How to deal with mean people the smart way

Are you baffled by narcissists who act mean?

THE BASICS

  • What Is Narcissism?
  • Find a therapist who understands narcissism

How to deal with mean people the smart way

Are there narcissists in your life who are just plain mean? Do you ask yourself, “How can someone be so mean?” Do you wonder sometimes how they even come up with their aggressive and vengeful antics? Are you shocked at the power of mean people and their ability to trigger your emotions?

I believe in basic human kindness and goodness. It seems that most people want to be the best person they can be and to treat others with compassion and love. But if you have a narcissist in your life, you will likely experience the darker side of human nature.

Narcissists are kind and good to you only when it works for them. If things don’t go their way, you will see their anger, aggression, and punitive behavior. It can come out of nowhere and take you by surprise.

When blindsided like this, you may scratch your head wondering what just happened and what you did to cause it? Let’s look at this dynamic that happens with narcissists and explains why people often say, “I have to walk on eggshells around that person,” who may be your parent, your partner, your boss, your friend, or other connections.

At the root of the meanness in narcissists is what we call the “narcissistic injury.” According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):

“Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with narcissistic personality disorder very sensitive to ‘injury’ from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack.”

So, something happens to the narcissist that creates this reaction. It may be something to do with you or someone else, but you become the target because you are there. They don’t deal with their own feelings but take their feelings out on others. Several dynamics cause the mean reaction:

  • Self-Esteem Threatened. Because the narcissist has a shaky and fragile ego, their self-esteem can be threatened easily.
  • Jealousy. It’s common for a narcissist to feel jealousy often. If someone is more advanced at some skill, has more success, looks better, gets more attention, is better liked, etc., it can cause jealous aggression in the narcissist. The narcissist is not likely to be happy for someone else doing well.
  • Projection. When the narcissist is having a bad day with bad feelings, rather than embrace those feelings and work them out, they will project them onto others. So, if they feel hurt, they will project that hurt by trying to hurt someone else to make themselves feel better. (I know, it’s weird.)
  • Competition. Narcissists are fiercely competitive and not in a good way. To feel OK about themselves, they have to feel bigger, better, more accomplished, etc. Competition in narcissistic families is very common. Often siblings are not encouraged to be close or support each other but rather to compete.
  • Abandonment. If you abandon a narcissist in a relationship, divorce, or something similar, the narcissistic injury gets triggered and that revengeful counterattack takes off. They will try to hurt you even if it hurts their own children. We see this a lot in high-conflict divorces with narcissists in which children are used as pawns to hurt the narcissist’s ex-spouse.
  • Not Getting Enough Admiration. The narcissist requires excessive admiration. They demand praise, gratitude, and compliments for anything and everything they do for you. If you don’t supply this, their revenge, disdain, and criticism come raging out.
  • Sense of Entitlement is Threatened. The narcissist has unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment and automatic compliance to their every wish and desire. For example, don’t make them stand in line.

When the narcissist comes unhinged and the mean behavior begins, it is important to know it is not your fault and has nothing to do with you. It comes from their own fragile sense of self, insecurities, and self-loathing. But it can be powerful and hurtful especially if they are a partner, parent, or soon-to-be ex-friend.

6 Tips for Dealing with a Narcissist

  1. Don’t expect empathy. That’s not in their toolbox.
  2. Don’t expect accountability. That’s also missing.
  3. Don’t expect apologies. Nope, also missing.
  4. Don’t blame yourself.
  5. Do work on any personal shame you might have from past mistakes. If you are feeling bad about yourself, you will be more vulnerable to narcissistic rage.
  6. Do clean up and process your own trauma. Recovery work is essential if you have been in any kind of relationship with a narcissist.

I have always been fond of this quote by the Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It is common for most of us to keep wishing and hoping the narcissist will change. But remember, we can only change ourselves.

Come join in our discussion and tell us how you have dealt with mean people.

How to Deal with Mean People

Hint: Don’t just turn the other cheek.

You, with your switching sides,
And your walk by lies and your humiliation
You, have pointed out my flaws again,
As if I don’t already see them.
I walk with my head down,
Trying to block you out cause I’ll never impress you….

—Taylor Swift, “Mean”

“Why you gotta be so meeaann?” Taylor Swift croons in my car, accompanied rather loudly by five kids who are singing their hearts out. The song resonates with me, too, so much so that I find myself madly rummaging through my purse for my sunglasses, not wanting the carpool to see me choked up.

How to deal with mean people the smart way

(Honestly, I’m not sure why I cry when I hear that song. I think I’m moved because it tells of a kid succeeding despite difficulty. If you haven’t heard it, listen here. I particularly like the end of this version.)

How to deal with mean people the smart way

Anyway, one of the girls in my car (let’s call her Sally) has just revealed that she was once again the butt of a mean comment in PE. Everyone in the car feels her pain; unfortunately we’ve all been there.

Most of us use avoidance as our chief strategy for dealing with unkindness, steering clear of the mean person at all costs. But this strategy is neither practical nor effective, as it is often impossible to avoid a person completely and usually leaves us cowering in fear.

Fortunately, there is a better approach. From research on social and emotional well-being, here’s what I’ve learned about how to cope when someone gets nasty.

First, remember that you can control your response when someone does or says something mean. We may not be able to control much about our life circumstances, but with practice we can control how we respond to those circumstances.

I once got a horrible voicemail from a neighbor. In it, she called me a fraud and my blog a joke, and told me to stay away from her children. Though she seemed high-functioning to the outside world, she seemed pretty unstable to me.

My instinct was to fight back—to expose her craziness to the world, to tell everyone how insanely mean she was.

Sally had the opposite instinct around the girl who teased her in PE. She let this particular mean girl boss her around, hoping against hope that she would eventually relent.

Neither of these responses—attacking back or becoming a spineless doormat—are constructive ways to cope. The most effective response to meanness is compassion. Where there is meanness, there is often a lot of pain, both in the unkind person and for the person on the receiving end of a mean joke, comment, or email.

Take care of your own pain first. When I got the crazy-neighbor voicemail, I was shocked, and hurt (I cared what she thought of me), and, frankly, scared. Researcher Brene Brown, in her fantastic book Daring Greatly, advocates a response to a situation like this that I’ve been using instinctively since I was a kid: Before you attack back, let yourself feel what is going on. You can simply repeat to yourself, “Pain, pain, pain,” and breathe. Sometimes I have to say it out loud.

The key is not to deny what we are feeling, but rather to accept it. Take a moment to be mindful and narrate your emotions: This embarrassment is excruciating. I am so frightened right now. Hang in there with unpleasant feelings at least long enough to acknowledge them.

Often we don’t want to admit we are hurt by another person’s meanness; we want to let it go without letting it get to us. If you can do this, more power to you. But if you can’t, that’s okay, too. You will survive the discomfort of your hurt feelings. It is perfectly normal to feel bad when someone wounds you.

Once you practice this sort of self-compassion, take the next step: See mean people for what they really are—wounded and tiny and probably threatened. Frightened mice masquerading as roaring lions. When I suggested to Sally that her unkind classmate was probably insecure or threatened by her, Sally insisted that just the opposite was true. “She’s the most confident person I know!” The other kids in the car agreed.

But then I had them recall the last time each of them was a little mean to a classmate or sibling. How did you feel right before you did it? The unanimous answer: They felt small, or frustrated, or humiliated, so they did something that might make them feel big or important or powerful. We began to imagine what might have made Sally’s mean-girl feel threatened or small, and the kids came up with a dozen possibilities.

Finally, fight fire with water by sending loving thoughts to the people who hurt you. This is an advanced technique, but I can almost promise that it will make you feel better. I use a traditional loving-kindness meditation, and say things like “May you be happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you be free from suffering” while imagining the person who tried to hurt me.

When we send well-wishes to the hurting people who want us to share their pain, we are able to rise above their suffering. We regain our true power.

After all, it is only when mean people actually are happy and free from suffering that they will stop trying to take us down with them.

© 2013 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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Even the most beautiful home in the most serene town can become a nightmare if you live next door to the wrong kind of people. And dealing with nasty neighbors can be enough to drive even the most peaceful person to the brink.

If you find yourself in this situation or would like to do your very best to avoid it, take some of real estate expert Barbara Corcoran’s practical advice. Here are the five big offenders in the world of nasty neighbors and tips on how to deal with them.

