Social Question

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

How often do you have to dumb yourself down, work less efficiently or downplay your ability?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (39052points) June 13th, 2012

How does this manifest? What are the effects of doing so on your well-being, psyche, peace, etc.? How often is this necessary? Why do you think you have to do this?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

55 Answers

ucme's avatar

I often singe a sausage or two, makes my wife feel she’s a better cook….bless.

tranquilsea's avatar

This has been something that I have struggled with since I was teenager. I was judged so harshly for my grades in school that I started to hide them as much as I could. I started to hide my thoughts too so I wouldn’t make my friends feel bad. I buried things deep.

It took me a long time to come to terms with who I am. I started to reach out to organizations and people who are more like I am and slowly I came out of hiding.

I’ve learned to choose my audience wisely. I make sure I talk about science, math, the humanities etc. with certain people but not with others. I really value the friends that I can be completely me without feeling like I need to censor myself.

wundayatta's avatar

I can’t recall doing this. It’s something women are supposed to do in order to find men who won’t be threatened by them, but I don’t understand why a woman would do that. It doesn’t seem worth it, to me. I have never underplayed myself, although perhaps I should have. I don’t know. Like I said, I could never see any percentage in it.

bookish1's avatar

I’ve learned to dumb myself down since middle school. That’s when kids started to get really mean and jealous of how book-smart I was. I would have had very few people to hang out with in high school otherwise.

When I’m trying to make friends with people who aren’t into academia… I tend not to talk too much about my work. It usually bores the shit out of folks. Not really dumbing myself down, but sectioning off a bit of my passions because otherwise it tends to end conversations.

cookieman's avatar

Never. I refuse to. In fact, it’s one of my major pet peeves that people do this or (worse) request it of others.

I won’t do it at work, at home, with family, friends – anywhere.

To be fair, this has been both good and bad for me. I’ve done really well in my career because of it, and I’ve also lost jobs over it. Some people look up to me on certain subjects because I assert myself this way, and others have told me to tone it down.

Frankly, I don’t care. I’m all for tact, but I can’t be dishonest about how fast I pick something up, or dumb down my work.

Perhaps other folks should work a little harder.

Coloma's avatar

This is a non-issue in my work but a huge issue in my personal relationships. I am at an all time life low of interesting people to converse with. I have recently become aware that I am always adjusting my zippy and enthusiastic learning oriented personality to acommodate the boring diatribes of friends. It’s temperament related with me being the enthusiastic, multi-interest, let’s talk about something bigger than petty day to day stuff type.

It is wearing and unrewarding to say the least, but this is par for the course for someone whom is in the 1% of her personality type. lol Good thing I am able to happily amuse myself because I sure have no interesting and vibrant friends these days. haha

Blackberry's avatar

I sometimes have to hide my identity, I would say, around my military peers. Liberal communists like myself aren’t very prevalent in the military. I keep quiet or talk about BS to feel them out. I’ll try to talk about military stuff even though it doesn’t interest me, because we all have that in common. Then, I wait until some semi-serious topic comes up and wait to see what others say. If someone goes on an illegal immigrant rant, I know to keep my mouth shut around them, lol.

I try not to think I’m dumbing myself down, but more like I’m attempting to be more social. Yeah, I wish people would talk about deeper stuff, but maybe we’re all reserving our inner genius so we don’t offend anyone, lol.

cookieman's avatar

@Coloma: Yes, but you have us.

bookish1's avatar

@wundayatta : FWIW, I hate that women feel pressured to do that. I am generally interested in women who put me in awe of their intelligence :)

Coloma's avatar

@cprevite Yes, and it’s a godsend considering the intellectual drought I am weathering in my personal life the last few years. Man (woman) does not live on dull routine. haha

harple's avatar

When I was unemployed for a few months once, I applied for a temporary position (just 7 weeks in the lead up to Christmas)... I conveniently missed off my post-graduate education, and dumbed myself down a bit. I got the job, and before the 7 weeks was out, they realised I was a little more than I’d first seemed and made me manager of the whole thing.

cookieman's avatar

@Blackberry: I agree that you’re not really dumbing yourself down there. It’s more about tact and knowing your audience. I think that’s certainly necessary sometimes.

Pretending you know less than you do, or working slower, or being less efficient to “fit in” or not make someone feel bad is where I think we start dumbing down.

