Get E-Mail Alerts
RSS Posts

The presenter on corporate social responsibility was a quiet young woman. Her presentation was excellent: informative, business-specific and carefully considered. The audience of senior managers was at first skeptical and then drawn into her conclusions. She had won them over. Until . . .

The first question from the floor was very positive: “How do we proceed from here?”.

How scornful the very gifted can be

How scornful the very gifted can be

Her spontaneous response was unguarded and arrogant. Her look said: “What planet do you live on?” and her voice dripped with scorn: “Isn’t it obvious?”

Her mentor and major supporter, sitting at the back of the room, could not quite stifle his groan. How could she have done that?

How indeed. Sadly, not every gifted characteristic is dipped in brilliance. In fact, there is one frequently seen quality – asynchronous development – that challenges even those who love the gifted dearly.

Just as we gifted adults are likely to declare: “How can they be so stupid!?” so the rest of the world, witnessing our seemingly inexplicable gaffes, are going to say the same. And they’ll often often preface it with: “You think you’re so effing smart?”.

Asynchronous development in the gifted

Asynchronous development can take many forms but in the opening example we have a fairly common type: situational judgment lagging behind intellect.

Such judgment calls for an understanding and constant awareness of complex unwritten rules about social behaviors. These are precisely the sorts of nuances which the gifted, in their race to explore, discover and reveal ‘the truth’, will often overlook.

It starts in childhood, when the young gifted person’s facility with logic and reason amazes everyone who comes into contact with her or him. Parents and family, however, quickly discover that logic and reason are not useful tools to develop judgment, social adroitness and tact.

When we learn such things we do so through exposure to a variety of experiences and interpersonal situations. And that’s another challenge for gifted adults. We learn early on that we are our own best company so we can easily ignore social challenges if they get in the way of our fascinating internal adventures.

As a result, we may not learn social interaction at the same rate that other children and adolescents do. Even so, by our mid-twenties, the gap between judgment and intellect will typically have closed considerably.

"How could you ask such a thing!?"

"How could you ask such a thing!?"

But we will continue to have lapses, especially when under stress. And our brilliantly-wrought presentations will continue to miss their marks.

I have an unfortunate tendency to greet newcomers to our local rowing club with a jocular cry of: “How much do you weigh?”

This is a vital piece of information in a sport dominated by power ratios and boats tailored to strict weight ranges. However, most would regard the individual’s name as being of higher priority, at least on first meeting.

I am trying to cure myself of it. And, being gifted, I call my perceived strengths together to give me the leverage I need to change.

Shedding the scorn: focus on your desired outcome

Those strengths are my (and your) above-advertised powers of reason and intellect. If I remember to use them beforehand to work out what I’m really trying to achieve, I can then focus more successfully on what’s important.

For example, the young woman presenter would have realized that her goal was not to make a brilliant presentation but to win her managers to her way of thinking. From that point she could have analyzed their strengths (good hearts) and made accommodation for their weaknesses (their executive vision). And she would have managed the interactions much more skilfully.

As for me, I will remind myself that a rowing club’s first priority is enthusiastic members. Weight and age data can be gathered once they’ve joined up and understand its relevance. And then they won’t be driven away by important but momentarily inappropriate questions, however friendly their intent.

And I shall still feel as if I’ve contributed to the success of the whole.

2 Responses to “The unfortunate scorn of the gifted”

  1. Graham COULSON says:

    It’s true, so true! And it’s so very helpful at last to be able to recognize and understand better some of my less charming character traits, which have so puzzled me all my life. I have to admit to having frequent lapses in tact, both unintentional and intended, resorting sometimes even to outright put-downs, just like the presenter whose scorn you describe, when my poor situational judgment has allowed me to switch goals from the original aim to one of combating the other person’s point of view. It’s a shame I didn’t understand this earlier, when my HR career might have been a great deal less fraught!! Mais c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas?

    Turning to Bridlington, we’re close but no cigar, I fear! My forebears do indeed originate from Yorkshire but more recently (Grandfather) from Bourne in Lincolnshire.

    I much look forward to reading your next amazingly revealing topic and do so thank you for making your excellent work so freely available, which must be helping countless numbers of folk around the globe. What a wonderful thought!

    With kind regards.

    Graham Coulson.

  2. Hi again Graham,

    Sorry to have taken so long to respond but my time’s been taken up for days adding the Dynamic Living archive.

    If you take a look there, you’ll find lots of references to the kinds of issues you identify in your comment. Look especially at things like: “Love yourself and grow powerful.”

    As for your extremely kind words, thank you very much. I accept them and take psycho-nutrient value from them. (And it’s hard to write that because there’s a little voice inside me saying I should be modestly denying you your right to express your positive opinion.)

    My Coulson great-grandfather died in Lincolnshire, but in Grimsby. According to the members of my family who vaguely remembered him, “it served him right.” They’re tough talking in Yorkshire.


Leave a Reply