This letter to Ask Polly

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This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Caffeinated on Fri Nov 06, 2015 2:47 pm

This letter to Ask Polly, and especially the response, really hit me. The letter writer writes in saying about being depressed and anxious and high IQ but undereducated and underemployed and about feeling so desperate and frustrated and wishing to just be able to turn off the constant noise of a busy busy brain. And the response is so good. Here's one part that I especially loved:

You claim to want change — SOMEONE HELP ME CHANGE! — but you fear it, because changing would mean being regular, normal, not special.

You keep saying you're smart as hell but also an idiot, lucky but also cursed, the victim of a superior processor but also an ingrate who's never amounted to much. I think you should consider what it might feel like to be an average person instead, one who has to work very hard just to survive and make something of herself, one who is not either amazing or terrible but just mortal, clumsy, imperfect. Most of us fit into this category. We might be smart, sure, but if we listen closely we can tell that other people are obviously smart, too. A lot of them aren't aware of how smart they are. A lot of them also have brains that tell them that they're not good enough, that they need more, more, more just to exist.

Trust me that you don't need shiny, prettily broken, wildly popular people to keep you interested. You need to join the realm of the regular, and forgive yourself for being regular, and then you'll forgive other people for being regular, too. When you tell yourself that only Very Special people can keep you interested, what you're essentially saying is that you yourself have to be Very Special to be acceptable, to deserve love, to deserve a rest. You can't relax in this realm of super-specialness because your head tells you that you're ALWAYS DOING EVERYTHING WRONG. No one else is good enough, and you’re not good enough, either.

Here's the link: http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/11/ask-polly-am-i-too-smart-for-my-own-good.html

Does that speak to anyone else as loud as it did to me? What do you think about it?
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Enail on Fri Nov 06, 2015 3:00 pm

Interesting. The letter as a whole didn't speak directly to me in the conclusions about shame and fear and forgiveness, but there's definitely something in it that rings true.

I think it would have been very helpful to me as a teenager to hear the part about joining the realm of the regular and being an ordinary person who has to work hard to make something of herself. I had that idea of a curse of specialness, being just too smart and creative to be able to deal with the ordinary hardships of life.  It's something I think I've sort of learned since then, but it took me a long time and a lot of slow-burn, frustrated angst, as well as some painful shocks.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:26 pm

Personal Opinion: This Polly character has no idea what they're talking about.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Werel on Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:35 pm

I think blaming personal adversity on a perception of oneself as unusually, exceptionally [X] is always something that merits a friendly smackdown (and she did a good job with "an IQ test 20 years ago? F'real? Side-eye"). And I think her bit about peace being found in focusing most of your brain outwards has some real truth to it. But I also wasn't sure about the shame spiral conclusion, nor the assertion that if LW would just dismantle her ego, she'd be able to be interested/invested in more people. I think some folks are just not strongly drawn to many people, and that's something to be lived with and worked around rather than trying to force passionate interest in people who just don't interest you that much.

bomaye wrote:Personal Opinion: This Polly character has no idea what they're talking about.
Laughing Any parts in particular?
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:02 pm


There's been visceral disgust in some reactions no matter how careful I am about it. I've learned not to talk about it. I am very good at blending in. People usually like me, but it's not earned. They like the puppet I've created, the one who knows how to act like a healthy person with a normal brain.

Because this.

This letter writer already knows how to act normal and regular. The reason she knows is because acting not-normal and not-regular is not rewarded by regular people.

Those IQ tests or whatever tend to look for information retention and pattern recognition, which if you're strong in those traits you tend to be pretty off elsewhere. Polly tries to do that thing where not-as-smart-people try to equalize what being smart means, without realizing how difficult it is for that type of person to relate to other people on a non-sock puppet level, and how little leeway you get with "regular" people when you actually try to. You can be fine with working a dead-end job, but reveal your intelligence and people who aren't that smart will be insulted that you're not using something they don't have to get somewhere they (don't think they) can ever be, or they'll think you're trying to show off or prove you're smarter than them, etc.

I think it's also very disingenuous for Polly to equate stepping down off the "pedestal" (aka her college age special-snowflake phase) with something that's been an issue with this person for most of their life. That's like telling a paraplegic that you had back problems for a few years there but then you went to a chiropractor and everything's a-okay.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:03 pm

The LW sounds like my ex, except he did not have depression. He was just convinced he was the smartest person in the world who was "above all the petty considerations" of the plebes.