Trillian's avatar

Are you speaking about interactions with other people? I frequently feel like I do this at work. I’ve also had to in every relationship I’ve had, as apparently the men (and the one woman) I’ve been with are intimidated by intelligence.
I have many acquaintances, but only a select couple of friends with whom I can connect on an intellectual level. I value the shit out of them, and steer clear of relationships since my last disaster.
I’m isolated and socially awkward, and sometimes a bit lonely. This is still preferable to the feeling I get when I associate with people who have no clue what I’m talking about when I bring up any topic outside of gossip or what was on the fucking Simpsons, or American Idol.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Coloma I feel for you. My current best friend is a person I’d been searching for for 24 years. She’s thinking about moving away and that literally brings me to tears. We can talk about anything and have talked about anything. We’ve talked so much I’ve lost my voice. I was in a drought for 24 years and I didn’t completely understand just how much that sucked until I met her.

Coloma's avatar

@tranquilsea I hear ya! I have had only one really intelligent and fun female friend in the last 20 something years myself. Being a thinking female with an insatiable curiosity, and a lust for diverse knowledge and experience is not a good blend with most other women who are obsessed with their bodies, their boring day to day dramas and cleaning their houses….gah!

Blackberry's avatar

@cprevite I have intentionally pretended to not know something, but that is rare. I just didn’t want to swiftly correct that person and appear like a snob. It’s kind of hard to correct someone and/or tell them they’re wrong without seeming a little snobbish, sometimes.

If you’re wondering, this person denied humanity’s involvement with CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Fly's avatar

I, like @cprevite, am really bothered by people “dumbing themselves down.” I befriend people who are like me or who don’t mind the way that I am. Otherwise, what’s really the point in being friends?

Here’s just one example of why I dislike it when people do this so much-
I attended the Magnet/Gifted and Talented Program in elementary school, so I was kind of set up that way from the beginning since we were all of the same mindset. I became best friends with a girl in my class, and she was one of only two people besides myself who attended the middle school that I went to, so we remained best friends when we started middle school. At some point around seventh grade, however, my friend became self-conscious about it and wanted to be friends with people who a little more cool than we were at the time. She decided to dumb herself down and in the end her whole personality changed and it ruined our friendship. She’s still like that today, and I’m honestly still a little sad about how badly things turned out.

I just think it’s sad for anyone to ever feel like that have to dumb themselves down to fit in.

BBawlight's avatar

Yes. I’ve had to dumb tons of things down with my peers because I’d say something (like: “You look orange today”) or something with a lot of not-so-simple words and they would give me a few confused stares.
I do it for my own mental sanity so I don’t punch them in the face for not getting what I’ve rephrased several times. I also do it for the sake of communication. How will I get to the lunchroom if I have to say the same thing several times?
It is very often necessary.

nikipedia's avatar

Hasn’t happened yet.

Coloma's avatar

@Aethlflaed Yes, but…there is a difference between dumbing yourself down and just not even bothering to attempt a more global and evolved conversation with someone that has shown you they are incapable of reciprocating or simply do not have the knowledge or desire to elevate themselves to a higher level. I don’t dumb myself down for anyone, but I also do not attempt to initiate interesting conversational topics with those that are not interested.

The truth is that it is always easier for the higher level person to modify themselves opposed to the the lower level persons ability to elevate themselves.
I’ll try to introduce a stimulating topic but once someone shows me they are not interested or capable I don’t force the issue.
Actually my daughter is my most rewarding conversational pal, it pays to breed your own kind. lolol

Aethelflaed's avatar

Somewhat frequently, depending upon the context.

The biggest one is in school. If my grade depends upon how much I improve over the course, and I get the feeling the professor can’t be relied upon to actually help me improve, I’ll usually tank the first couple assignments so that I can get a good grade at the end; I don’t want to be punished because of the professor’s lack of skill in teaching. And sometimes, professors want the smartest kids in the class to teach everyone else, and since this is rather often me and one or two other students, I’ll start dumbing myself down because I rather resent paying tuition fees to do the professor’s job. Occasionally, (almost always in lower-division classes) I feel like I have to dumb myself down in order to have peace within assigned group work, but it depends quite a bit on the exact personalities (the classes with mostly 18/19 y/os are significantly more likely to have this problem than the classes where almost everyone is at least of legal drinking age, if old enough to be president).

In the past couple of years, I’ve started doing it with my sister. We’ve drifted apart some, and she sometimes shuts down pretty soon into conversations (see: family relationships are complicated). So, sometimes I pretend like I don’t know quite as much about something as I do, so that she feels like she can talk to me in a safe environment without me being all “oh, that’s some nice 101 – but did you know about this grad-school level stuff???”. I’d rather have a longer conversation with her and bond some than establish who knows the most about topic x.

Other times, I feel pressure to be smart, but slightly less smart than someone else. If the someone else is a family member or acquaintance, chances are I just don’t hang out with them. But if that someone else is a boss, supervisor, teacher, or other authority, I might have to play along.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma I think that was supposed to be addressed to someone else? Quick, I bet you can still edit!

tranquilsea's avatar

@Fly there was no such thing as a magnet gifted school when I was in school. We could, and did, take advanced classes. We were all judged harshly though.

Here are two incidents that happened in the last couple of years:

Firstly, I was getting my passport picture taken with my husband when the photographer grabs my husband’s sleeve and says, ”You’re going to know what this is” and he pulls out a lightbulb. My husband says, “Uh…it’s a lightbulb.” and shoots me a puzzled, “what’s he getting at” look. The guy then asks if he knows what type it is. I answer with LED and give a bit of history on the LED light. He then looks at me and then looks at my husband and says, “Is she really that smart?” Oh, thems fightin’ words! So I spent the next 10 minutes pillorying him with as many comments as I could.

Then a couple of months later I was at the robotic’s club helping my son build his first robot. The leader of the club was talking about wearing eye protection and I lean into my son and go through a list of scientists who were blinded by their experiments. The leader of the group (who is a scientist himself) asks me, “How do you know that?” with a bit of wonderment. I was a little taken aback.

In my mind the things I said weren’t earth changing nor advanced. But the fact that they came from me, a woman, was remarkable.

Coloma's avatar

Oops…mea culpa, well..anyway, noting the difference between “dumbing down” and simply not bothering.. If you know a donkey cannot run like a racehorse you don’t even bother trying to shove them into the starting gate. That’s not dumbing down, it’s recognizing that donkeys are not capable of going the distance. lol

Sunny2's avatar

@tranquilsea What’s the saying? Don’t hide your light under a bushel? I agree with your approach: just be yourself and let the chips fly where they may. Aren’t they lucky to have you around?

ragingloli's avatar

Every time I interact with humans.

Fly's avatar

@tranquilsea We didn’t have one for the middle or high schools so it really didn’t help much when I was suddenly with different people after being with the same kids for five years. But I was never really made fun of or tormented about being smart except in good fun. I was never bullied for it and once I honed my social skills, I made plenty of friends. From what I understand, things have really changed in the past 10 years or so about this type of thing. But I just can’t understand ever feeling like that, and I think it’s really unfortunate that people such as you were put in that position. I can’t imagine ever having to hide something like that as it is such a big part of me.

Sunny2's avatar

If I think about dumbing down, and I rarely do, but once in a while . . . I talk myself out of it quickly. The only time I may make my language more simple is if I’m trying to explain something to someone whose English is not yet very sophisticated. They need the information more than I need to be me all the time.

BBawlight's avatar

@Coloma I get what you’re saying. So, my answer to this question is no, then. But I often don’t try and bother with stimulating conversation unless I know they are intelligent enough for the topic at hand. Thanks for clearing that up even though your comment wasn’t directed towards me

I often go over black hole theories with my parents because I’m bored. I currently have several college course books on my bookshelf and I like to read Shakespeare and Stephen King. My number one goal for this next school year is to become Valedictorian of my eighth grade year. So you can say that I’m pretty smart and I would often need to engage in stimulating conversation, but my peers can’t provide that so I run to the adults.
The thing is, I often need to go over things several times before my peers understand.
I wish parents taught them to be more interested in academics rather than movie stars.

Coloma's avatar

@BBawlight I think that teaching curiosity is where it’s at. It is hard to become a curious personality if you have never had your curiosity piqued. Also, it sometimes happens that we become friends with people based on a particular in the moment but find the relationship is really based on the past with no real mental/ intellectual connection in the present. One of my current friends and I bonded over a lifestyle choice about 6 years ago, but as time has worn on I realize that we share no common interests at all.

