that the “powers that be” receive and make clear that they have understood those disagreements, even if they choose not to do anything about them.

Professor Needleman’s work on deep listening provides more insight into how to strengthen relationship despite disagreement: (Same video shown above)

Back in the early days of Instinx research I developed a number of attitudinal first aid techniques. The best known one is Zoning-In (also known as the Concentration Muscle Exercise) described in the Attitude First Aid article available on the Library page of my blog: here
But another lesser known technique – I never did label it so let’s call it the Upset Dissolver now – specifically harnesses this insight about being heard. By identifying who is not hearing the person and what is not getting through, you can dispel virtually any upset, even very severe emotional reactions, very quickly indeed.
(I think the original writeup of this technique is buried somewhere in records stored in Canada, so I will write it up again and post it here as soon as I can.)
By the way, “being heard” is first cousin to “being seen”, the tremendous beneficial effects of which I’ve already mentioned here: Being Seen. If you learn to harness both of these human interaction dynamics (they are much more than mere techniques) well, you are sure to become a very “cooperated with” person indeed.
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Posted May 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Where “now” is

Question from Quora: I see connection in everything and live in “now”. How do I keep myself focused when writing answers without “jumping all over the place”?

Gus Griffin’s response:

You are not in the now, you are in your head. You are so far into your head that you can’t even tell that you are not in the now.

To improve natural control over your own attention you must focus on the physical world around you, not on your inner world of thought.

So you need to extrovert your attention at a deep sensory level, get your hands dirty and exert your body doing physical things. Do some gardening. If you can’t do that at home, better still, volunteer to do heavy-duty gardening in public parks or tree-planting or things like that.

Do that and you will find your endlessly fractaling thought patterns begin to relinquish their power over you.

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Posted May 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Defining ‘counter-intuitive’

Question from Quora: Is the study of psychology intuition-based?

Gus Griffin’s Response:

I think the crux of your question may lie in a misunderstanding over what the term ‘counter-intuitive’ actually means.

For a long time people believed that the sun rose in the east in the morning and went down in the west in the evening because it looked to everybody like that was what was happening. It still looks that way to most people and so that’s how we still talk about what the sun is doing. But scientists have actually known for more than two thousand years that the sun only appears to act that way because the earth is rotating.

That’s what the term ‘counter-intuitive’ means: that the truth is something other than what your common sense or intuition would suggest.

All fields of scientific investigation into psychological phenomena look deeper into how the mind appears to work to discover the actual mechanisms at play: and these mechanisms are often counter-intuitive = working differently to how your intuition suggests.

Even when investigating the anatomy of intuition itself, which I have been doing for the last 27 years, I have discovered many things which function quite differently from how they appear to. For more info about this you might like to have a look at the recent comment conversation between Larry Crawford and myself under Larry’s answer to this question: What are life-world truths without-above human perception?

So the straight answer to your question is: No, the study of psychology looks beyond intuition to discover functional truths … or, at least, that’s what it is supposed to do.

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Posted May 20, 2016 at 12:43 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Quora Q: How important is it to trust one’s intuition?

Answer by Gus Griffin:

I get asked this question (or some variation of it) a lot. Here’s what I said last time:

That really depends upon whether your gut instinct is any good or not. Just like any other human faculty, some people are better at things than other people.

Some people follow their gut instinct and lose everything; others do so and go on to greatness. If you’re not already inclined to follow your gut, I would suggest to you that it hasn’t been helpful enough to you so far in your life for you to put much trust in it.

Your intuition is just another mental faculty like your imagination or how good you are with numbers. If it serves you well, use it. If it doesn’t, focus on using faculties you are good at. The answer to your question is no more complicated than that.

Many of my other answers here on Quora go into a lot more detail about the anatomy of intuition.

If your intuition hasn’t served you all that well to date, it can be improved, by the way … but that wasn’t what you asked.

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Posted May 18, 2016 at 12:43 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Quora Question: From a linguistic perspective, can one language be better or stronger than other?

Answer by Gus:

There’s been a lot of work done in the field of psycholinguistics to establish that learning a word tends to make that which the word describes more concrete in the consciousness of the learner. I am by no means expert in this field and can’t refer you to particularly useful work done in it, but this idea gels with my own investigations into the behaviour and function of instincts.

Supposing that it is correct, then the language or languages one learns as a child are going to make you more aware of some aspects of life and less aware of other aspects according to the difference in vocabularies. Greek has many more words to describe the various shades and types of the general concept of happiness, for instance, than English does. Hence, a native Greek speaker will probably be more cognisant of the nuances of their ‘happiness condition’ than say an Englishman or American.

On the other hand, English has many more words for describing the types and states of work, which may have something to do with the efficiency of English-speaking endeavours. (Maybe.)

Etc. The Japanese have many more words for suicide, the French actually have a word for knocking the top off a champagne bottle with a sword (sabrage) and lots of other terms describing how to have a good time. And so on.

So the answer to your question depends upon what you want. If you want to be happier maybe you should learn Greek so you can manage the subtleties of that more effectively. On the hand, learning Greek may make you more aware of how unhappy you actually are.

I suspect a Polynesian language might be a good one to learn if you’d like to chill out on the whole subject.

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Posted May 17, 2016 at 8:42 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Question on Quora: What is the most affective brainwashing technique used by the designers of the dominant culture?

Gus:

Forty or fifty years ago I might have answered this question as John M—– did, with the answer: religion. But I think that consumer advertising (including all manipulative marketing techniques) has overtaken religion as an even greater confounder of common sense. And, in terms of destructive consequences, the most insidious of all that ride under that banner is political advertising and PR in all its brainwashing permutations.

Propaganda, I’m sure, has been in use since long before it got the Pyramids built, but today people have found so many ways to manipulate our viewpoint that it’s astonishing (at least to me) that we have any room left to exercise free will at all. Or perhaps we really don’t … but I’ve just been led to think we still do.

A good place to start in getting some perspective on what you think you believe is Noam Chomsky’s landmark book, Manufacturing Consent, published in 1988.

Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders, published in 1957, is also an excellent expose of why ‘Big Brother’ never had to go to the lengths described in Orwell’s 1984 to achieve “population control” simply because it was so easy to pull our strings in ways we’re not aware of at all.

To be specific in answering your question, I don’t think you can isolate out one particular technique as being the most effective – or affective (which did you mean?). They all lean on each other to create an alternate reality that we all go along with because it just seems too hard to do anything else.

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Posted May 16, 2016 at 4:35 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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