Me, I am and always have been a plebe. I am not intelligent in the way my ex or the LW are, so I never was in a position where I felt superior to anyone. In an odd way, now that I am out of school, I appreciate having my "low, peasant cunning" (ex's description) and am not so sad about not being intelligent. But man, back in the day, I really wanted to be like the LW or my ex and be one of the smart ones!
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Werel on Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:27 pm

reboot wrote:"low, peasant cunning" (ex's description)
I loathe every single thing I read about your ex, but this trait sounds motherfucking boss and I would wear it like a medal if I were you.

bomaye wrote:Polly tries to do that thing where not-as-smart-people try to equalize what being smart means, without realizing how difficult it is for that type of person to relate to other people on a non-sock puppet level, and how little leeway you get with "regular" people when you actually try to.
I definitely have had awkward moments at retail jobs where most of my coworkers were not academic-smart types (espeeeeecially the weed dispensary Laughing), and when they caught wind of the fact that I had a grad degree and was booksmart in some ways, or when that fact came up in conversation, there were sometimes minor Uh-oh-type vibes. But on the whole, I also think of my relationships with those coworkers as pretty friendly and simpatico. There was a boundary between us produced by our different levels of formal education-type smarts, and their discomfort with that, but it wasn't a bigger deal than all the other kinds of boundaries between us, like differences in physical attractiveness or ethnic background or political orientation. It was there, but it was about as surmountable as other barriers (which is to say, surmountable enough).

Basically, this letter makes me wonder if "smart people can't really connect with less smart people" is a real thing, or if it's either a) related to what bomaye is saying about a possible correlation between IQ-tested smarts and deficits in other intelligences, or b) a go-to excuse for smart people who are not, themselves, actually interested in connecting with people less smart than them but would feel it was impolitic to actually say that. Or maybe something else? This "intelligence as socially isolating characteristic vs. scapegoat for isolation" thing has been churning around in my brain since I was in middle school feeling like I'd always be lonely and miserable because I was So Deep & Fulla Truths Unlike These Happy Plastics, so I'm wondering how other folks see it. Razz
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:46 pm

reboot wrote:
Me, I am and always have been a plebe. I am not intelligent in the way my ex or the LW are, so I never was in a position where I felt superior to anyone. In an odd way, now that I am out of school, I appreciate having my "low, peasant cunning" (ex's description) and am not so sad about not being intelligent. But man, back in the day, I really wanted to be like the LW or my ex and be one of the smart ones!

I read a difference between your ex and the LW. Almost opposites. Your ex IS an example of someone who puts their intelligence on the pedestal, whereas the LW recognizes their own intelligence but hides it because other people don't react well to it.


Basically, this letter makes me wonder if "smart people can't really connect with less smart people" is a real thing, or if it's either a) related to what bomaye is saying about a possible correlation between IQ-tested smarts and deficits in other intelligences, or b) a go-to excuse for smart people who are not, themselves, actually interested in connecting with people less smart than them but would feel it was impolitic to actually say that. Or maybe something else? This "intelligence as socially isolating characteristic vs. scapegoat for isolation" thing has been churning around in my brain since I was in middle school feeling like I'd always be lonely and miserable because I was So Deep & Fulla Truths Unlike These Happy Plastics, so I'm wondering how other folks see it. Razz

It's having a generalized conversation with your peers, and they talk about something that you already know the answer to, and if you give them the answer, they laugh you off because it sounds ridiculous to them, or it breaks up the flow of the conversation (the talking is more important than the subject), or it sets you apart for knowing things that they don't, or they resent it because no one likes a know-it-all. So you kind of just say nothing, and then they wonder why you're so quiet.

Obviously it doesn't apply to everything (an electrician will know a lot more about electricity than a fisherman probably will, regardless how smart either of them are), but without the sock-puppet, it'll be run into often enough
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Enail on Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:52 pm

Werel wrote:
Basically, this letter makes me wonder if "smart people can't really connect with less smart people" is a real thing, or if it's either a) related to what bomaye is saying about a possible correlation between IQ-tested smarts and deficits in other intelligences, or b) a go-to excuse for smart people who are not, themselves, actually interested in connecting with people less smart than them but would feel it was impolitic to actually say that. Or maybe something else? This "intelligence as socially isolating characteristic vs. scapegoat for isolation" thing has been churning around in my brain since I was in middle school feeling like I'd always be lonely and miserable because I was So Deep & Fulla Truths Unlike These Happy Plastics, so I'm wondering how other folks see it. Razz

