How do I get over my low tolerance for stupid people?

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How do I get over my low tolerance for stupid people?

I hope I'm not alone. I don't have patience for, nor do I enjoy working with, people who aren't super smart. Assuming it's impossible to always surround myself with the brightest people, how can I change this about myself?

My answer (on Quora - click here): 

I have struggled with this question for years. Among other things, I wanted to change this because as soon as I brand someone "stupid", my brain loses the ability to communicate effectively. I just hate it when that happens. I used to have a very low tolerance for people behaving 'in a stupid way' but with time the situation has changed. I can't claim to understand everyone I meet, but the frequency of calling people stupid has reduced.
 

The way I understand it is - we all use the word "stupid" as a replacement for a variety of things. For instance, I could be seen using the word stupid for people who are:

- Low in IQ (don't think I know too many people like that)
- Lazy
- Careless
- Indifferent (they don't care about the things I want them to)
- Conceited
- Distracted
- Restless
- Unfamiliar with that particular situation
- Weird (what ever your definition of weird is)
- Uninformed
- Ill-informed
- Short sighted ... etc. etc.
So why do I call someone stupid despite knowing all this? I don't have a politically correct answer for this - it just feels good to call someone stupid. "Uninformed" doesn't give the same level of satisfaction that you can get from "Stupid". I believe that's the same reason why people love using the "F" word too.

Every time we see other people doing things we don't like - we call them stupid. On the subject of why my tolerance to "behavior I don't approve of" has increased:

1. Training my brain to not judge people too harshly: A guy who can't decide what to order from the menu, might be really good at solving complex financial models. Or worse, I could be plain and simply wrong about someone. It is also not practically possible to chose to work only with the people I want to work. Calling someone stupid is easy and doesn't make you a criminal to do so but it does shut people out.

2. Acceptance: You learn to forgive and start to accept certain people as 'different'. To a large extent a person's behavior is directed by his/her "situation". By situation I mean - family, friends, finances, education, culture, religion, values ...

3. Priorities: With time your priorities change. Even though you don't agree with everything that happens around you, you can't be bothered with so many things. I certainly don't want to be bitter about things that I can't change or don't effect me.

4. I am not as smart as I thought I am: Let's assume being smart is extremely important. People much younger to me have achieved much more than I ever will. I am definitely not very smart, if I start comparing myself with the people I admire (rather than with the people I think are stupid).

5. I have not earned the right to criticize others: One should to achieve something significant and meaningful (both at the same time) before one can begin criticizing others. Till I do something truly remarkable I should avoid judging others. I believe if I do happen to do something great for this world, I wouldn't have the time to criticize others.

6. I am not a slave: If indeed I am surrounded by stupid people and can't deal with them anymore - I should just get the hell out of there. No one has chained me to anything. 


7. One smart person can't do sh*t: IQ is important and it certainly helps to understand things quickly, but there are very few things I can accomplish just on my own. If I can't  work with/for different kinds of people, my IQ is of no use. Great leaders act like magnets for attracting the top talent. Their EQ inspires people around them to achieve great things.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous26.12.14

    "1. Training my brain to not judge people too harshly: A guy who can't decide what to order from the menu, might be really good at solving complex financial models. Or worse, I could be plain and simply wrong about someone. It is also not practically possible to chose to work only with the people I want to work. Calling someone stupid is easy and doesn't make you a criminal to do so but it does shut people out."

    Someone who can't solve "complex financial models" is stupid. You've created a euphamism to cover up the fact that society arbitrarily assigns negative connontation to the word "stupid". You can try to explain why they're wrong in as much candycoated language as you'd like. A good percentage of the time it won't register, these people will likely perceive you as arrogant. Make it clear that being stupid is like being deficient in anything else and stop being sensitive to being stupid or being perceived as stupid. We are all stupid descendents of apes.

    "4. I am not as smart as I thought I am: Let's assume being smart is extremely important. People much younger to me have achieved much more than I ever will. I am definitely not very smart, if I start comparing myself with the people I admire (rather than with the people I think are stupid)."

    Achievement =/= Intelligence. Envying and comparing the achievements of other's with your own doesn't make you stupid, it makes you envious.

    "5. I have not earned the right to criticize others: One should to achieve something significant and meaningful (both at the same time) before one can begin criticizing others. Till I do something truly remarkable I should avoid judging others. I believe if I do happen to do something great for this world, I wouldn't have the time to criticize others."

    You assert that one must earn the right to do something as simple as criticize people by achieving some remarkable feat, that is unhealthy diversion. Doing something great means getting people's minds out of the gutter by criticizing (or being critical of) their flaws and making it very clear that there's nothing wrong with having flaws. Pointing out someone's stupidity and removing the stigma that is fearing criticism is the first step to self-improvement among these people. Don't soften communication and be overly polite, that does nothing but hide the truth and enable their ignorance.

    While it's productive to understand the little nuances and detailed descriptive words and ideas we use to define why people are stupid, calling someone out as stupid *should* pose no problem to anyone.

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  2. I don't know who this person is - but I love what he/she wrote. I wish there was a way to reply and discuss this further. Since this comment may not be read by that person, I am choosing not to reply in detail. However I will just say this for the readers of this blog:

    1 -- Not practical (me not being sensitive towards being called stupid and expecting people to reciprocate in that way). Also, your usage of the phrase "these people" goes against the way I see things, unless you include yourself and myself in it. Not that you have to think or do things like I do but thought I should mention it.

    4 -- Achievements may not equate for intelligence but they are on most occasions proof of being good at something (that's what most people refer to as "intelligent", if you don't go into semantics).

    5 -- Completely disagree. One must earn the right to criticize other people. Otherwise you will be a couch potato with lots of opinions and negative thoughts about everything you disagree with. By earning the right - you go through struggles and see what's what. You get a real feel of what does it take to actually do things. Intentions are good but so are results. You can't remove the stigma or fear of being criticized if you haven't done it yourself. People won't listen to you and rightly so (in my opinion).

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous26.12.14

      - Encouraging that people develop thick skin for criticism, suggesting that they not get upset when they're called out on something they're wrong about and not getting offended when they are called stupid is absolutely productive. In my experience, this is the *only* way to solve this issue with most people. I'm not suggesting you call people stupid and magically they'll be convinced your argument is valid (lol). I'm saying explain to them how stigmatization works and why it finds itself attached to things like, "being called stupid". People tend to make language less offensive, this really does nothing. The definition of stupid doesn't change, but people decide to use different words so as to cater to more sensitive people's sensibilities. This is the last thing you want to do. Explain why these words had negative connotation* attached to it and why it shouldn't be used in that context.

      Trying to teach the average person about critical thinking won't work, the average person sees no incentive in even learning what "critical thinking" is. Whereas if you remove the stigma attached to feeling stupid or being called stupid, people will at least be open-minded and accepting of their stupidity, rather than run from the fact.

      I mean just think about it, turn off the negative feeling you get when you are called stupid, you become more open-minded to the fact that there's an underlying reason why they are simply calling you stupid. It's like a flick of a switch. There is no logical reason why the vast majority of people respond negatively to criticism or the idea that they might be ignorant on some particular subject, it's based purely on emotion, we're still essentially in the stone age of communication.

      The same goes for fat-shaming. People who are always progressively gaining weight tend to try to justify their eating disorder by overdiagnosing themselves has having a disease or having big bones, etc. A person that knows they are fat and isn't ashamed to state that out loud is more likely to try and prevent further weight gain or possibly even work to reverse the problem.

      Being obese has detrimental health implications. Society stupidity has detrimental societal wide implications. A low daily calorie count and an educated society is very good.

      "These people" Refers to the type of person who is closed-minded. The type of person thinks the language you may be using is pompous and arrogant. They haven't developed the skill of self-reflection and are taken over with emotional bias, based on the underlying defense mechanism that is fearing failure/fearing their own stupidity.

      - Achievement can be indicative of luck or opportunity as well. Depends on what achievement you're referring to.

      - Whether someone's a couch potato or an Olympic athlete, idea's stand on their own merit. This is why the scientific community is so successful - they are open to any scrutiny and criticism from anyone, including those with no background within that profession. I'm not suggesting one just be negative about everything they disagree with, but instead that people should embrace the idea that they are stupid. Running from that fact only postpones the inevitable and wastes the individual's precious life.

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