Biggest offenders

  • The racket makers: We’re talking about screaming moms, fighting spouses, horn honkers and tire squealing drivers, loud music fanatics and late-night partiers.
  • The property line fanatics: Someone who trims boundary trees and then sends you the bill.
  • The slob: Like the neighbor that lets the grass grow and leaves trash cans out days after pickup.

How to deal with mean people the smart way

Homeowner’s glowing blue lights have neighbors seeing red

  • The careless pet owner: That neighbor who leaves “you know what” around the neighborhood.
  • The extreme weirdos: Drunks, drug dealers, and the neighbor that never says anything.

If you don’t want to end up with one of the above as your new neighbor, here’s what you can do to spot them early.

How to spot them

  • Cruise the neighborhood at night. You’ll see the guy next door while he’s at home (rather than at work). Most people make the mistake of seeing a home during the day and looking again during the same time a few days later.
  • Talk with the local store owners. They’re always the first to tell you who the pains are, who stiffed them, and who’s involved in a lawsuit. (“I’m thinking of buying the Smith house. Do you know it? Know the street? What are the neighbors like?”)
  • Walk the neighborhood during rush hour. Not just block, but the four blocks surrounding yours. Befriend a few neighbors along the way. (“I’m thinking of buying the Smith House at 12 Maple Avenue. Do you know the neighbors? What are they like?”).
  • Look for the signs. Basketball hoops, skateboard ramps, and trampolines are all tell-tale signs of the racket-maker.
  • Watch and listen. Keep your ears peeled for barking and unleashed neighborhood dogs.
  • Poke around the town clerk’s office. This is an easy way to find out which neighbors have filed for what, like permits for building a house extension over the next 12 months or a new pool.
  • Take a cyberspace tour on ‘Google Street View’ to check out the area. Zoom in on empty lots and backyards that look like a landfill.
  • Check on-line registries. Do this to uncover the location of any local sex offenders.

How to handle bad neighbors

If you are already in the situation of having nasty neighbors, here are nine fail-safe strategies:

1. Call ahead and pick a time to talk.

2. Meet on the sidewalk or on the property line.

3. Don’t accuse; let them know how the problem bothers you and suggest ways to solve it together.

4. If that doesn’t work, check out local noise and disturbance ordinances and write a personal letter. Be sure to offer a solution.

5. Consult your condo or block association. Ask them to send a standard letter citing the ordinance or by-law. A condominium association’s right of first refusal is a little-known clause that can be used to buy your neighbor out.

6. Should that fail, call your local precinct. Keep a record of your complaint.

7. Call in an expert mediator. (To find a mediator, check with your local courthouse, police precinct, or bar association).

8. As a last resort, file a complaint in court.

9. For the property line fanatic, walk the property line together to determine what belongs to whom; consider having the property surveyed to nip the problem in the bud.

How to deal with mean people the smart way

It doesn’t take much experience of the world of work to figure out that it’s not always the most competent people who rise to the top. Nor is the fact that someone has a strong opinion on a subject a reliable indicator that they know anything much about it.

In short, blowhards often manage to sell themselves as skilled, and overconfidence is frequently rewarded. (If you doubt the evidence of your own eyes on this point, there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back it up.)

So how can you avoid being taken in by the loud and self-assured, especially when you’re not an expert in a field yourself? What are the best ways to quickly and accurately sort the genuinely competent from the merely confident?

Writing on Quora recently, Shane Parrish, the entrepreneur and thinker behind the Farnam Street blog, offered a list of helpful suggestions he has compiled over the years. With these tricks, he claims, you can learn “how to separate the copycats and mimics from the real deal.” Here they are:

  1. Elon Musk on How to Tell if People Are Lying: “When I interview someone . [I] ask them to tell me about the problems they worked on and how they solved them. And if someone was really the person that solved it, they will be able to answer at multiple levels–they will be able to go down to the brass tacks. And if they weren’t, they’ll get stuck. And then you can say, ‘oh this person was not really the person who solved it because anyone who struggles hard with a problem never forgets it.'”
  2. Consider the time scales they operate under. The shorter the axis they work on, the more likely they are a mimic.
  3. They’re able to delay gratification (drugs, sex, etc.).
  4. They can simplify and deep dive.
  5. They have the ability to walk you through things step by step, without requiring great leaps.
  6. They spend a lot of time reading.
  7. Intelligent people normally get excited when you ask them why or how, whereas mimics normally get frustrated.
  8. Look at whom they hang around with.
  9. They can argue the other side of an idea better than the people who disagree with them.
  10. They know how to focus and typically create large chunks of time.
  11. They don’t waste a lot of time.
  12. They’ve failed.

