I’ve spent years trying to develop this feeling to my advantage with a modicum of success, so I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned:
How does it feel?
You walk into a situation that just doesn’t feel right. Part of you really wants or needs what’s being offered, so you dismiss that feeling. Later, after you’ve been burned, you remember that tiny feeling-voice and say, “D’oh! I knew that! Why didn’t I listen?”
If something feels creepy to you, it probably is. Trust yourself and walk away. Take a different route.
When I used to teach martial arts, people would ask, “Let’s say I’m in a dark alley and I get attacked…”
Hello? What the heck are you doing alone in a dark alley?
How does it sound?
Someone says something to you that’s inappropriate, yet you go along with it to get the free cookies. Like a job interviewer who asks you how old you are. You feel kind of crappy but you answer, thinking, “I’ve just been violated, but I really want this job.”
Fasten your seatbelt. Plenty more violations are on this menu. You’ve just learned that this interviewer doesn’t play by the rules. (I know, I know, many of us are not in the position to refuse a job these days, but just staying aware of the original set-up can help you take steps to decrease your vulnerability when stuff starts happening at this job that you can’t even believe.)
As far as something looks, it’s usually self-explanatory. Same for smell. Even barnyard animals know better than to stand in their own stuff all day (unless they’re denizens of factory farming, but that’s another story).
So here are the things I’ve done:
1. Walked out on a job interview.
2. Diffused an uncomfortable situation by saying something humorous.
3. Shrugged it off.
The first one was truly satisfying. As for 2 and 3, they both reek of stuffing feelings for a later explosion of some sort, or pissing psychotic people off even more. If you stay in an untenable situation and you have any measureable amount of personal integrity, sooner or later you’ll find yourself deeply questioning your self esteem.
I wish we all had the courage to walk away from things before they bite us, but you can always start with little stuff, like expanding your awareness to notice what’s happening around you. Like in a parking lot you’ve just entered, or a supermarket line. Success builds upon itself.
One more thing:
If you’re still willing to believe that those cookies being offered by The Dark Side are anything good, just remember her: