Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Commonality of Stoopids & Smarty-Pants

Disclaimer: The following is based on my own personal experiences; I'm not attempting to implicate anyone. If you feel implicated, my apologies, but it's not my fault :)

I was flagged as a gifted kid in 3rd grade. Gifted kids talk. Heh, we LOVE to talk, especially when we can properly pronounce and use big words like "moot", "untenable", and "bruschetta" and pretend we can solve issues like world poverty and predestination over lunch.

Besides using big words and discussing deep issues, gifted kids also complain. It's generally about the louse who made fun of them for setting the curve on the calc test, the moocher who contributed nothing except snoring to the group project, and the ignorant son of an nasty woman who keeps insisting on using the pronunciation "supossebly." How can these people be so arrogant and off-putting in their stupidity?

I went along on my merry gifted way until my study abroad in college. After several weeks of studying on the beach, one of my classmates wrote me a note that basically said I was arrogant and she wished I would stop judging everyone. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, since I had spent the last few weeks thinking she was way too arrogant & judgmental for her general lack of intelligence. We both probably pegged each other correctly.

Arrogance has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with entitlement and lack of social & emotional maturity. Arrogance is evidence of a heart that is either so prideful it feels the need to continually puff itself up or a heart that is so insecure that it feels the need to continually put others down. Both ends of the intelligence spectrum can succumb to either form of arrogance. It's not a selective emotion that crops up every now & then, it's an attitude that is pervasive (how's that for a gifted word!?) through every venue of a person's communication. However, most arrogant people don't know they come across as arrogant. But even worse, some arrogant people don't care they make other people feel like crap, they even take personal pleasure in doing exactly that. To me, that's the saddest of all and it's little short of being an emotional sadist (use definition 2).

It wasn't until last year that I began to discover exactly how my words, phrasing, tone of voice, and facial expressions made people feel and what my communications told people about me. Plus, a piece of my father's wisdom finally hit home- "People won't remember what you said or did, but they'll remember how you made them feel." Do I really want to be remembered as an arrogant ass who made people feel insignificant and stupid? Um, no!!!

For me, a beginning shift from arrogance came with several releases:
  • I don't have to be right 100% of the time.
  • Everyone doesn't need to know I'm right.
  • My comparative intelligence matters fairly little in the grand scheme of things.
  • I can be a responsible, useful person and still be allowed to screw things up every now & then.
  • Other people can be responsible useful people and still be allowed to screw things up every now & then.
  • Other people don't need to justify their existence.
I'm still working on it. My family & friends still get to hear my rants and raves of the extra-stupid stuff that people do, but hopefully I'm not making people feel like crap on a regular basis. It'll be a life-long process with ups & down, but hopefully I'm on the right path.

And just in case highly-intelligent people do seem more arrogant overall, here's a quote I found on an anonymous internet forum- "If people on the high end of the intelligence spectrum seem to carry [arrogance] more, possibly they've had fewer humbling experiences in their life. Either that or they're just better at rationalizing those experiences to themselves."