Social Question

rockfan's avatar

Is it OK to dumb yourself down in order to enjoy being with a certain friend?

Asked by rockfan (10114points) June 20th, 2011

I’ve known my best friend for six years. He’s an extremely nice person, and fun to be around. The biggest thing that we have in common is sports. But honestly, he’s not the brightest person. He always gets impatient with me when I talk to him about politics, art, books, and anything news related. He even hates talking about the meaning behind a movie or a song. (Hard to believe, but when I saw Inception with him and other friends, he had nothing to say about the movie). So I constantly have to dumb myself down around him. Am I being fake for doing this?

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54 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I’m in the same boat with some of my friends, but I came to the conclusion that we’re all different and we don’t have to be the same to get along. I have other friends I can be ‘smarter’ around, so I just talk about different things with different people.

tom_g's avatar

@rockfan: “Is it OK to dumb yourself down….”

Are you ok with this? What do you get out of the friendship other than sports? If sports is sufficient, then go with it. Only you can know if it’s ok.

@rockfan: “Am I being fake for doing this?”

I don’t think so, although it sounds like torture.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Is it okay for me? No

Is it okay for you? That depends on how much this grates on your nerves.

If you think he’s “fun & nice to be around”, then maybe it’s okay to have him be a friend you do stuff with….just leave the discussion of politics, current events or anything that requires intelligence to the rest of your posse.

I used to have friends like this…I let them go. It was too difficult for me to keep my mouth shut when they said something ridiculously ignorant to me.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

No, you’re not being fake. Some people are just not on the same intellectual levels as others. I have to limit my extensive vocabulary to that of a 10 year old when I speak with my husband’s uncle, and I have a couple of friends that require me to “dumb it down” frequently. I do catch myself thinking, “Wow, really?” with some of the “uneducated” things they say, but I still love them and would never consider them “dumb”.

I’d like to mention that my very best friend mispronounces or flat out misuses words quite often, and as a “grammar nazi”, it does make me wince. But I love her like a sister, and if I can’t find a way to casually work the correct word into our conversation, then I let it go. Her poor grammar grates on me a little, just as I’m sure my casual corrections grate on her, but we are as close as two friends could ever be, and don’t let it affect our relationship.

It doesn’t mean that you’re fake or that you shouldn’t be friends with them, just that you’re on different levels.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I find I can’t do it too often. If I didn’t once in a while, I’d have a lot fewer friends.

Aster's avatar

I’ve found that even if a friend is , er, not informed on a lot of things they’re more so than I am on others so I can stand it. Sort of what @Blackberry said.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I do that once in awhile with friends who got grandfathered in…from high school, before I learned about social justice…I’d never be friends with them now.

JLeslie's avatar

Sure, I think you have dumb down a little with certain people. I am sure some people maybe dumb down for me? Having great conversation and fun the people have to connect. If your friend cannot keep up with you on certain topics, and he is not interested in learning about those topics, leave them for time with someone else.

rebbel's avatar

@rockfan and all who dumb down sometimes, check Harry & Paul out.
Two anglers, one ‘dumb’, the other ‘high brow’, who have a chat.

janbb's avatar

if you are enjoying the friendship enough, whom does it hurt? However, if you are missing too much stimulation, you might want to temper it with other friendships.

dannyc's avatar

I think this is a skill that most people persons of high intellect do subconsciously and for good reason. The minute you think you are too smart for someone else, you are lost. I am not sure I would classify it as dumbing down. I would say it is more communication on a level that generates good feelings between a fellow person, so if one has to “dumb it down” in those terms, then you are doing a good thing. You will be blessed with many colourful characters who can really enrich your life. Nobody likes an intellectual snob.

athenasgriffin's avatar

It would be mean to be around him if all you were going to talk about was things he didn’t understand.

I think you are being considerate.

tom_g's avatar

@dannyc: “Nobody likes an intellectual snob.”

I do!

(I get what you’re saying. However, I really do like to converse with people who are smarter than me. They’re not too difficult to find.)

FutureMemory's avatar

I have to do this with certain family members. I find it to be quite exhausting, but I don’t think I’m being “fake” when I do it.

tom_g's avatar

@FutureMemory – I hear what you’re saying. Sometimes holding back keeps fragile family relationships from completely falling apart. My father and I actually have worked out conversation topics that we are not to discuss. There are so many of them now that we are left with talking about the weather.

mazingerz88's avatar

I don’t think you are dumbing it down if you decide NOT to engage with your friend about movies, books etc. I would call it dumbing it down if you insist on discussing these things stooping on his level. But you said he hates engaging so maybe just don’t do it at all? Would the friendship be worth keeping though if you only talk about sports?

Coloma's avatar

I just let go of a friend like this as well. Although there were other issues, but, I really woke up to the fact that the only thing we really had in common was ancient history, and were not ‘equals’ in integrity, intellect nor interest.

I remember reading somewhere once that it is always easier for the person at a higher level to digress to a lower level, than it is for the lower level person to rise.

This is not arrogant, nor is it a judgment, it is just fact.