For me, at least, I think there's some of both. With some people, there is incomprehension or even hostility towards academic-type smarts; with some people, I just don't want to bridge that gap because I don't see anywhere it could lead that I want to go (and sometimes it's in an arrogant So Deep way and sometimes it's just a 'not enough in common to want to interact further' way). And sometimes it's hard to tell one from the other, which is something I had much more trouble with when I was younger. (And also, there are more smart people out there, both in the academic smarts sense and in other ways that I mightn't have recognized in the past but that also allow for interesting thoughts and intelligent discussion, than I ever realized as a teenager)

And then on top of that, there's social skills or lack thereof making it easier/harder to either lay low and pretend to get along, or to find genuine ways of making it comfortable for the other person and connecting while still being yourself. I think the latter is much harder, but I've yet to figure out if it depends on social skill or on... open-mindedness? openness? curiousity? I'm not sure what, exactly, because I'm not very good at it, but something that's the opposite of arrogance or defensiveness or something like that?
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:25 pm

bomaye wrote:
reboot wrote:
Me, I am and always have been a plebe. I am not intelligent in the way my ex or the LW are, so I never was in a position where I felt superior to anyone. In an odd way, now that I am out of school, I appreciate having my "low, peasant cunning" (ex's description) and am not so sad about not being intelligent. But man, back in the day, I really wanted to be like the LW or my ex and be one of the smart ones!

I read a difference between your ex and the LW. Almost opposites. Your ex IS an example of someone who puts their intelligence on the pedestal, whereas the LW recognizes their own intelligence but hides it because other people don't react well to it.

Yes and no. He and the LW feel that they are marked/cursed by intelligence in the world of the plebes. My ex felt it was his intelligence and the envy of others because of it that led him to fail and underachieve. Swap the LWs depression (which is real and more excusable) for envy and you have my ex. They both feel that their exceptional intelligence marks them out and controls their life and their brains are unique and hungrier than anyone else.

@Werel, now that I am older, I wear my low peasant cunning with pride. Peasants endure Smile

@enail in the case of my ex, it was unwillingness to conform that led him to not only neglect, but flaunt, social norms. He was lucky at first, in that he found a mentor much like himself who enjoyed being the "academic, radical, bad boy genius" and that sheltered him up to his post doc. Then his mentor died and the "bad boy rebel genius" act did not fly.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Werel on Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:50 pm

Enail wrote:And then on top of that, there's social skills or lack thereof making it easier/harder to either lay low and pretend to get along, or to find genuine ways of making it comfortable for the other person and connecting while still being yourself. I think the latter is much harder, but I've yet to figure out if it depends on social skill or on... open-mindedness? openness? curiousity? I'm not sure what, exactly, because I'm not very good at it, but something that's the opposite of arrogance or defensiveness or something like that?

Yeah, you make a really good point about the social skill required to navigate any kind of interpersonal barrier, but especially ones as fraught with emotion and judgment as intelligence (esp. socially recognized types of intelligence). People get their backs way up about not feeling/being as smart as other folks, which provides a good motivation for me to lay low/"pass" in low-stakes social situations where I suspect coming off like a smartypants will be taken poorly.

But that latter thing, where you make your smartypants-ness comfortable for the other person, is harder, but probably doesn't preclude real connection in the way that hiding/laying low does. When I'm dealing with people who are very clearly smarter than me and not trying to hide it, like "oh shit the computing power of my whole brain is just one minor subsection of your brain" smarter, I am most quickly put at ease when they treat their intelligence like a funny roll of the dice, a personal quirk like any other. When they treat being smart like not a big deal, seem to really believe it, and put forth the effort to communicate in a way that's accessible to me without being patronizing. And you know, I think it's people who are really smart but also not... arrogant? defensive? about their intelligence who are most capable of pulling it off. If a person doesn't have much baggage around their intelligence, it seems easier for others to let go of theirs.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:52 pm

reboot wrote:
They both feel that their exceptional intelligence marks them out and controls their life and their brains are unique and hungrier than anyone else.

But that's an objective truth. The higher up the brain scale you are (the same with the lower you are), the harder it is to find similarly minded people. Being smart does not automatically connect you to other smarty-pants, you still have to have compatible personalities or interests or whatever else connects people too.

