What Do You Know? And How Do You Know it?

Friday night, my husband, Kosta, and I were in San Francisco. We were hungry, and stopped in to a funky little place with a diner-ish menu. As we sat down in our booth, there were 4 or 5 people in the booth next to us, who seemed to be finishing up their meal. I didn’t pay much attention to them, but noticed they were of both genders, probably in their 20s.After they left, the 50-ish waiter covering both our booths (actually, the whole restaurant, as business was slow), started kvetching (complaining, for you non-Yiddish speakers, but it also has the connotation of whining, and doing it persistently) about the people who’d just left, “Those are the worst customers I’ve ever had… probably raised by wolves. They just don’t know how to act.” And on.. and on…

When I asked what they’d done to earn that stream of bitching, he said that they’d asked him to justify the price of each menu item, asked for everything done in a slightly different way than on the menu, then complained about being charged for substitutions, and decided at the end of the meal that they wanted separate checks. Having been a waitress one summer in college, I completely sympathize with his estimation of these customers.

By this point, I’d detected a slight New York accent. I didn’t want to ‘lead the witness’, but slipped into his phraseology, and asked, “Where ya from?” with a smile.

“Queens, and proud of it!”, he answered. Then he began to kvetch about San Franciscans, in general, “No one will tell you like it is, everyone just tells you what you want to hear.” And on… and on… He mentioned that all his friends still lived in Queens, that he was the only one who’d left.

“Why don’t you just move back?”, I asked, still smiling.

“I’m gonna be buried there!”, he answered defiantly — but he was smiling, too., as he left to put in our orders.

At this point, I just knew that he’d moved to SF 30 years ago because he was gay, and and said as much to Kosta. He was surprised, and asked me me how I knew the waiter’s story.

This was a complete shock — I just assumed everyone would have known that — that he knew that — because it was so obvious to me. We agreed to ask the waiter how long he’d been in SF, his sexual orientation seeming a bit too personal to ask a complete stranger.

Sure enough — he’d been in SF for 25 years. Okay, I was off by 5 years — but then I could have been off by a few years in his age, too.

Kosta tried to pass it off as, “my wife, the psychic lady”. But to me, being psychic is doing readings. And readings are something I do in an hypnotic state, where I’m really focused on the other person, with my guides around me, showing me pictures and talking to me, giving me information I couldn’t possibly know any other way, especially since I rarely even meet, or see photos of, the people I read.

So I really had to think about how I knew that he’d been in SF for so long. When I backed into the logic of it, it went like this:

The waiter clearly loved NY and had friends and family there, clearly thought it was a great place. He’d been in SF long enough to complain about the differences between the two cities. 30 years ago, when he’d been around 20, NY was even bigger and more powerful in relation to SF than it is today; you could get pretty much anything there. The only reason you’d leave NY to come to SF was lifestyle — and SF being the gay mecca of the world would probably explain it.

Absolutely none of these thoughts was conscious. It’s just normal for me to infer things — and they often turn out to be right. I don’t think of this as psychic/intuitive; it’s just what I’ve always done. It’s what used to piss people off about me as a kid, because I did it, and knew stuff, and didn’t know not to say it. I still don’t know if they were angry because I knew things I wasn’t supposed to know — and was right, or because I said these things — and lots of them were, I guess, embarrassing to the adults. Anyway, what I learned was to shut up, and only to use the information when I needed it for my own protection.

The dirty little secret here is that my Dad used to do this stuff, too. I spent a lot of time with him as a child, and he’d look at complete strangers and tell me about them. He did it with a medical eye, like seeing the telltale signs of alcoholism — but I suspect he knew a lot more than he could have gotten just that way. Of course, he never admitted that he was in any way psychic.

I learned how to do it, at least the more everyday parts of being psychic, as a skill, by copying my parent, like all kids do. (Thanks, Dad!)

So this intuition is just a skill, like any other, that everyone can do — they just maybe haven’t been taught how. We all pick up little clues about each other, about the world, that we don’t have the bandwidth to process with our conscious minds. (This is what Malcolm Gladwell was talking about in Blink.) We combine that with what we already know about the world to form an even more complete picture of the world.

So if you didn’t have a parent who modeled intuition for you, how do you learn?  

  • You wonder about things, or people, create a hypothesis — and check it out (like we asked the waiter)
  • You let yourself imagine how something, or someone, might have gotten to be the way that it is — and check it out.

And sooner or later, you’ll find yourself just knowing that your waiter moved to San Francisco a couple of decades ago.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (www.888-4-hollis.com), who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.