Literal Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Early in April, I posted a poem about how I welcome being wrong and mistaken after starting out thinking I had to be and always was right.

I don’t know if it’s just a brain-wiring thing or a temperament or a habit, but I tend to think VERY literally, taking things at face value. I have to work pretty hard to remember that taking things too literally is one of the ways I end up misunderstanding someone.

Just as I have realized my strong tendency toward literal thinking, I have also begun to learn to practice lateral thinking. Wikipedia tells me . . .

Lateral thinking is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

Seems like Albert Einstein was onto this idea way before Mr. Edward deBono coined the term lateral thinking, when he said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Just today, I had a disappointing experience of literal thinking going awry. Someone I love is headed to jail tomorrow for a five-day stay. I had googled “how to prepare for jail.” One site said inmates are not permitted to take books into the jail, as they can be a place to hide drugs, but that books can be shipped from Amazon. With that, I spent quite a bit of time looking for books that he might like, and then I reserved like 87 books at the library, toted them home, and he went through them and chose five that I was going to buy and ship to the jail. Once I had them in my Amazon cart, I decided to double check the website for the rules and regs. Well. This particular jail does not allow books to be sent to inmates.

Coming to accept my natural way of thinking as being quite literal has allowed me to move beyond it into new methods of solving problems, asking questions, finding solutions, and communicating. That is, as long as I catch the fact of the literal thinking in time! I don’t criticize myself anymore for this; I just understand it’s the way my brain works. And if there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s being creative in my life.

Are you more of a literal thinker or a lateral thinker? Or something else?

11 thoughts on “Literal Thinking and Lateral Thinking

  1. I am a creative thinker. I know there is always another way to do something then the straight forward way. I was raised to think “where there is a will, there is a way” which sometimes gets me in trouble because I can vision stuff and get started then get stumped and frustrated. My husband on the other hand is a Literal person and it drives me insane.

    Thanks for stopping by earlier on my blog and I certainly enjoyed the read. Never thought about Literal and lateral thinking before.


  2. I think I might be more lateral than literal because I often want to do things the way I think is best, not the way others do it. Sometimes it works, and sometimes there’s a really good reason why things are done a particular way… like assembling IKEA furniture – LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I tend to think most of us have a little of both, depending on the circumstances — with one probably more “dominant” than the other.

    P.S. Thanks for joining MY blog! 😊


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