Using your ex as an example, he found one bad-boy rebel genius type who "got him" even if his attitude sucked. How hard is it for someone with moderate intelligence to find a group of bad-boys to hang out with. Go to a bar on the weekend, problem solved, moderate people are literally everywhere you look.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:06 pm

bomaye wrote:
reboot wrote:
They both feel that their exceptional intelligence marks them out and controls their life and their brains are unique and hungrier than anyone else.

But that's an objective truth. The higher up the brain scale you are (the same with the lower you are), the harder it is to find similarly minded people. Being smart does not automatically connect you to other smarty-pants, you still have to have compatible personalities or interests or whatever else connects people too.

Using your ex as an example, he found one bad-boy rebel genius type who "got him" even if his attitude sucked. How hard is it for someone with moderate intelligence to find a group of bad-boys to hang out with. Go to a bar on the weekend, problem solved, moderate people are literally everywhere you look.

Yeah, I know, I am a moderate plebe.

The thing is, my ex knew enough to know how to function in social settings, but his contempt for "the plebes" led him to be deliberately unkind to anyone he saw as "inferior". You enjoy any screen based entertainment? Brainwashed moron sucking up shiny pap to keep you quiet and passive. You read fiction? Escapist loser who wasted their time in fantasy. Ad nauseum.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:13 pm

Werel wrote:
But that latter thing, where you make your smartypants-ness comfortable for the other person, is harder, but probably doesn't preclude real connection in the way that hiding/laying low does. When I'm dealing with people who are very clearly smarter than me and not trying to hide it, like "oh shit the computing power of my whole brain is just one minor subsection of your brain" smarter, I am most quickly put at ease when they treat their intelligence like a funny roll of the dice, a personal quirk like any other. When they treat being smart like not a big deal, seem to really believe it, and put forth the effort to communicate in a way that's accessible to me without being patronizing. And you know, I think it's people who are really smart but also not... arrogant? defensive? about their intelligence who are most capable of pulling it off. If a person doesn't have much baggage around their intelligence, it seems easier for others to let go of theirs.

It also requires the "you" in that kind of situation to be open to being talked down to. Making something accessible is dumbing something down regardless of how it's dressed up. A curious mind loves that kind of thing, a non-curious mind or someone who doesn't like smartypants people or is otherwise not a fan of being reminded of what they don't know doesn't like it no matter what.

There's also the classic star player/coach problem. Star players in sports are really good at what they do, and they often make bad coaches, because they don't know how to explain something that comes natural to them to people that it doesn't come natural to. A lot of the best coaches are failed players, because they had less to work with and had to try make up for it with learning tricks, positioning, shortcuts and how to be useful in a support capacity, which half of coaching is sizing up player skill and putting them in the right situations so they can put that skill to good use.

Example, explaining technological things to my parents or aunts and uncles has often proven impossible. I dumb it down as much as I can figure out how, in a completely non-patronizing way, and they just don't get it because they're missing a key connection to the subject that came naturally by way of growing up with it and having a lot of experience with it.

Yeah, I know, I am a moderate plebe.

I would point out that you inserted the plebe part into the conversation yourself. This is the part of a social interaction where the sock-puppet goes on, because talking about being smart has now been proven to be a bad thing. The quote from the LW that I initially posted stems from exactly this kind of thing.


The thing is, my ex knew enough to know how to function in social settings, but his contempt for "the plebes" led him to be deliberately unkind to anyone he saw as "inferior". You enjoy any screen based entertainment? Brainwashed moron sucking up shiny pap to keep you quiet and passive. You read fiction? Escapist loser who wasted their time in fantasy. Ad nauseum.

Yeah, but the point was more that if he was a frothing racist who thought America should build a wall, he'd be more likely to find like-minds than being a high-brow pinkies-up Patrician.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Enail on Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:42 pm

bomaye wrote:
Yeah, but the point was more that if he was a frothing racist who thought America should build a wall, he'd be more likely to find like-minds than being a high-brow pinkies-up Patrician.

I'd say there's a key difference in that racism often serves a function of strengthening a sense of an in-group, the frothing racist is creating an implicit "people like us" by excluding "them." Being high-brow can serve the same function, but it also can just be aimed at excluding everyone, proving I'm the smartest - there's no "people like us," there's just "me" and all the inferior "thems." When I've been in that mode I think it comes from that arrogant/defensive thing Werel mentioned, or maybe from kind of scorn that's something almost but not quite like envy turned inside out.




