Why does Elon Musk seem so uncomfortable during interviews?
Elon Musk embodies what many smart people have in common:
- Their brains take in information very fast, even when talking.
- They sweat over normal conversations in front of large audiences.
- Summarizing is not a word in the dictionary for them.
As you can see in many interviews with Elon Musk, he often stutters and uses sentence fillers like “um” to complete what he is saying. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know what to say, rather that he thinks there are too many things for him to say. Being CEO of two companies, Musk’s brain has been trained through thousands of hours of meetings to accept what’s important and to digest information quickly. Thus, during interviews, Musk is, in reality, taking in information so fast and quickly that he doesn’t have time to plan out his response to what he is hearing. It’s like when the teacher suddenly calls on you to answer a question and you have to immediately give a response while still trying to understand what’s going on. As hard as it sounds, smart people like Elon do stuff on the fly, which is required for them in their careers but not so much in terms of interviews.
Being nervous is also a contributing factor, especially considering the fact that in an interview, the interviewer has the power to ask questions. From my observations, smart people like Musk like to be in their own sphere, where they have control over what to do and how to act. When that sense of control is lost (like in an interview), it can cause anxiety, which makes sense. I have found that Elon has a tendency to be much more relaxed in one on one interviews then ones in a large forum. When seeing him give a keynote speech, I can see that his body language is very different.
Going back to my previous points, smart people like Musk like to have control over what they consider relevant or irrelevant. During interviews, they struggle to consider what should be said and what is an extraneous detail. If Elon wasn’t such detail-oriented, then his companies would have failed years ago. If given enough time, he can most likely tell you every single step in building an electric car and how to sell it. Summarizing that to a big picture idea is challenging, maybe even more for Musk to do that in an interview.
On a side note, Elon Musk was bullied when he was little and was once hospitalized for it, which might explain his rather stuttering nature.