What are your own tricks and tells to sort the genuinely smart from the merely overconfident?

No one wants to be disrespected and deal with a smart-mouth. People who communicate with sarcastic, snide or biting remarks can make interactions uncomfortable. Some of these people are trying to push your buttons, as is often the case with adults. Some may be unaware of appropriate interactions and must be taught, as is frequently the case with children and adolescents. Either way, utilize tactics to defuse and resolve harsh situations and learn to deal with and perhaps even heal a smart-mouth.

Maintain an even temperament. The worst thing to do in response to smart-mouths is to reciprocate the behavior and show they have gotten under your skin. If you are dealing with a kid, show your level of maturity by not shooting back words in response or in anger, especially when interacting with your own child. If you are dealing with adults, make sure they see they have not antagonized you.

Appear to ignore the comments. Whether dealing with adults or children, you can defuse their efforts by continuing the conversation as if you were not addressed in such a sarcastic way. For example, if your comment of, “I really need to work out today,” is met with, “Why bother? You didn’t work out yesterday either,” you could respond with, “Yeah I know. It’s really tough getting behind on working out.”

Talk to the person after the moment has passed. Make sure you and the other person are calm. Convey that the smart-mouthed behavior hurt you and you found it inappropriate and rude. Be prepared for the feedback to be negative or even defensive. Don’t bite. Continue to stay calm and focused.

Remove yourself from interacting with smart-mouthed people. Simply don’t talk to them. This act demonstrates to these people that there are consequences for their behavior, and it does so without shouting or aggressive threatening. Tell them you won’t be engaging in conversation unless they come to the table with respect for you. When you deal with children, give them concrete examples of how to communicate respectfully.

How to deal with mean people the smart way

Offer pretty much anyone in the world a pill that would instantly improve IQ, and most people would happily gobble it down. That’s why the internet is full of articles and courses on how to get smarter, learn faster, and emulate geniuses.

But while being smarter sounds appealing, actually living everyday life as an extremely intelligent person can throw up some very real, but rarely acknowledged, challenges.

Not sure you believe me? Then take it from Stanford grad and successful entrepreneur Ramit Sethi. Having studied and worked side by side with some brilliant folks, he’s noticed a few recurring patterns when it comes to the downsides of extreme intelligence. He outlined five in a blog post.

    They overintellectualize things. “Since [smart people] can see lots of angles — in fact, they’ve been rewarded for seeing multiple angles — they often can’t accept what’s in front of them, cautions Sethi. This can be ideal when they’re considering complex strategies or life decisions, he allows, but when shutting up and taking action is what is required, smart people can struggle.

They’re perfectionists. Perfectionism is the smart person’s version of Fear of Failure, according to Sethi.

They’re afraid of looking stupid. This can drive some perverse behavior in kids labeled smart. After school is over the same fear can prevent clever adults from asking questions or learning something new, both of which might reveal their ignorance.

They forget what it’s like to be a beginner. “As you get more and more advanced in your career (or relationship or business or pretty much anything), it becomes harder and harder to relate to true beginners, Sethi warns.

They want to skip the basics. Well, not if they’re Elon Musk-level smart, but your garden-variety intelligent person does, at least in Sethi’s experience. Too many people think they’re too advanced to perfect the fundamentals, he writes.

But if you want confirmation that being smart isn’t all upside, you don’t have to rely on personal observations like Sethi’s. There is also plenty of hard science showing that while big brains create wonderful things for the world, they also often create real struggles for those in possession of them.

Wondering how to deal with the narcissist in your life?

You are not alone.

Many online blogs and support groups for victims of narcissists have sprouted up over the years, as people have realized the damage a narcissist has done in their lives.

All of this online support for victims of narcissism can bring a sigh of relief phew! Im not crazy!

