Follow Your Instincts? T&C Applies!

Even with instincts, you cannot avoid cognitive thinking processes consciously or subconsciously.

By Pang Zijun, Facilitator/Implementation Consultant, Arbinger Singapore/Malaysia | December 15, 2020

It might be called differently – follow or trust your heart/instinct/intuition/gut feelings…… Be wary of this seemingly “simply the best” advice!

The truth is, our heart, instinct or gut feelings…… can lie!

Of course, they do not lie all the time, but when they do, those lies can really destroy you!


Technically, our very own instincts (or whichever term you decide to use here) are based on the knowledge and experience we have accumulated over the years. Therefore, inevitably, our instincts are limited to our subjective perceptual frame.

So…… even in instinct, you cannot avoid cognitive thinking processes consciously or subconsciously.

It might not be obvious yet, but your instincts are vulnerable to bias and mistakes.

In many, many ways, our instincts are “teaching” us how to see things and people according to their value. It teaches us to adopt a self-focused Inward Mindset – to see people as objects, which in turn, makes things worse.

Let me share an interesting story with you here:

HR calls a candidate after seeing his resume

 HR: Hi! I’m the HR from ABC. Can I speak to Mr. Candidate?

Candidate: Speaking.

HR: We received your resume and would like to do a quick phone interview for screening purpose.

Candidate: Oh! Sorry, I’m not available during office hours but can do it after office hours.

HR: Oh, sure, we will call you back at 8.00 pm then.

Candidate: Can we do at 7.30 pm?

HR: Sure.

7.30 pm onwards….

HR: Hi! Is this a good time for the phone interview?

Candidate: Sure, and I’m driving back home now.

HR: Oh, if that’s the case, why not we reschedule? Also, can you please fill up the application form?

Candidate: It’s okay, we can do it while I’m driving, and I’ll do the application when I’m free……

Now…… What is your instinctive evaluation of the Candidate?

Disrespectful to the HR?

Lack of time management?

Reckless and selfish?


Not committed?

Even worse, a person who is not serious about his career or life? Or a drifter?

After all, we have all heard, met, and dealt with people who are indeed disrespectful, reckless, selfish and  exhibiting similar, or the same behaviour! And our knowledge and experience forms a pathway in our brain to let all these thinking become our instinct when we see similar behaviours again!

Are we all wrong?!

Let’s have a closer look at the candidate……

The candidate’s name is John. He’s a father of 4 and the sole breadwinner in his family.

John normally finishes work at 5pm and then drives 1hr back home.

John is looking for a new job because he just finished his part-time graduate certificate and is trying to land a job in a new industry. He knows the starting position and salary might be low but he’s willing to learn.

However, today John finished work late (at 6:15pm).

As a result, the 1-hour drive home became 2 hours because of traffic.

Being aware of the 7.30 pm interview call, John tried to call the HR for rescheduling, but his phone ran out of credit.

When the HR rang, John picked up the phone; the same conversation occurred.

What is your evaluation of John now?

“How am I supposed to know this?” you might defend yourself.

Well…… You’re not SUPPOSED to know. But you WILL try to find out and eventually KNOW if you care to understand John as a PERSON,

If you pay attention to nurturing and adopting an impact-focused Outward Mindset.

Like any user agreement or contract, T&C is normally the part we pay the least attention to, but also the part that contributes to most of our unpleasant experiences.

Our mindset, is the Terms & Conditions we need to be aware of, when “following instinct”:

When we are seeing people as people, our instincts are generally healthy and helpful, because having an Outward Mindset powerfully informs us to be alive to other people and the impact our actions have on them.

On the other hand, when we are seeing people as objects, our instincts are primarily focusing on Me, Myself, and I. Our “instinctive feelings” towards people are largely dependant on their values for us: are they vehicles we can use, obstacles we can blame, or irrelevancies we can ignore?

Without understanding this T&C, the famous line “follow your intuition” might be the very thing that screws you over, and over again.

Strengthen your Leadership Influence, take the MINDSET CHALLENGE