BY Fast Company South Africa 3 MINUTE READ

In an age of information overload and overwhelm, intuition is the key to discernment. Intuition is our sense of deep knowing and our natural ability to see reality in a clear, uncompromised way.

Intuitive listening helps us process everyday information. Whether we’re chatting with colleagues, skimming news reports, reviewing job applications, or listening to presentations, intuitive listening is a filter that extracts the signals from the noise.

Many of us use it without even recognizing that we are accessing our intuition. We don’t need tools or complex processes to activate our intuitive abilities, nor do we need to enter altered states of consciousness. Instead, we need more awareness about how intuition is already manifesting in the body, as well as the capacity to see past the distorted lenses of our personal opinions and feelings.

We can essentially breeze through cumbersome messages by devoting more attention to the subtle visceral reactions that take place in the body—the physical “first impressions” that arise when we encounter nuggets of meaningful and substantive information:

  • It awakens us. Meaningful and substantive information causes us to perk up with excitement. Our eyes widen and we take in a sudden deep breath as if wanting to inhale something that feels nourishing.
  • It has a palpable richness. Meaningful and substantive information seems to carry more weight. It feels yummy. We may find ourselves wanting to highlight it, repeat it, or commit it to memory.
  • It unblocks us. Meaningful and substantive information causes us to rethink a stale problem in a new light and helps us move forward where we were previously stuck.
  • It elicits an urge to move. Meaningful and substantive information energizes us and ignites our creative impulse. It feels like a building block for a new perspective, idea, or project.

Even though intuitive listening is a natural ability, it still requires practice to fully activate within us. This means spending more time being focused on the body and unlearning a few dysfunctional listening habits.

A hyperactive mental state interferes with intuitive listening. Busy brains are programmed to hear mounds of blah, whereas intuitive ears can catch what is small but valuable. Watch out for the tendency to overconsume information, which happens by:

  • Spending lots of energy trying to understand every detail in a message
  • Attempting to store the entirety of a message

When we believe that intelligence is a function of how much knowledge we hold in our minds, information acquisition becomes a game of quantity over quality. We form the impossible expectation that we need to know everything to do our job well.

It’s perfectly okay, if not highly desirable, to let our visceral cues guide us toward the information that best serves us in the moment. The more we commit to listening viscerally, the more we realize that what we’ve been needing to learn all along has been hiding in plain sight.

Also, for the many of us who struggle with finding our professional passion, intuitive listening can reveal a trail of clues about what we truly want to express in this world. Over time, small nuggets morph into patterns, and then stories, about what genuinely excites us and what makes our creative voice unique.

Information overload isn’t generated only from the outside. It also comes from within. Most of us have been programmed to listen reactively, which means using our noisy emotions to guide our understanding of a message. Emotional listening happens when we:

  • Focus on the bits of information that we wish to protest
  • Form premature expectations and conclusions about a message

Often, we feel defensive when we are in listening mode. We block out aspects of a message that trigger our conscious or unconscious fears to protect the beliefs that drive those fears.

In addition to being visceral, intuitive listening is also vulnerable. When we listen vulnerably, we witness our emotional reactions to others’ words while inviting the possibility for those words to change our beliefs.

Imagine creating a mental waiting room—a space where we greet our emotions and let them be—while we allow ourselves to process new information before owning it. Does it align with our best understanding of our inner truth? Does it challenge a belief that we need to part with?

In this waiting room, we also separate our neutral observations (what was actually said or what actually occurred) from our interpretive evaluations (how we feel about our observations). When we mix our observations with our personal reactions, we form opinions. These static and conclusive judgments about the way things are can be mistaken as fact or absolute truth.

While the goal is not to disable our inclinations to have feelings or form opinions, we do want to disentangle ourselves from them. We want to achieve detachment, which is not the same as disconnection. Detachment is about loosening the semi-paralyzing grip of our emotions so that we can intuitively hear the essence of the matter.

Let’s be pickier information eaters. Intuitive listening limits our consumption of “empty data calories” that fill us up without nourishing our creative minds and hearts. By lending an ear to our intuition, we may find ourselves being more informed than ever.

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