But you probably want practical information, as well.

How do I deal with the narcissist? What do I do? Can I stand up to the narcissist?

Dealing with narcissists is challenging. You cant necessarily outsmart a narcissist, as they tend to be very cunning, manipulative people who are used to getting their way.

However, you can use smart strategies to deal with the narcissist and mitigate the damages.

Here are a few strategies to deal with the recalcitrant narcissist in your life:

1. Establish and Stick to Boundaries with the Narcissistic Person.

We often have this unconscious idea that we are held hostage to anyone who wants to talk to or interact with us. You can and should say no to the narcissist who is being overly demanding of your time.

For example, if a narcissist is hogging up all your time on the telephone, just tell them you need to go. Hang up if you need to. Dont let them monopolize your life.

2. Use Empathic Validation if You Need to Confront a Narcissist.

Empathic validation is a fancy way of saying, butter up your criticism with a compliment first. In fact, criticism (for anyone) is often best accepted in a sandwich form compliment, constructive criticism, compliment.

3. Avoid Sharing Too Much Information with the Narcissist.

The acronym TMI (Too Much Information) is often said jokingly when someone discloses some personal info that may be a bit too personal. But remind yourself that TMI with a narcissist is just about anything personal because the narcissist can and will use that against you.

For example, lets say you share with a narcissistic person that you were fired from a job once due to inputting the wrong information into a computer. The narcissist is likely to bring that up again, often in a nasty way, say, each time you use a computer. Or, worse, they will bring it up in front of a person you are trying to obtain a job from.

4. Dont Make the Mistake of Assuming the Narcissist Cares.

Dont ever assume that the narcissist has genuine feelings or cares. This can be one of the toughest realizations for a kind, caring person. It can be very hard to believe that another human being is really that cold and calculating. We have a tendency to go into denial about this sort of thing. But just try to drill this into your head: Narcissists really dont care.

5. No Drama! Let the Narcissists Games Roll Off Your Back

Narcissists are experts at games and drama. The extremely talented narcissist goes even a step further they stir up the drama, and then sit back, above it all, acting like they had nothing to do with it.

For example, a narcissistic mother would stir up a rivalry and animosity between two sisters. Shed say one thing to sister one, and then another thing to sister two. Then you, as sibling #3, gets put in the middle.

If you confront the mother about this, shell deny that she had anything to do with the drama, and then act all aggrieved that youd even suggest shed do such a horrible thing.

Try not to get sucked into games like this.

6. Dont Second Guess Yourself with a Narcissist.

You dont need to justify yourself to the narcissist. But, thats the game they are going to play with you. Its all about making you doubt yourself and your perceptions.

What narcissists typically engage in is an insidious psychological technique called gaslighting.

On a very simple level, it goes like this:

The narcissist does something selfish, and you confront them on it. The narcissist then twists the event around to make it sound like you were the selfish one.

Narcissists are experts at reframing reality in a way that makes them look good and you look bad.

While it can be infuriating and confusing, dont fall for it. Stick to your guns.

7. Remember: With a Narcissist, Its Not Personal and Never Was.

With a narcissist, you really truly are just a pawn in the game of life to them. And, if it wasnt you who took their abuse, it would have been someone else. While this may be cold comfort, do try to remember that you didnt do anything wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with you or bad about you if you have been the victim of a narcissists abuse.

8. Do a Reality Check After the Narcissist Spins a Story.

Narcissists are typically liars, and not only that, they are usually good liars. Part of the reason for this is that they dont feel guilt in the way other people do.

So, when the narcissist tells you something (particularly about someone else) that is very upsetting, take a deep breath. It may not be true at all! Does the narcissist in your life tell you things that other people are supposedly saying about you behind your back? Things like, Everyone kept telling me about you, but I didnt listen, or, Your friend told me not to trust you.”

Check the veracity of the statement before being sucked into the drama (remember the earlier story about the narcissistic mom).

9. Dont Try to One-Up the Narcissist.

One of the worst things you can do with a narcissist is to try to beat them at their own game. Dont show off with the narcissist. Dont brag, preen, or otherwise try to make yourself look good in front of them.

Narcissists are the kings and queens of self-aggrandizement. If you try to compete with them on that level, you will always lose.

