Like any good nominalization, intuition, is vague, fluffy, and muddled even meta-muddled. It means and can mean so many things. And because of that it can mean just about anything. So, what does it really mean? Well, that’s the whole point. It means whatever the speaker intends for it to mean. And, of course, sometimes we learn to use a word when we don’t know what we mean by it and so use it as a word to cover-up our ignorance.
Given that, the word intuition literally refers to in-knowing. And again, what do we know inside ourselves? And are we referring to conscious knowing and/or unconscious knowing? How else is the term used?
When NLP began, the co-founders used the word intuition as referring to what they had learned but no longer knew, what they now “knew” unconsciously. Read Structure of Magic and you’ll see that they frequently spoke about “modeling the intuitions of Virginia and Fritz.” The intuitions they were referring to were their therapeutic intuitions regarding what to do with a person in order to bring about change— transformative change, magical change. They commented that Virginia and Fritz seemed just to know what to do with people. It was intuitive.
Of course, both Perls and Satir had ideas, theories, understandings about human nature and human psychology that they had studied for decades. Both also had a life-time of experiences with people, trying this and that and then over time, finding what works and developing their own style with such methodologies.
So what the modelers wanted was a model of the intuitions of these two wizards of change. And that’s what NLP is at its heart. The basic NLP Communication Model is a model of the intuitions of Virginia Satir of Family Systems and Fritz Perls of Gestalt Therapy crystalized using the formulations of transformational grammar.
When I first entered the field of NLP, I went back to the books of Fritz and Virginia and read everything each of them had written. And lo, and behold, most of the Meta-Model was everywhere in those writings, as well as many of the original NLP processes! But they were not formalized as such. They were not structured. There was no sense of how they come together and work. Yet they are there. Richard and John ordered them, put them together as a model of what works, and presto! Suddenly we have “NLP” — the structured intuitions of two top communicators.
Knowledgeable and Skillful Intuitions
This is the intuition that we also see in most world-class athletes. They have a strong and effective intuition about the game and know how to play it at that level, know how to be where a ball will be, etc. And they have spent years developing that sense. Is this genetic or is it learned? To what extent is it a combination of both? A basic disposition and a strong aptitude is given a person which he or she then develops through learning and training, and so it eventually becomes intuitive.
Given that, what aptitudes do you have naturally as a talent that you have developed into a skill and that now has become a competency of high value?
Can you now say that you have an in-knowing and are intuitive about that competency?
That is one meaning of the word intuition. Another refers to our in-knowing about our basic human needs, drives, and values. We intuitively move forward to gratify the survival needs, the safety and security needs (order, structure, control), the social needs (love and affection, connection, belonging) and the self-regard needs. That’s another use of the term intuition.
What are other uses of the term? Well, some people use it to speak about “a mother’s intuition,” or intuition as a sixth sense, almost an ESP (extra sensory perception). Yet if a person makes these genetic, then we are hard pressed to explain how, at times, a biological mother here or there, abandons her children or even kills them. In this, if you attempt to use “intuition” as if it was a synonym of “instinct,” you quickly run into lots of problems.
Intuitions for Modeling
In the field of NLP and Neuro-Semantics it is the lightning fast response of a talent-turned-into-a-skill with experiential knowledge that now makes intuitive something to model. So one facet of modeling is to model the intuitions of an expert. It is to find someone who over many years now has well-trained knowledge and sensitivities that allows him or her to do something with excellence.
In the area of coaching, Meta-Coaching arose, in part, from modeling the intuition of expert coaches. I had been modeling coaches since the early 1990s, finally in 2001 got serious about modeling coaches, modeled several in Sydney Australia, and that led to the first Meta-Coach Training in 2002. Today we are now able to cultivate, develop, and facilitate in those who want those expert intuitions.