More generally and going back to the article and personal reactions, I was very struck by the memory of a feeling that academically smart people are a very exclusive club, that they're so rare and precious, of feeling like there was no one "like me." When I first discovered that there are so many smart people, it was a real shock to me. It didn't make me feel stupid like I've heard some people say they've felt, I still knew I was smart even among smart people, but it was unsettling, that I wasn't a special snowflake, that there were intellectual, deep, creative, interesting people all around and however I was special (and I assure you, I am terribly special Razz ), it was not by being something different, by being a misunderstood other. Smart people are so common.

And then sometimes I step into a different patch of the world, and it feels like slipping through the mirror, among people who look blank and change the subject when I mention my interests, feeling like my word choices sound show-offy or weird, and it's so easy to start to forget that there's that other world out there, to start feeling special and defensive and cursed with brilliance again just because I'm around a handful of people who are more confident that they're ordinary than I am, or who aren't as keen to think they're extraordinary. I find it very easy to fall into that mindset again.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Fri Nov 06, 2015 11:46 pm

I am a normie, moderate, average, pick your descriptor. I am the dumb Smile

Boy was not patrician. He came from a background rougher than mine as in I went hungry 3-4 days a week, he went hungry 5-7. He just used his intellect as a cloak to avoid the judgement you get by being one of the low when you are with the high. Being smart is both a weapon and a shield depending how you use it. My ex used it as a weapon.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by JP McBride on Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:01 am

Considering that I've used the line "No, the test only goes up to 160, so that's really just a lower bound." and there are people who still like me, intelligence can't be that alienating.

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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Sat Nov 07, 2015 3:30 am

reboot wrote:Being smart is both a weapon and a shield depending how you use it. My ex used it as a weapon.

I think it's telling that it has to be used offensively or defensively at all.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:21 am

bomaye wrote:
reboot wrote:Being smart is both a weapon and a shield depending how you use it. My ex used it as a weapon.

I think it's telling that it has to be used offensively or defensively at all.

He enjoyed hurting people, including me about 3 years after we married and things started falling apart for him professionally.

I am sure it was because he had been badly bullied as a kid and learned to use his intelligence as a shield. Problem was that he discovered he enjoyed using it as a weapon after he became an adult. By the time I met him, bullying was 5-6 years in the past and he was at the point where his intelligence was praised and lauded (PhD program). It was not protection or preemptive strikes. He went out of his way to hurt people he had power over or who had limited to no power to fight back (e.g. undergrads, administrative staff, service workers, other grad students).
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by BasedBuzzed on Sat Nov 07, 2015 11:56 am

reboot wrote:
bomaye wrote:
reboot wrote:Being smart is both a weapon and a shield depending how you use it. My ex used it as a weapon.

I think it's telling that it has to be used offensively or defensively at all.

He enjoyed hurting people, including me about 3 years after we married and things started falling apart for him professionally.

I am sure it was because he had been badly bullied as a kid and learned to use his intelligence as a shield. Problem was that he discovered he enjoyed using it as a weapon after he became an adult. By the time I met him, bullying was 5-6 years in the past and he was at the point where his intelligence was praised and lauded (PhD program). It was not protection or preemptive strikes. He went out of his way to hurt people he had power over or who had limited to no power to fight back (e.g. undergrads, administrative staff, service workers, other grad students).

Is this the right impression I'm getting of him? When I read the "escapism is for losers" taunts, it didn't strike me as particularly clever(room temperature IQ peeps also spout that nonsense), but the savviness does not lie in the insults but in the targets he picks.

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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by readertorider on Sat Nov 07, 2015 2:05 pm

Polly seems to do a bit too much telling LWs who they are for my liking--in this case regarding the loneliness and exercise too, not just the intelligence. I also feel like there's two(+) possible solutions to LW's problem and Polly's response seems to only see one option of doubling down on/embracing a normal label that LW has had problems with before.

enail wrote:More generally and going back to the article and personal reactions, I was very struck by the memory of a feeling that academically smart people are a very exclusive club, that they're so rare and precious, of feeling like there was no one "like me." When I first discovered that there are so many smart people, it was a real shock to me. It didn't make me feel stupid like I've heard some people say they've felt, I still knew I was smart even among smart people, but it was unsettling, that I wasn't a special snowflake, that there were intellectual, deep, creative, interesting people all around and however I was special (and I assure you, I am terribly special  Razz ), it was not by being something different, by being a misunderstood other. Smart people are so common.