Think about it, isn’t it easier for the non-alcoholic to have a drink, than it is for the alcoholic to not?

Isn’t it easier for the more intelligent or interesting person to downplay their gifts and knowledge than it is for the less than intelligent person to fake some sort of knowledge?

Of course, no one person will ever meet every need or desire for another, but, if you CONSISTENTLY find yourself not being 100% yourself or having to take the posistion of following a lesser stimuli, then, maybe time to rethink the relationship.

wundayatta's avatar

Most people around here have IQs about 30 or 40 points above mine, yet they are quite kind to me, and shower me with lurve and affection. They know they if they’re mean, and they drop me, I’ll shatter like crystal. But I provide good comic relief (or so I’m told). Now where did I put my jester’s hat? Augustlan hates it if I show up for dinner without my jester’s hat.

Oh. And I need a new shirt. My buttons have all popped off, so I think a trip the jelly taylor swift is warranted. Kind of like a chimney swift, only with needles, if you know what I mean. Word to the wise and all that.

Well, they don’t like me spending too much time out of my cage, because then I start to smell, and they don’t like how much water it takes to clean me off. But as long as they feed me cashews, I’m ok. Maybe one day they’ll let me kiss one of those jelly beauties. Through the bars I mean. Wouldn’t want me to get out of control. Oh no no.


I never dumb myself down for anybody. If they don’t understand me they can ask questions or sit down in ignorance. Their call.

JLeslie's avatar

@wundayatta 30 to 40 points higher? Somehow I doubt that.

ratboy's avatar

I believe that it is perfectly fine to accomodate oneself to persons of lower intelligence, otherwise I couldn’t be a jelly.

InTheZone's avatar

I’ve learned that nearly every person has something they can teach me. I usually try to find those “gems” in people, rather than attempting to determine if they measure up to me intellectually. There are a number of different types of intelligence, many gifts. Even if their intelligence is not as high as I might perceive mine to be, they might have applied themselves and learned some very interesting and desirable things that they are willing to share.

Some of the greatest teaching moments in my life have come from association with people whom others might find to be intellectually inferior, and I am very appreciative of those gifted people who accepted me with my limitations.

It’s more likely that I’d avoid people who are boastful, arrogant, supercilious or self-satisfied. Those qualities are very tedious to me, and I believe that people who regularly display them are deficient in emotional intelligence, which can be equally if not more important in relationships than IQ.

josie's avatar

Might as well get used to it.

The whole public school system where I live has been dumbed down to the point that you can graduate high school with what used to be fourth grade reading skills. And in some cases, I suspect, not even that. Plus, randomly check out sports interviews with college football and basketball “student” athletes Pretty soon, most people you meet will require you to re-tool yourself in order to be able to interact with them.

Start training for that day with your friend.

Coloma's avatar


Well said, and I do agree, however, sometimes the balance is so far off it becomes unproductive and/or unhealthy to continue the relation.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@wundayatta 30 or 40 points? What’s yours, 60? I’m joking, I’m joking – but at most, 10 points, not 30 or 40, and even 5 would surprise me.

Coloma's avatar


Haha…yes, 30–40 is extreme, hell, for all we know we could be losing points all the time, infact, I joke about ‘mid-life dementia’ a lot these dyas. I may still have a sharp mind but I’m losing my car a lot these days. lol

Plucky's avatar

I think it depends on what you are getting out of the relationship. If you enjoy sports with this friend ..maybe that’s worth it. There are some things that you only do with certain friends. Not every friend is the same.

I make myself mentally more accessible with people in my life all the time. There are several that I can think of right now. The reason I usually do it is because I want them to be able to understand me as clearly as possible – so we can have an engaging and meaningful discussion (if it has to be on their terms, I’m usually fine with that). Even the proverbial village idot has something meaningful to offer.

@InTheZone stated it well. And, yes, as @Coloma stated ..the balance can sometimes be too far off for a healthy productive relationship to emerge.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

chewhorse's avatar

Variety is the spice of life, bubba.. You hang with those of like mentality what do you learn? Things that you already know and as such the debate falls to who’s ideal is the best? You concentrate exclusively on equals during your course in life and you will totally misunderstand the rest of the world (case in point, politicians)..

linguaphile's avatar

I think “dumbing down” has a negative connotation— I consider it adapting to fit the other person or enjoying what we have in common. I have some friends who barely got past the 3rd or 4th grade reading level and have very interesting ways of communicating, but I’m friends with them because of shared interests or shared values. I even have a very close friend who is a recovering meth addict—she’s one of the sweetest and most nonjudgmental person I know, and is so relaxing to be around. I enjoy learning from her worldview and find that even though we’re opposites on many counts, we share the same values.
I might be totally sawing off the limb I’m sitting on here, but… here goes… I’ve found that sometimes the “less intellectual” people can be much more comfortable to hang around with. I’ve found that they’re not as invested in their status or image, or in proving something, or are less rigid with their expectations of right-wrong or how others must behave. They’re often honestly interested in their topics (sports, hunting, etc) and their enthusiasm about their topics is refreshing. Sometimes being around uber-intellectuals is stressful, even if I can converse with them, because some of them are wound way too tight.
I learned humility when I got pregnant at 19—my intellectual, high-browed friends immediately wrote me off and dropped out of sight. The people who supported me, cheered me on, consoled me when my boyfriend disappeared, and were there at the hospital when my son was born were all non-college educated, down home folks (I had friends in ‘low places’ :D ) and still am in touch with them 20 years later.
So if you are enjoying yourself and can converse with your friend easily about your shared interests, don’t worry about it- just have fun!
That being said, I really, really don’t enjoy getting into arguments with some less intellectual people…

