Both, your intuition, as well as your conscious thinking are extremely important. Yet they work in very different ways.
Your intuitive mind is basically a pattern-recognition machine, which works constantly in your subconsciousness, and has an extremely high capacity to process information. While you go through your life, your subconsciousness constantly monitors your environment, and ensures that you adjust your behaviour accordingly.
Mostly you only notice this when something unexpected happens, which is when your unconscious mind is immediately sending a message to your consciousness and the executive, decision-making part of your brain takes over.
The amazing thing about this is that regardless of what you are doing, your intuitive mind is always taking in information without you noticing it. There are probably millions of patterns in the world which you have no conscious awareness of – but which your subconscious mind understands perfectly.
This also applies to your interactions with people from different cultures than your own. Your brain automatically learns new behavioural patterns, and adjusts your behaviour accordingly. In many cases, without you even noticing.
While this can be a very positive thing, it can also be a problem.
Without our intuitive mind, we would never be able to learn new behavioural patterns. For every decision we’d have to make when interacting with strangers, we would have to make a conscious decision about what to do. That, my friend, would literally paralyze us.
And it does. When we meet people with different behaviour patterns to our own, and our brain didn’t have the chance to understand these patterns just yet, then we often don’t really know how to behave. We are trying to make a conscious decision and go through with it, but often this means that we need to make so many decisions at the same time that we simply get lost.
Helplessness is a feeling that is caused by too many unfamiliar stimuli at the same time
Since our intuitive mind is a pattern-recognition machine, the problem is that it can respond to new situations only by bringing forth behaviours which it has learned in the past. If that is not applicable, then it is much better to use the reflective mind and make a conscious decision about how to act.
What is important to know at this point is that we can use our conscious mind, or the inner voice in our head, to program our intuitive mind about what to do in a certain situation.
Let’s assume that we are negotiating with one of our trade partners in China. We have noticed that they strongly dislike it when you are pushing too hard for a win/lose outcome by shooting away all the arguments that you can come up with. To them, it almost feels like a sign of immaturity, because to them in a relationship one should strive towards reaching a mutually beneficial mean.
On its own, your intuitive mind is able to comprehend that pattern if you see it happen often enough. However, it is still likely to apply your old behavioural patterns which you have learned in your country of origin.
Why? Because you need to consciously decide to program your intuitive mind to adopt a new behaviour. On its own, it will only replicate your old patterns, although the situation has changed.
Therefore, what we need to do in order to adapt to a new environment successfully is to reach a certain degree of balance between using our intuitive mind, and our reflective mind. To do that, we need to:
- Increase our awareness of our thought patterns: this is especially important if we feel uncomfortable, because it is new behaviours we can not comprehend that are making us feel that way. If you notice that you are uncomfortable, make sure that you monitor your thoughts even more careful than usual. They are likely to help you in your process of understanding the novel situation.
- Make a conscious decision to change our behaviour: this is so important because our reflective mind has the ability to effectively re-program our subconsciousness. When we are consciously accepting the new behaviour and making the decision to adjust our own beliefs accordingly, then we are training our subconscious mind to react in that particular way the next time it encounters a comparable situation.
If you are not a very self-aware person, then you are likely to be dominated by the old behavioural patterns that were ingrained into your psyche throughout your life. The only way you can do that is by monitoring your thoughts closely, catching yourself when a thought isn’t conducive to the situation, and making the conscious decision to change it.