html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Remediation

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Grown-up smart kids, if this is you and you aren’t happy with how people react to you, you can change. It will be hard and the only reward is that people will like you more. If the SCA is working for you and you enjoy evenings sitting around with other dorks snarking on inconsistencies in TV shows, then leave it be. The Internets will help you find other people like you, which is great. But if you find that when you correct people, they kind of wince and later don’t invite you to their parties, then maybe it isn’t working so well. And if your friends tell you they didn’t like you at first because “you are too intimidating”, well, you are probably missing out on other potential friends. In general, more friends are better, right? Because you could sleep with some of them?

Here’s how you change. First, you have to stop valuing being smart so much. Being smart is great. You figure things out fast and life is easier for you. It gives you access to other smart people. But just like markets are spectacularly good at allocating consumer goods and not good for allocating much else (like environmental goods), smarts are only good for figuring things out. Smarts, by themselves, don’t make you friendlier or sexier or more at home in your body or a better person. Smarts are one gift among many, so appreciate the other gifts. If it helps, notice that those other gifts get people laid.

Second, respect everyone. I don’t mean this as a variant on “everyone has something special that they are good at, and that person might just be an excellent scrapbooker” (which I’ve always disliked, because what does that leave the person who really isn’t good at anything?). No, I mean that you must respect everyone for his or her fundamental personhood. Respect every person as you do yourself, just for existing as a person and trying her or his best. Do not reason through why some people are more worthy of respect than others*. Just respect everyone as an article of faith.

It will make your life better to respect everyone you meet. First, it feels good to move in a world where everyone is respect-worthy. It makes everyone brighter and shinier and more interesting. Second, people can tell. They can tell right away, before you speak or smile or do anything. People like to be respected and they will like you for doing it. It is nice to meet people who already like you. You’ll like them more too.

And that’s all. Two things. Value other things as highly as being smart (or devalue being smart down to other things). Respect everyone. People will like you more, and you will like yourself better if you can do that. Everything else will follow.

*If you must have a standard for respecting people, you can use one I’ve mentioned before:
The coolest person in the room is the person having the most fun, in his or her subjective experience.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. I just read your last post, then this one. I think I'm a lot like your friend who willed himself into being socially capable. I grew up with other smart kids, but I've always been towards the top of even that spectrum.

I have deep respect for everyone's individual "personhood". And I value those things. But I still have the problem you mentioned: all of my friends tell me they didn't like me at first, that I'm very intimidating. I don't correct people (though I usually want to).

My problem is likely low self esteem. And I've got social anxiety issues. And A.D.D. like you wouldn't believe. AHHHHH! WHAT DO I DO?!

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK. You nailed me. Brilliant. But should I respect other people more or less than I respect ex-pats? I'm kind of confused about this.

7:42 PM  
Blogger bobvis said...

Thanks for this post. I need to put this up on my wall. I fall into the trap of thinking I'm smarter than my faculty (with the exception of my advisor and two other guys). I often forget that being smarter probably doesn't matter, even if it is true.

It occurs to me that the same sort of thing is apparent in the blogging world. I mean, I'm smarter than all the popular bloggers, and look how many readers I have.

And with dating. I mean, come on. I'm so much smarter than all the guys here and look how many dates I get. I think the women must just be intimidated. I mean, they probably can only date so many standard deviations away from the mean.

(My past avatar, by the way, used to be Wile E. Coyote, who is the ultimate proof that being a genius can suck.)

8:21 PM  
Blogger Erica said...

Being smart is great. You figure things out fast and life is easier for you.

This is laughably untrue, and I think you probably know that.

I think some people retreat into their smartness because they feel like it's all they have. They see other people being funny or attractive or well-liked, and they aren't those things and don't know how to be those things, and they don't think being smart is better, but it's the only option open to them.

4:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice post.

I grew up with a lot of smart guys, and while this post does cover a certain type of smart person very accurately I think it misses a few key points.

From what I've noticed the smart guys who start getting laid a lot are not the guys who start seeing women as people, but the guys who stop respecting women and start treating them like an algorithm to manipulate (They read the equivalent of "The Game" or are influenced by friends who think like that and then they become sketchy).

The guys who really respect women and aren't getting laid are sometimes arrogant assholes, but are sometimes screwed up because they can't engage women outside their default of "intellectual" discourse (They will be funny, but not in ways that most girls would appreciate because their jokes will reference econ/gaming/scifi). The prevalence of econ jokes might cause them to be intimidating, because at first it isn't clear to the girls that the guy cares about anything else. Finally, because women are so scarce to them and they have been "rejected" so often (In quotes because sometimes they just wait around, never make a move and then feel rejected), they will be even less likely to approach women because they fear the women wouldn't like it.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the double post, but I just had another (perhaps more relevant) thought regarding the intimidation factor.

The difference between smart popular kids and smart unpopular kids might be highly correlated with the difference between those who debate versus those who discuss. Smart kids might be used to debating ideas, and while this is fun... sometimes smart kids mistakenly think they have to prove they are smarter by starting and winning the debate on any topic that comes up. Even if the smart person thinks subconsciously that they just want to expose the truth for the benefit of everyone involved, the other people involved will generally be valuing things such as "fun" and will be intimidated by the person always trying to debate ideas. (And as debates boil down to conflicting value premises or factual disagreements, the smart kid who insists their premises are superior will create more discomfort and that won't be conductive to him being invited to many parties.)

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You mean to say that the fact that:

I, while at a mardi gras party and very drunk, was trying to explain the law of deminishing returns to a girl who just wanted to show me her tits, even though I was really just uncomfortable with the whole concept of said party and would rather have had a conversation with her about something important to her...

could have something to do with my difficulties in getting laid recently?

1:20 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

You can respect everyone else more than ex-pats.

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comment about respect just doesn't make any sense. When respect is doled out just because someone exists, that isn't respect, its just a slicker form of ass kissing than being an obvious sycophant.

Respect is something that is earned, not obtained as a right of existence.

For instance, I may not like Ronald Reagan's policies or the people around him, but I respect him for the fact that he honestly does believe what he says. Similarly, Bill Clinton doesn't get my respect because he's so obviously transparent in attempting to tell me what I want to hear.

There are people for whom I will never have respect, particularly those that try to "game" me into getting what they want. If those people don't like me, I'm OK with that. There are plenty enough cool people in the world to hang out with that I don't have to worry that the assholes don't like me.

The point of life isn't some grade school valentine day or high school student body election where I have to bribe everyone into liking me so that I can feel important.

The world already has enough Dale Carnegie imitators attempting to do anything, say anything, in order to be liked. Being a suck up to everyone around you so that they "like" you isn't the answer.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you are totally wrong. More friends is not neccessarily better. It is far better to have two or three good friends than a hundred so-so "friends". The kinds of people I want to be my friends are extrememly rare. If I have to sacrifice my beliefs or personality to make more friends, than what I would be doing would be worthless.

5:38 PM  

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