How to Handle Smart People
You may have to deal with extremely smart people at school or work. Unfortunately, you also have an ego like everyone else, and it's sensitive to real and imagined criticism. Being surrounded by people you feel are smarter than you can really make you feel awful and lead to feelings of insecurity. However, if you can deal with your emotional issues, get to know these smart people better and focus on what you need to do, interacting with them will get easier.
Dealing With Insecurities
Accept that you cannot always be the smartest person in the room.There will probably be people who are able to comprehend certain things easier than you. Everyone is talented in their own way and are good and bad at different things. If you expect to be the smartest person everywhere you go, you will probably end up being disappointed. Get over your need to always be the brightest and best.
Acknowledge your strengths.Each person has skills, experiences and talents that make them unique—including you. Focus on what you are good at and not what you lack.You may not be able to discuss quantum physics but you can probably do things that the people you think are smarter than you can’t, such as paint a mural, write a book, diagnose engine trouble, make people laugh or sing soprano. Recognize where your strengths are because self-confidence makes you more resistant to negative thoughts.
Don’t compare yourself to others.Doing this is going to make you feel bad, especially if you already suffer from low self-esteem or self-confidence. Realize that even smart people are just people, and you are the one that decides who is better at something than you are. You may see a certain behavior or hear some responses and then make judgement calls, but you don’t really know whether this person rehearses what they say privately or if they also feel as insecure as you do.
- Realize that you are not less than these smart people, and treat yourself fairly.
- It will take some time and practice to get rid of old habits and ways of thinking, so be patient with yourself. In time, you will be able to see yourself as you truly are—brilliant in your own way.
Nurture yourself.When smart people threaten your ego daily, you need to pay some extra attention to yourself. Do something just for you that you really enjoy, such as swimming, yoga, reading a book, taking a hot bath or taking a drive through the mountains. Exercise can also really boost your mood—if you can get past the fact that you will probably not be the most fit person at the gym right away.
Boost your self-esteem.When you feel good about yourself, you won’t be as worried that the people around you might be smarter than you are. After spending time with smart people, do something you are really good at. Don’t be afraid to admire yourself for it, and show it off to friends and family members for validation. When you are content with your own capabilities, you will be less threatened by smart people.
Acknowledge what you can control.Some people may be genetically wired to be able to retain and comprehend information more efficiently than you. However, you can be as prepared as possible by studying the material you will be discussing beforehand or really stand out from the crowd by working harder than anyone else.Additionally, you may not be able to control what smart people do or say but you can always control how you react.
Consider the alternative.Being in a room full of smart people can be annoying but consider what it would be like to be in a room of people who are the opposite of that. If you had to work or go to school with people who have less experience, ambition or intelligence than you, then it could get boring or frustrating quickly. By dealing with smart people regularly, you will also become smarter.
Getting To Know Them
Don’t pretend.If you find yourself surrounded by smart people, you may feel compelled to hide your ignorance. Pretending like you know something you don’t can make you feel really stupid when someone figures out you don't really know what you’re talking about. If there’s something you don’t know or understand, fess up and ask questions. That’s how you learn.
- Don't ignore questions you can’t answer, make up answers or force the question on someone else to get the spotlight off you. Take responsibility for figuring out how to answer the question and what the correct answer is and why.
Understand where smart people are coming from.Years of being smart has probably taken its toll on these people. Realize that their circumstances, personalities and personal experiences are unique. They may not have been born smart, and those who have been smart for most of their lives probably had to deal with being ostracized socially and treated differently. Their intelligence may be the only thing they have to be proud of.
Never be afraid to ask smart people for tips.Smart people have years of experience exercising their intelligence. Ask them how they study for tests, do their homework, brainstorm ideas or complete certain tasks on the job. Smart people usually love to talk about what they are good at, so don't be afraid to ask them to clarify or explain certain steps so you can understand it better.
Accept feedback.Criticism can be rough, especially if you’re used to doing high-quality work or school assignments. It can make you feel defensive when others offer advice or critique your work. However, the people you consider smart probably have a lot of suggestions they can offer you. It is likely that they are as good at what they do because they were willing to consider outside input instead of letting criticism destroy them.