Now, this doesnt mean that you should act like a wilted flower and just slink around when the narcissist is in view. Work on having a healthy self-esteem and try to be as natural as possible.

10. Get Away from the Narcissist.

While this may not be feasible for the short-term, if you can, consider separating yourself from the narcissist as much as possible.

If you are still married to the narcissist and have children, consider the long-term effects of emotional abuse on the kids. It may be best if you leave.

However, if you do decide to maintain a relationship with a narcissist, try to keep some distance.

Get time away from them as much as possible so you can center yourself and get back in touch with reality.

11. Ignore the Narcissist Thatll Really Get Em.

Narcissists thrive on triggering reactions from people. This is how they gain power over you while you lose control.

So, when the narcissist goes on the attack, one of the most effective ways to deal with it is to just ignore them. This can be challenging, as narcissists have an intuitive way of pushing people’s buttons. Deep breathing and stress reduction techniques can help you keep your cool.

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[This article was first published in 2018]

Our world is populated by all kinds of people with hugely varying levels of intelligence. Almost everyone would consider themselves to be intelligent, of course, and it can be very hard to get an accurate assessment of our own intelligence. After all, our thoughts always tend to sound smart in our own head, don’t they?

And intelligence is very important. Especially in a professional context, a smart and agile mind can be your best asset. But people who are less smart often have habits that out them as stupid and can also be quite catastrophic in a number of circumstances.

These are the five most fundamental differences between smart and stupid people, according to the experts.

1. Stupid people blame others for their own mistakes

It’s very noticeable, unprofessional, and something a smart person would never do. If you consistently try to foist your mistakes off on others, you demonstrate to everyone that you can’t be the sharpest tool in the shed.

Stupid people don’t like taking responsibility for their mistakes. They prefer to wallow in self-pity or just go straight to playing the blame game.

Travis Bradberry, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence 2.0.”, knows how telling this behavior really is.

“It’s never a good idea to cast blame. Be accountable. If you had any role — no matter how small — in whatever went wrong, own it,” Bradbury advises. “The moment you start pointing fingers is the moment people start seeing you as someone who lacks accountability for his or her actions.”

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Smart people also know that every mistake is a chance to learn to do better next time. A neurological study conducted by Jason S. Moser of Michigan State University has shown that the brains of smart people actually react differently to mistakes.

2. Stupid people always have to be right

In a situation of conflict, smart people have an easier time empathizing with the other person and understanding their arguments. They are also able to integrate these arguments into their own chain of thought and to reconsider their opinions accordingly.

A sure sign of intelligence is the ability to look at and understand things from a different point of view, and intelligent people are open minded towards new information and changing parameters.

Stupid people on the other hand will continue arguing forever and will not budge from their position, regardless of any valid arguments brought against them. That also means they will not notice if the other person happens to be more intelligent and competent.

This overestimation is called the Dunning-Kruger effect. It is the cognitive bias that makes less competent people overestimate their own skills while underestimating the competence of others.

The term was coined in 1999 in the publication of David Dunning and Justin Kruger. The psychologists had noticed in prior studies that in areas like reading comprehension, playing chess or driving a car, ignorance leads to confidence more often than knowledge does.

At Cornell University they conducted more experiments on this effect and showed that less competent people don’t just overestimate their own skills, they also don’t recognize when someone else’s skills are superior.

Dunning writes: “If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.… [T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”

Of course this does not mean that smart people always think everyone else is right. But they listen attentively and consider all arguments before making their decisions.

3. Stupid people react to conflicts with anger and aggression

Obviously even the smartest people can get really angry from time to time. But for less intelligent people this is the go-to reaction whenever things aren’t going their way. When they feel like they don’t have control over a situation as much as they would like, they tend to use anger and aggressive behavior to secure their position.

Researchers of the University of Michigan conducted a study on 600 participants with their parents and children, over the span of 22 years. They found a distinct correlation between aggressive behavior and a lower IQ-score.

The researchers wrote in their elaboration: “We hypothesized that low intelligence makes the learning of aggressive responses more likely at an early age, and this aggressive behavior makes continued intellectual development more difficult.”

