Do You Trust Your Gut?

Do you have a strong gut instinct and--more important--do you listen to it?

I have a split answer for this question. I have a horrible gut instinct where people are concerned.  I met one girl in college who I couldn't stand after our first meeting and I hoped never to run into again. She ended up as one of my bridesmaids (Hi, Nicole!).

But for situations, my gut is pretty strong. My problem is I don't always listen to it. Dale Carnegie, for example. My gut was telling me at the beginning to hold off on entering the training but I talked myself out of it with the "logic" that there would never actually be a "good" time to take a 10-week course, I'd already told people I'd be there and didn't want to disappoint, yada yada yada. 

That's a minor instance and no real harm done. But it got me to thinking about one time when I didn't listen to my instincts and put myself in real danger.

I was 25 and working as a claims adjuster for an insurance company.  I dealt with bodily injury claims and negotiated settlements.  Once we reached agreement, a claimant had to sign a release document before I could issue a check. I was an outside adjuster which meant I went to people's homes or met them out and about. One woman who had given me huge grief over a minor injury in a minor accident finally agreed to settle. She had a few final bills to give me and we agreed to meet at a McDonald's parking lot and she'd give me the papers and I'd have her sign the release and issue her a check.

We meet at the agreed locale but she's not alone. Her husband and 3 young children are in the car with her. With lowered eyes and whispered voice, she tells me she forgot the paperwork she needed to give me but it's at her house just 6 miles away, and why don't I just follow her there and we'll finish up?

Every fiber in my body screamed "DON'T GO." I will never forget standing in that parking lot because I actually paused, the reaction was so instant and powerful. But I talked myself away from my gut instinct. I met people at their homes all the time--why should this be any different?  The husband looked shady but she had her kids with her--I'm sure it would be fine.  And it was my job to settle these claims and get this paperwork. So I smiled and said, "Sure, I'll get in my car and follow you."

We went to their house which was only 6 miles away--all good there. It was out in the country and pretty run-down with peeling paint, slanted and splintered front steps, and a general feeling of neglect. But I'd been in similar homes and everyone runs into hard times so no big deal.

We went inside and the woman immediately went and sat in a corner of the couch, holding the youngest child on her lap and trying to make herself very small.  I sat down on the other end of the couch and the husband sat in a green Laz-E-Boy across from us. "Now, let's talk about this money," he said.

This wasn't uncommon. Everyone tries to renegotiate at the last minute.  I ran through the facts of the accident, his wife's injuries, and how I came up with my settlement amount.  He nodded throughout and the smile never left his face. The kids were racing around playing, being kids.  At one point the man left to get the paperwork I'd come for and I tried to make general conversation with the wife who--for someone who had been quite vocal over the phone--was now very silent.

The man came back and dropped the bills in my lap. He didn't return to his seat, but remained standing. He was a tall, thin man and I remember my thought as he paced the room. "He's blocking the door."

His attitude had completely changed. He proceeded to tell me that he didn't know who I was used to dealing with, but he wasn't no GD-fool and this s--- I was trying to pull wasn't going to go down. As he paced and cursed, he worked himself into a lather and it was then that I noticed something else. The kids had disappeared. Like animals burrowing before a storm, they had vanished into the back of the house and there was not a peep from one of them, even though they were probably 3, 5, and 7 in ages.

The man was still cursing and pacing. I looked at the woman who was staring intently at her hands clasped in her lap, refusing to look at me.   

"She knew this would happen," I thought. "She set me up." I started to feel scared.

(To Be Continued...)