And then sometimes I step into a different patch of the world, and it feels like slipping through the mirror, among people who look blank and change the subject when I mention my interests, feeling like my word choices sound show-offy or weird, and it's so easy to start to forget that there's that other world out there, to start feeling special and defensive and cursed with brilliance again just because I'm around a handful of people who are more confident that they're ordinary than I am, or who aren't as keen to think they're extraordinary. I find it very easy to fall into that mindset again.

In middle school I was in a couple of competitions on a state/county level and running the numbers on how many people had to be better at X than me to win Y competition or enter the Intel talent search or graduate from Z college (the number I remember was ~50,000/yr) was an interesting feeling (plus all the articles about how many kids were left out due to circumstances and decisions other people made). At the same time though 50,000 of the roughly 11,000,000 in a given US age demographic is <1% and these people aren't distributed evenly (not saying these are real numbers or whatever category kid!me used to create them is valid just want to reinforce the point that a baffling huge number of people can be X while still making it hard to randomly find these people).

Werel wrote:Basically, this letter makes me wonder if "smart people can't really connect with less smart people" is a real thing, or if it's either a) related to what bomaye is saying about a possible correlation between IQ-tested smarts and deficits in other intelligences, or b) a go-to excuse for smart people who are not, themselves, actually interested in connecting with people less smart than them but would feel it was impolitic to actually say that. Or maybe something else? This "intelligence as socially isolating characteristic vs. scapegoat for isolation" thing has been churning around in my brain since I was in middle school feeling like I'd always be lonely and miserable because I was So Deep & Fulla Truths Unlike These Happy Plastics, so I'm wondering how other folks see it. Razz

I think a lot of it comes down to matching interests/experiences which isn't necessarily a smart/not smart thing but maybe it could be confused for it? I think there's also situations where 'smart' (or 'talented' or 'beautiful'...) people can in certain situations get away with less social skills than other people which might be a contributing factor?

bomaye wrote:
Werel wrote:But that latter thing, where you make your smartypants-ness comfortable for the other person, is harder, but probably doesn't preclude real connection in the way that hiding/laying low does. When I'm dealing with people who are very clearly smarter than me and not trying to hide it, like "oh shit the computing power of my whole brain is just one minor subsection of your brain" smarter, I am most quickly put at ease when they treat their intelligence like a funny roll of the dice, a personal quirk like any other. When they treat being smart like not a big deal, seem to really believe it, and put forth the effort to communicate in a way that's accessible to me without being patronizing. And you know, I think it's people who are really smart but also not... arrogant? defensive? about their intelligence who are most capable of pulling it off. If a person doesn't have much baggage around their intelligence, it seems easier for others to let go of theirs.
It also requires the "you" in that kind of situation to be open to being talked down to. Making something accessible is dumbing something down regardless of how it's dressed up. A curious mind loves that kind of thing, a non-curious mind or someone who doesn't like smartypants people or is otherwise not a fan of being reminded of what they don't know doesn't like it no matter what.
I strongly disagree. Simplifying things into an accessible format without losing crucial information is a critical aspect of the job for most scientists and engineers (not trying to equate career with intelligence) and it's often really really hard because you've been calcified in a field of jargon and after X years you take certain bits of random knowledge for granted. It has nothing to do with 'intrinsic intelligence' but quite a bit to do with how the respective parties spent the last X years of their lives. "You make it look easy" is a high compliment for a reason.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by reboot on Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:44 pm

BasedBuzzed wrote:
reboot wrote:
bomaye wrote:
reboot wrote:Being smart is both a weapon and a shield depending how you use it. My ex used it as a weapon.

I think it's telling that it has to be used offensively or defensively at all.

He enjoyed hurting people, including me about 3 years after we married and things started falling apart for him professionally.

I am sure it was because he had been badly bullied as a kid and learned to use his intelligence as a shield. Problem was that he discovered he enjoyed using it as a weapon after he became an adult. By the time I met him, bullying was 5-6 years in the past and he was at the point where his intelligence was praised and lauded (PhD program). It was not protection or preemptive strikes. He went out of his way to hurt people he had power over or who had limited to no power to fight back (e.g. undergrads, administrative staff, service workers, other grad students).

