This is 10 Reasons Why Smart People Do Stupid Things. 10 stupid mistakes that even smart people make. Learn about them before you make them.
Understanding high intelligence requires understanding many things. Their unique mind, their upbringing, their educational career, their social and emotional development and much more aspects of their life affect their mindset and behavior.
I want to describe 10 different reasons why smart people make stupid decisions.
Smart people have a skill, and also a challenge, called hyperfocus. This is not only a skill that helps you to focus deeply on a specific problem and engage in deep work. It also often shifts their focus to a specific direction and makes them forget about other solutions to a problem. Once they find what they think will most likely work, they cling to it and find it hard to be receptive to alternative solutions.
‘No, no, no, you’re doing it all wrong! Let me do it!’ This probably sounds familiar when you often deal with a highly intelligent person. Solving certain problems comes naturally to them so they often find it hard to accept that it can take time for others. People often need to be able to go through a process of making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, trying a new strategy, adjusting that strategy and smart people are too impatient for that. They think they are helping when they solve the problem for you but in the eyes of the people around them, that simply makes them an annoying know-it-all.
Intelligent people usually focus on the things they are exceptionally good at because most of them deal with a crippling fear of failure. So they have never gone through a process of performing poorly to mediocre and eventually to mastery. They stick to what comes naturally to them and thus they have little patience and empathy for people making mistakes. In order for them to give feedback, they need to get over their confusion, frustration, and inner conflict. Only then will they be able to have an empathic and productive feedback conversation.
Because of their focus on activities they are naturally gifted at, they usually perform on a high level and get great results. This develops into an (unhealthy) high expectations of personal performance and results. When highly intelligent people get into leadership roles they often expect too much from their environment AND themselves. They might overestimate the amount of impact they can have on their employee’s performance. They approach them in their own personal preferred method, not taking into account their differences and unique work styles. This can eventually lead to frustration with both parties and turn the work environment into a toxic environment. In these situations, it’s good to fly in a neutral third party to assess the relationships and mirror some of the behavior. This will help to gain insight into the effects of certain behaviors on people’s performance.
We discussed the fear of failure a few times already. This means that it’s very hard for them to be wrong because that hurts them on a personal level, not only on a professional level. They identify with being right, having the right answers, best solutions, they find comfort in their natural gift. For many people, it’s their only source of confidence and self-love. They get their appreciation and acknowledgment from it. Taking that away from them can hurt, a lot. Feedback to highly intelligent people should always be delivered based on their specific behavior, not their attitude, personality, or anything else that’s too broad.
Their IQ is often not as high as their EQ. I know a lot of people use this to belittle intelligent people but this is not entirely their own doing. Most parents don’t spend a lot of time on the social-emotional development of a child and with a highly sensitive child (high IQ and HSP usually go hand in hand) this can have major consequences in their life. They tend to focus on what their parents have valued in their childhood; achievements, money, degrees, and less on emotional and social development. In the end, it only grows if you water it…
Highly Intelligent people often have many interests and do pretty well in many of them, but they often never truly reach a mastery level in something. Because of this, they lose interest in things. They start something that grabs their attention, deep-dive, into it, learn what they think is relevant, get bored, and move to the next thing. The best thing for them to avoid losing interest so quickly is to actually commit to something or a certain time period, instead of the knowledge threshold.
They are curious, critical, and want to understand things before they try a habit, follow advice, listen to their boss, or even their parents. ‘Why?’ is extremely common among them. There are many benefits to this behavior. It’s always good to check if it aligns with your values, if it’s actually true and if it makes sense for you. But sometimes, it definitely makes sense to just do and hold your tongue. Sometimes it’s good to just go with something because the conflict is not worth it, sometimes you should trust someone and follow their direction to see where it goes. Don’t overthink every little piece of advice, suggestion or assignment. Do first, ask questions later.
As we discussed before in number 6, lack of social-emotional development creates many problems later on in life. One of these problems are repressing emotions. Intelligent people often repress emotions because they haven’t been taught how to manage their complex emotional inner turmoil. They also are exceptionally gifted in developing coping mechanisms to deal with mental pain so they can ‘ignore’ it for many years. This repressing of emotions is doomed to fail because you can ignore emotions but it will eventually find another way out.
Highly intelligent people come off as very unaware of how their behavior and attitude affect other people. They either have a low EQ, engaged in hyperfocus, goal-driven or otherwise lack empathy. This can make them seem very unaware of their behavior on other people but also the effect on themselves. Their self-sabotage remains hidden until someone is able to highlight it for them. This is tricky because how do you change what you don’t know?
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