4. Stupid people ignore the needs and feelings of other people

Intelligent people tend to be very good at empathizing with others. This makes it easy for them to understand another person’s point of view.

Russel James of the Texas Tech University conducted a representative study with thousands of Americans and found out that people with a higher IQ are more inclined to give without expecting anything in return. As it turns out, an intelligent person is better at assessing the needs of other people and also more likely to want to help them.

“People with higher cognitive ability are better able to understand and fulfill the needs of distant others.”

People who are less smart have a hard time imagining that people could think differently than they do and would therefore disagree with them. Also the concept of doing something for someone without expecting a favor in return is more foreign to them.

Everyone is selfish now and again, it’s completely normal and human. But it’s important that we keep the balance between the need to pursue our own goals and the need to consider other people’s feelings.

5. Stupid people think they are better than everyone else

Intelligent people try to motivate and help others. They do this because they are not afraid of being overshadowed. They have a healthy level of confidence and are smart enough to accurately assess their own competence.

Stupid people on the other hand tend to badmouth others in order to look better themselves. They believe themselves to be above everyone else and are always quick to judge. Prejudice is very much not a sign of intelligence.

In a Canadian study published by “Psychological Science”, two scientists of the Brock University of Ontario found that “people with low IQs tend to be more in favour of harsh punishments, more homophobic and more likely to be racist.”

Many biologists believe that the human ability to cooperate has been instrumental to our overall development. That could mean that the most important signifier of intelligence is being good at working with others.

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    Here’s How to Tell Within 5 Minutes If Someone Isn’t as Smart as They Think

    Science says people who do one thing tend to be less intelligent. And less competent.

    How to deal with mean people the smart way

    I ordered a turkey sandwich and asked for double meat. The guy behind me said, “You shouldn’t eat meat.” I turned and shrugged.

    “Seriously,” he said, his voice getting louder. “Meat is bad for you.”

    “Maybe so,” I said. “But I like meat.”

    Evidently that was not the right response. “A friend turned me on to a vegan diet,” he said. “Only fools eat meat. Meat is terrible for you. There’s not a single reason to eat meat. The science is irrefutable.” Then he paused and moved closer, narrowing his eyes to stare intently into mine.

    “I’m not sure all meat is bad,” I said. “But that’s really cool how being a vegan has worked out for you. How long have you been doing it?”

    “This is my second day,” he said.

    The Dunning-Kruger Effect

    His certainty provides a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a type of cognitive bias described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in which people believe they’re smarter and more skilled than they actually are. Combine a lack of self-awareness with low cognitive ability and boom: You overestimate your own intelligence and competence.

    As Dunning, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, says, “if you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. The skills you need to produce the right answer are the very same skills you need to recognize the right answer.”

    As Bertrand Russell said, “one of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”

    Or as my grandfather said, “the dumber you are, the more you think you know.”

    (On the flip side, people with high ability tend to underestimate how good they are. High-ability individuals tend to underrate their relative competence, and at the same time assume that tasks that are easy for them are just as easy for other people.)

    But I shouldn’t be too hard on the gentleman who had just adopted a vegan diet. I once spent 20 minutes trying to convince a motorcycle mechanic my bike handled poorly because of issues like spring rate and steering head angle and frame height, only to learn I had unknowingly turned my rear shock’s rebound damping to its lowest setting.

    Wildly overestimating my knowledge made me a D-K.

    We all know people who do the same. They take a position and then proclaim and bluster and pontificate while totally disregarding differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right — and they want you to know they’re right.

    Their behavior isn’t an indication of intelligence, though. It’s the classic sign of a D-K.

    Wisdom Is Never Found in Certainty

    As Jeff Bezos says, “the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.”

    That’s because wisdom isn’t found in certainty. Wisdom is knowing that while you might know a lot, there’s also a lot you don’t know. Wisdom is trying to find out what is right rather than trying to be right. Wisdom is realizing when you’re wrong, and backing down graciously.

    Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to say “I think” instead of “I know.”

    As my Inc. colleague Jessica Stillman says, “next time you’re trying to determine if someone is actually super smart or simply bluffing, don’t ask whether they’re always right. Instead, ask when was the last time they changed their opinion. If they can’t name lots of times they were wrong, they’re probably not as smart as they want to appear.”