Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

On Being a Slow Thinker

For a long time I considered myself a slow thinker. Meaning, I felt I wasn't particularly good at thinking on the spot and articulating what I wanted to express. Probably one of the reasons why I never do podcasts and why job interviews are met with such trepidation. But I recently came across Derek Sivers' post on this very topic and I found it so relatable. He explains:

When someone asks me a deep question, I say, “Hmm. I don’t know.” The next day, I have an answer. I’m a disappointing person to try to debate or attack. I just have nothing to say in the moment, except maybe, “Good point.” Then a few days later, after thinking about it a lot, I have a response.

I'm far more confident in expressing thoughts in text form, but even then, it's rarely an immediate back and forth conversation. I might need several minutes to formulate a response. That's not really applicable in person. You can't exactly sit and stare at someone blankly for 60 seconds while the cogs are turning to gather your thoughts. Live conversations don't work that way. There's no pause button to go and double check a reference to avoid a fuck up. We never like sounding stupid or misinformed. And you can't prepare for every conversation you have.

People say that your first reaction is the most honest, but I disagree. Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s a knee-jerk emotional response to something in your past.

How slowly or quickly you think is not an accurate measurement of your intelligence. Slow thinking is, as Derek mentions, more deliberate and less emotional. Yet, with this in mind, I do sometimes fall into the trap of verbosely answering a question that I later regret, when I should have simply pushed it to one side until I was ready.

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