We all have skills and tools that we use to further our careers. Studying to get additional degrees or working extra hours to get a promotion are just two of the many ways that are proven to help create career advancement and success. However, there is another tool that is overlooked, undervalued and sometimes flat-out rejected in a work setting: intuition.
Men and women (especially women) are taught to ignore the irrational and unpredictable world of feelings in order to compete in the workplace. We are told that business and emotions don't mix, and in some cases that is very true. There is a time and a place for emoting, and very rarely is that moment in a presentation, interview or company meeting. However, the problem is that most people, while striving to maintain professionalism, shut all of their emotional antennas down – including the deeply powerful tool of intuition. And when this happens, they miss out on the ability to use their gift of intuition to elevate their careers and propel them forward.
Photo Courtesy of The Balance
You see, emotions are inextricably attached to intuition. Our empathic abilities are directly related to our openness to emotional energy. I am not suggesting that we all drop our defenses and cry or rage spontaneously in the workplace; instead, I am suggesting that we intentionally begin to have more of an internal awareness of our emotions throughout the day or in special circumstances. Would you even consider turning off your spellcheck feature before you turn in that important proposal or brief? Then why would you not check in with your gut during a job interview or during an important pitch to a client?
If you are more mindful about listening to your intuition in key moments, you can jump ahead or avoid a pitfall more easily than your colleagues. Giving your intuition a "seat at the table" in your decision making doesn't just happen. It requires intention, mindfulness and a willingness to be still enough to get in touch with your emotions in a work setting. Add checking in with your intuition to your to-do list around any work activity, and you are guaranteed to create better results in your career.
Here are my top five workplace moments where I suggest tapping into your intuition:
1. Job interviews
Don’t just try to impress; notice how you feel the minute you walk through the door. Is it warm and inviting, or cold and quiet? Sometimes we are so preoccupied with winning the "dream job" that we aren't noticing our gut sending signals. How you physically and emotionally felt in an interview or a potential workspace should weigh just as heavily in your decision-making process as what is in the offer letter.
2. Choosing your workplace confidants
We all need to pick our mentors, work friends and coaches to thrive in any organization. Just because someone is in a position of authority above you or says they are going to help you doesn't mean you should trust them with your career path. Check in with yourself. How does each of your colleagues make you feel? Sometimes it's the demure, 25-year-old veteran administrative assistant who really knows who to trust and who really has the respect of the C-suite.
3. Pitching that important client
You have finally landed a meeting with that huge potential client, and you’re willing to go to any length to show her that you are the right person for the business. Preparation is important. Research is important. But when you are delivering that perfect pitch, are you simultaneously listening to your intuition? How do you feel in the meeting? Is she responding warmly or staring through you? As you present, are you feeling closer to her relationally or further away? Don't drone on in the wrong direction. Use your emotional radar to quickly course correct a disastrous presentation or to keep on track and knock it out of the park!
Photo Courtesy of Hello Beautiful
4. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
As you grow into positions of authority, the decision-making gets tougher and tougher. When you are the boss, by the time a problem hits your desk there are likely few choices left in terms of how to handle the issue. If you've weighed the pros and cons for each answer and there is no clear winner, go to your intuition. Close your eyes and imagine you have made one of the choices. Now notice how you feel in that scenario. You will always feel a little better or calmer with the right choice. The right choice never makes you feel worse.
5. Should I stay or should I go?
You finally called that bothersome recruiter back. He is painting the most glorious picture of an opportunity he wants you to consider. If you actually get to the job interview phase of this process. If you are not even sure that you want to leave your company...stop. Check in with your intuition. Why are you even considering leaving? There is an explanation. Are you not being challenged? Are you not getting along with your boss or a coworker?
If there is not a glaring reason, it could be something that you are in denial about in your current situation. You could be pushing through an underlying situation that needs to be addressed so it doesn't get worse. In other words, unconsciously ignoring your intuition. Notice your actions and look at what your emotional gut is trying to tell you. Your intuition can help you to address a problem so you can be happier at a great job, or finally, come out of denial to realize you are wasting time in your current position.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.