Rely on your gut feelings the next time you have a decision to make. The brain is so connected with the stomach that the choices you make are bound to be the right ones
All the CEOs I know can tell stories of how they had a negative gut feeling about a potential employee, but they went with the CV, colleagues' opinions and the candidate's impressive interview performance - and rued the day they did.
We form a view of someone very quickly and we all use the expression 'I had a gut feeling' when we have a thought or, rather, an intuition. We often have a view or opinion but are unable to rationally account for it. And the gut feeling turns out to be right.
So where do gut feelings come from and should we trust them?
I often hear people say they should have trusted their gut feelings and they didn't. Do we only and exclusively use our brains to assess and decide?
Well, Dr Candace Pert, formerly Professor at Georgetown University and Chief of the National Institute of Mental Health in the USA, has discovered the entire lining of the gastrointestinal tract, from the oesophagus to the large intestine, is lined with cells that contain neuropeptides - once believed to exist only in the brain - and receptors. When I teach people presentation skills they all tell me that they feel their 'insides have been twisted into knots' before a big speech. People talk of butterflies in the tummy so there is no doubt the stomach listens carefully to the brain. The connections between the two systems are so tight that scientists often refer to them as one entity: the brain-gut axis.
We also make snap judgments about people. We don't forget the first impression that someone makes on us, but we form that judgment in seconds and without actually thinking. So can the thinking that takes place so quickly be at all useful?
As children growing up we've always been told we make better decisions when we take the time to carefully evaluate all the relevant information we can find. 'More haste, less speed', 'Look before you leap' and so on. Gut feelings and the kind of thinking that goes on in our subconscious when we first meet someone have two remarkable things in common.
Firstly, they are not deliberate, conscious decision-making processes that we usually associate with normal thinking. And, secondly, people constantly tell me this kind of thinking produces consistently better results. So should we listen to our instincts, hunches and even our dreams? Well, according to Dr Candace Pert we could do worse.
Next time you are asked to justify your gut feelings, tell them the entire lining of the gastrointestinal tract, from the oesophagus to the large intestine, is lined with cells that contain neuropeptides and receptors. That should have them doing some real thinking about you.n
Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on 'The Psychology of Persuasion' and the author of Life's A Game So Fix The Odds