Is this the right impression I'm getting of him? When I read the "escapism is for losers" taunts, it didn't strike me as particularly clever(room temperature IQ peeps also spout that nonsense), but the savviness does not lie in the insults but in the targets he picks.

I was distilling his attitude, so that is why it came through the way it did. I did not want to do verbatim because it pisses me off to recall what an ass he was and that I stood by and let him do it. It was both what he would say to people, his incredible ability to find the spot that would hurt someone the most, and who he picked (he was worst with people that could not fight back)
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by Werel on Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:52 pm

bomaye wrote:
There's also the classic star player/coach problem. Star players in sports are really good at what they do, and they often make bad coaches, because they don't know how to explain something that comes natural to them to people that it doesn't come natural to. A lot of the best coaches are failed players, because they had less to work with and had to try make up for it with learning tricks, positioning, shortcuts and how to be useful in a support capacity, which half of coaching is sizing up player skill and putting them in the right situations so they can put that skill to good use.
Was complaining to a classmate today about a renowned supergenius professor in our department being a not-so-good teacher, and classmate made this exact same star player/coach analogy. Laughing Totally holds water: this professor has no idea how to explain to others how to be as freakishly talented as him, because it's not a thing you can explain. That's not the problem, though-- the problem is that he's visibly disappointed/frustrated when people aren't grasping the material as fast as he would/did as a grad student. That's what gets his students feeling resentful and defensive, rather than the raw fact of his intelligence (which would be nothing but admirable if it weren't deployed, even in mild and probably unintentional ways, as a bludgeon to others' confidence).

readertorider wrote:
I strongly disagree. Simplifying things into an accessible format
Loled a bunch at this comic.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by sky on Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:43 am

Enail wrote:And then on top of that, there's social skills or lack thereof making it easier/harder to either lay low and pretend to get along, or to find genuine ways of making it comfortable for the other person and connecting while still being yourself. I think the latter is much harder, but I've yet to figure out if it depends on social skill or on... open-mindedness? openness? curiousity? I'm not sure what, exactly, because I'm not very good at it, but something that's the opposite of arrogance or defensiveness or something like that?

I think there's a separate skill involved, at least somewhat independent of social skills, and it is translating. If I communicate in English extremely well and you communicate in a different language, then my ability to connect depends on both my level of knowledge of your language and my level of ability to translate between the two. I think translating intelligence is fairly similar. It depends on your level of intelligence on two different scales and also your ability to convert between the two. I'm good at translating, and I can translate fairly easily between technical explanations and terms that more people will understand, but I'd be hopeless at converting anything to or from music because I'm somewhere near the very bottom of that scale.

On another note, this is the paragraph that most stood out of the column to me:
I don't really have any friends, but I don't really count that as a big source of anguish. I married my best friend, I'm often alone but very rarely lonely. But I am nervous about my inability to connect to people, mostly because I don't want my husband to be my one source of support. I like people, I go out and have fun and I'm engaged while it happens, but I find it extremely hard to actually connect. From time to time I become aware of these wonderful, gorgeous, shiny souls who are so very prettily broken, and I desperately want to be their friend. But everyone notices how interesting they are and crowds around them, so I kind of give up and move on. I'm disturbed by how impossible it is for me to stay interested and invested in people.
Except for the part about shiny people being prettily broken which isn't making a lot of sense to me, this sounds similar to how I feel. I'm good at making acquaintances and casual friends, but it's very difficult for me to make deeper connections and closer friendships, which are the sort that I want to have more of right now. People that I'm strongly drawn to and really interested in connecting with just don't seem to be all that common.
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Re: This letter to Ask Polly

Post by bomaye on Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:21 am

readertorider wrote:
I strongly disagree. Simplifying things into an accessible format without losing crucial information is a critical aspect of the job for most scientists and engineers (not trying to equate career with intelligence) and it's often really really hard because you've been calcified in a field of jargon and after X years you take certain bits of random knowledge for granted. It has nothing to do with 'intrinsic intelligence' but quite a bit to do with how the respective parties spent the last X years of their lives. "You make it look easy" is a high compliment for a reason.

I'm saying the person that you're doing the simplifying for has to be open to it. If they're anti-science or are insecure about their own brains or otherwise don't like academics, it doesn't matter how good you are at simplifying [science-of-choice] because they don't want to hear it anyways.

Like, to be impressed with "you make it look easy" you have to respect the skill-set in the first place.
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