- Don’t get upset if someone points out that your work could use some improvements. You want to do well and for your work to show it. Refusing to accept advice will make you appear unprofessional, and may prevent you from receiving useful feedback in the future.
- Find the smartest person in your class or team and ask them directly for their opinion or advice on how to resolve issues or make processes better.
Show interest.When you show interest in what someone has to say, it allows the other person to open up more so you can get to know them better. Ask how or why the smart person does tasks a certain way, and request that they actually show you an example of their process. Don’t let your own ego get in the way of acknowledging when someone does something in a way you hadn’t thought of before.
Form relationships.You don’t have to be super close friends with co-workers or your peers at school but finding areas where you connect can help you get along. Ask about hobbies, kids or favorite sports teams. The more you interact positively with the smart people, the more likely they will be to help you out or offer feedback later.
Treat smart people as equals.Just because these people are smart does not mean they are better than you. Be respectful, but talk to them as if they are like anyone else. Chances are, they already consider you to be one of their peers and not a minion.
Understand why people brag.People who one-up, brag or show off to you are actually trying to impress you.When people purposefully act like they are smarter than you, it’s because they usually have low self-esteem and want validation from you. Go ahead and give them praise, even if you don’t feel like they deserve it. People who are more secure about themselves will probably not need to make you feel inferior later.
- Don’t mistake self-confidence for arrogance. It's ok to take pride in your work or what you are good at.
Doing Your Best
Keep practicing.Everything gets easier with practice. Whatever the task or issue is that you feel the others are smarter at than you, work to get better at it. Practice daily and teach yourself to be as smart as they are.
- If they seem to understand math and always get As, then get a tutor, study your math book or take classes online to get better at working through math problems. With time and hard work, you will likely get as good as they are at math.
- If the smart people always have good ideas at meetings, then spend extra time outside of work brainstorming ideas. Time and effort can make up for many traits you may or may not have naturally.
Read a lot.Reading can inform you on many different topics. Choose diverse material from reliable sources and really delve into it. This is how the experts became experts—by studying, practicing and becoming good at what they do. When you absorb a lot of information, you have much more to offer and bounce ideas off of during discussions and meetings.
Take your time.Focus on quality over quantity. If it takes you a little longer to finish your math problems, write your paper or complete a project, then accept that—as long as the end product is worth the wait. Know that getting better at something and practicing your intelligence takes time as well. Get to know and learn from the smart people first.
Participate at work or in class.Prove to yourself as well as your teachers and peers that you are also smart. Don't be afraid to talk about your ideas or answer questions. Study and work hard, and show off your knowledge whenever you get a chance to contribute.
Resist competing.When you are constantly fretting about how well the smart people are doing, you aren’t focusing on yourself. When you aren’t focusing on your own work and studies, you’re not learning or accomplishing as much as you could be. Competing with others is distracting, and it can make you feel bad if you aren't winning. Make it a habit to redirect thoughts to other things instead of how smart others are compared to you.
Ignore them.Smart people will not get all your papers or work done. They will not think or study for you. If their presence bothers you, the best thing you can do for yourself is ignore them. You have better things to do than spend the energy letting yourself get upset over how smart others appear to be.
Make a change.Distract yourself with new scenery and experiences. You won’t have the time or energy to worry about what the smart people are doing. Changing up your usual routine can also really improve your mood, which may help you to stop thinking about how much smarter the people are than you.
Try your best all of the time.Be self-confident, know your strengths and learn from the smart people. Every project, paper and discussion is a chance for you to shine. Try your hardest to do the best you can, even when you think it doesn’t matter. In time, you will become one of the smart people you admire.
Work together.Smart people can be valuable allies at school or in the work place. Instead of comparing yourself to them or competing with them, enlist their help with something. You will probably learn a lot from these people and discover that you have a lot to bring to the team as well. Ask to partner up for a study group or work project and be amazed at how beneficial this can be and how much more efficient you become.
- Make sure you know how to study for tests and do homework the right way. If you need a tutor or a little extra help, never be afraid to ask for it.
- Understand that you don't have to be the smartest person in the room to be considered smart.
- Never leave the class room with a question on your mind. Always have it answered before you leave. Also, never think that the question you want to ask will make you look foolish. There will be at least one person in the room that has the same question.
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