BarnacleBill's avatar

From the other side of 50, I’ve reached the conclusion that as you grow up and have different life experiences, you begin to have friends that are compartmentalized, or niche friends. There’s the friends you talk sports with and go to games with, the friends you share high school experiences with, the friends from college, the friends that you call when you need to hang drywall in the basement, the friends that you like to play tennis with, the friends you argue politics with.

As you age, you hopefully become more multidimensional. It’s too much to ask old friends to follow the same growth pattern as you. Friends can overlap interests, but it’s rare that they’re exactly like you in all ways. And that’s okay.

Coloma's avatar


Yes, true, and, we lose our tolerance for stupidity too! ;-)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@BarnacleBill I really can’t wait until this is more acceptable – I’m still largely at that age where niche friends are seen as “fake” friends. Which sucks, because all my “real” friends don’t really care for board games!

wundayatta's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Everybody around here claims to be at the 140 to 160 level. Geniuses all. Do you ever wonder why I’ve not taken that test ever? I don’t want to know. So best to figure I’m around average.

Oh God. It’s just so bogus. I may not be a genius, but who cares? Are people going to stop reading what I have to say because I’m not a genius? Or because I am a genius?

The whole point is that if you think someone is dumb, it’s probably you.

cazzie's avatar

I think that having a person in your life that you can share things with, even if it´s just a portion of your interests, is precious and should be treasured. Treasure each person in your life, for what ever reason you enjoy and spend time with them.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs, that begins when you join a weekly Yahoo games group, and resist the temptation to announce to the world where you are for those two hours. You were…out. Your phone…didn’t ring. Once you begin to realize you don’t need everyone’s approval to do something that has no detrimental impact, all sorts of possibilities open up…

I miss the weekly Settlers of Cataan game with my daughters’ friends.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@BarnacleBill Lol, no I mean every friend I make tends to want to be more if they’re my age – board games alone, cooking alone, farmers markets alone is often not ok.

BarnacleBill's avatar

No, it’s not. You need multigenerational board game friends. Who don’t want to date you.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@BarnacleBill Yeah, what’s up with the multi-generational friends trying to date me? But no, really, I actually just signed up for board game group. So, fingers crossed.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Embrace your inner nerd. The secret is safe here.

snowberry's avatar

I have had experiences like this myself, and it’s something you learn to do. You are not smarter than a 5 year old, yet many folks know how to properly relate to one, and even enjoy it. To do this, you deliberately limit yourself so you can experience life with them. In the process you get to see things through their eyes, which is where the fun is anyway.

You could do that with your friend, but it would certainly look different than it looks when you work with a child. Perhaps you might school yourself to ask questions he would enjoy answering (much like you do with a child). But I am sure you would not talk down to him.

It is possible, if you stick around with him long enough, that he might actually teach YOU something profound.

mattbrowne's avatar

I would not call it dumbing down. I would call it smart communication The sender should always make sure that the receiver gets the message.

snowberry's avatar

Agreed with @mattbrowne. I would add that working with people like this actually serves as an aid to keep you humble. There is no room for pride when you are committed to honoring another human being, regardless of mental acuity.

ratboy's avatar

Damn! I wish I’d been smart enough to take advantage of dumb girls when I was young.

snowberry's avatar

I sure hope @ratboy is making a joke, but I don’t find that kind of humor funny. Instead it’s degrading to women.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@snowberry If he had said “Damn! I wish I’d been smart enough to take advantage of dumb guys when I was young.” would you still be so offended?

snowberry's avatar

@MyNewtBoobs Ewww- NO! Decent people don’t take advantage of other people. Offended is a bit harsh. I do make a point of associating with people of integrity and honor, and attitudes like this don’t cut it.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@snowberry Well, good for you, I guess. But you aren’t exactly associating with @ratboy on here. And if ratboy was such an indecent person, he probably would have actually taken advantage of them in the first place, instead of making a joke about it years later on an internet forum. I’m sure some other jellies could respond to some of your comments with the same vitriol. “Ewww – NO!”? What, is that some homophobic shit?

mattbrowne's avatar

I’ve known @ratboy for a long time. He’s a very smart benign scientist. I’m sure he was joking and certainly didn’t want to offend anyone here.

JLeslie's avatar

Yeah, a joke. He has many one liners on various Q’s.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I thought it was funny shit!

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@ratboy If I pretend to be dumb, will you take advantage of me? <bats lashes>

ratboy's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate Gosh, you’ve got my imagination working in high gear.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@ratboy Oooh! I quite like that!

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