By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Let's say that you are facing a creative challenge and you need to come up with a great idea. Do you retreat, take your time, think it through and then come back with a winner? Or do you seize the chance to be quick on your feet and start spitballing ideas right off the bat? Well, if you're like most of us, then you will sometimes opt for one approach, and sometimes for the other approach. It depends on the situation, the challenge, or your mood. But you probably have a general preference. Speaking for myself, I tend to prefer to do my quality thinking when I'm on my own (maybe that's why I'm a blogger). But when it comes to perceptions of credibility and charisma, the win goes to the quick thinker.
A recent essay in Psyblog highlights an interesting new study confirming this advantage for quick thinking. The study (von Hippel et al., 2015) administered a mental processing quiz to 417 participants who were also rated on charisma by their peers. The researchers found that people who are quick on their feet, responding rapidly and exhibiting a higher mental processing speed, are viewed as more charismatic. Even after controlling for personality and intelligence, speed wins out. It turns out that speed, and not just brevity, is the "soul of wit." The lead author, professor William von Hippel, explained, "When we looked at charismatic leaders, musicians, and other public figures, one thing that stood out is that they are quick on their feet." That quickness mattered more than either mental agility or I.Q. "We found that how smart people were was less important than how quick they are." As with many of the other qualities of good communication, this is not a matter of fate or genetics. It is a matter of what you practice. In this post, I will share some thoughts on ways to exercise that quick-thinking muscle.