It's Not Nice To Be Smarter Than Other PeopleCommentary • Opinion • human interest • ISSUE 39•25 • Jul 2, 2003 By Helen Heep Helen Heep I can't think of anything ruder than people who have to be all brainy and intelligent. As my mother used to say, if you can't say anything mundane, don't say anything at all. She was right: It's not nice to be smarter than other people. Why did you have to say all that stuff about that book you're reading? Would it have been so hard to keep your love of literature to yourself? When you display your intelligence to the people you're talking to, you're really just telling them that you don't have enough respect for them to keep your smarts to yourself. Reeling off a list of your favorite jazz artists may make you a good parrot, but it doesn't make you a good person. Good people hold their tongues, knowing they could hurt someone's feelings if they show knowledge the other person doesn't have. I'm sorry to have to set you straight, but most people don't speak because they want to be educational. They speak because they want to be nice. They have an interest in interacting with other people in a non-confrontational manner that doesn't make them feel like dummies. In other words, they just want to be friendly. What's friendly about bringing up some article about the Mideast crisis you read in The New York Times? Not much, that's for certain. No, it's friendlier to say unchallenging things and let everyone feel like they know as much as you do. There's more to life than being well-informed and cultured. There's good graces, good manners, and good old-fashioned horse senseespecially when it comes to knowing when to talk and when to keep your mouth shut. And, let me tell you, you may know something about astronomy, but you could certainly stand to learn a thing or two about politeness. Do you think people want to hear your views on abstract art or the First Amendment? No one wants to hear things they don't already know, because that just makes them feel dumb. I don't think it's your goal to try to make people feel stupid, but you seem to have this fixation with sharing your intelligence with others. That doesn't make any sense to me. Do you know how you sound when you do that? When you say something like "I'm a big Kubrick fan," what people hear is, "Look at me! I know things!" And nobody likes to hear that. I don't know why you want to come off all smart and well-read, anyway. Sure, with your head full of facts, you may seem to have the world at your feet, but if you keep it up, you'll soon have no one to share it with. Smart people are the loneliest people in the world. They don't have anyone to talk to except other smart people, and who wants to join a conversation between two smart people? No one I know. So, if you want to keep the friends you have and maybe even make some new ones, try being a little less of a know-it-all and a little more of a know-it-some. I mean, would it really kill you to think the capital of Illinois is Chicago? It could only help. Trust me.