How to Use Gut Instinct to Make Better Decisions

Important for your next first date, negotiation, or stare down

Researchers around the world have studied the importance of your intuition (aka “gut instinct”) in decision making. Subconsciously, we are constantly reading our environment and interpreting this information while our conscious mind remains blissfully unaware of what’s going on. Malcolm Gladwell calls this “Blink.” But how do you read people to gauge a gut instinct on them?

Flash back to when I was a kid in China — I lived on campus at the university where my Dad worked. There, my cousins and I spent our days eavesdropping on professors’ and students’ conversations. Campus life gets boring for little kids. To pass time, we played a spy game where we tried to detect who the dangerous people were and then we’d throw pebbles at the them as they walked by. We played this after completing our 1,000 math problem sets and violin practice, of course.

Through years of playing our spy game, we developed a system on how to read anyone — so we can appropriately identify the bad characters. We would watch the someone’s body language and listen to their tone of voice, in order to get a gut feel for the person. We didn’t listen to what they said, since we didn’t understand what they were talking about anyway.

Below is a checklist of things to watch for, for when you meet someone for the first time. If the person makes you check off multiple items on the left column, then you have a negative gut feel about that person.