King_Pariah's avatar

How often do I have to? Not that often. How often do I? Often. I just love entering something while being underestimated.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I do it all the time when I talk to others about the details of my work. Not many people get it.

downtide's avatar

I have never needed to dumb myself down.

rebbel's avatar

I am dumbets.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Fly life through that time was bearable because I have a large family who I can talk to about a wide variety of things. I also learned to spread myself out so I didn’t overburden any one person with everything I was interested in.

I’m glad there is such a thing as gifted schools now.

Kayak8's avatar

I never dumb myself down, but I do make judicious use of my vocabulary when I realize that communication is not taking place (as that is the point of the exercise, after all).

ratboy's avatar

I must do so constantly on Fluther. It would be boring if nobody else ever got a chance to answer questions.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’m female and I’ve not ever been made to feel like I had to do this to be attractive to a male. On the job has been a different thing because some positions encourage and others don’t at all. For example, in my current position, I’ve held most of the positions of most everyone around me at some point or another but very few of them are aware of it and if they did know, they’d only wonder what’s wrong with me for working as I do and disrespect me for it.

GracieT's avatar

When I was in job rehab I was told (get this) that I needed to “stop using big words!”. When they told me this it was actually people with master’s degrees and Phds. I think it was because as a disabled person I couldn’t seem to intelligent or I’d have problems finding ANY work.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Trillian Yes, I mean any and all interactions. It’s interesting you bring up relationships because that’s the one place I haven’t been able to effectively (and thankfully) dumb it down without ending it first.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tranquilsea and @Coloma That kind of paucity of differently gendered women (and let’s face it, it is about gender because a ‘normal’ woman doesn’t think, she appears) is really awful…on the one hand, I am not one to disparage women any more than society does already but the way some women are raised (or many women, let’s be serious) makes me not want to be around them.

YARNLADY's avatar

I didn’t do it in school, and was ostracized and bullied. I finally where I could associate with people who were more accepting.

Trillian's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir And is it your experience that people have varying areas or types of intelligence?
My ex husband, for instance, was extremely ill spoken. He couldn’t put a sentence together properly, say words correctly, or spell worth a damn. But he could do taxes and numbers all day long. Whe we got our computer, he took a huge DOS book and read it and completely was able to do all kinds of programming.
I respected his abilities, recognizing that he was strong in areas where I was weak. Bur because I spoke better and was more “book smart” he felt “less” than me and the only way he knew to even the balance was through physical violence.
I’ve read that there are eight different types of intelligence. Do you believe that our society emphasize the importance or significance of some more than others?

Coloma's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir It’s a combo plate of everything. Gender, conditioning, personality style/temperament, IQ, personal interest, self centeredness.
As always, the all you can eat buffet of human nature/nurture.

tinyfaery's avatar

I was going to start patting myself on the back, but then I got bored.

I work a job that is way below my intelligence and capabilities. Does that count?

woodcutter's avatar

I was always doing it when I had a stint at an affirmative action agency. I tell ya it was exhausting. In places like those it becomes a tight wire act and has the potential to cause burnout or high turnover at least.

wundayatta's avatar

Feels like the Twilight Zone to me. This is completely beyond my experience. I have never had to dumb myself down. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy. I would guess that a smart guy is less likely to be dunned in some way because he exhibits an expanded capacity for multisyllabic witticisms. But I’ve read many a story where smart boys got in trouble—mostly because they grew up in poor or working class neighborhoods.

It seems that the signs of intelligence are symbols of class that draws trouble both across class lines and gender lines. I grew up in a college town, so half the kids were professor’s kids (as was I), and being smart was revered and appreciated. Being on the debate team or in chess club were things that people were admired for (at least, I admired them), not teased about, as far as I know.

We had our share dumb kids, who, in my town, happened to be mostly of Polish extraction. They were farmer’s kids. I didn’t understand much about this growing up. I just knew they were the rough kids and the bullies, and I made sure to make them my friends instead of becoming bullied. I’m not sure exactly how I did this, but it did keep me out of certain kinds of trouble in middle school. I never got in a fight. I never got beat up. I think I was also able to protect some other kids from my “friend’s” ire.

I still do that to this day. I make friends with the strongest personality instead of trying to compete with them. Then I help other people understand them. I protect them from their worst instincts and I explain them to others. I don’t know quite why I seem to have a talent for this.

In my family, it was important to be smart. But I never felt very smart. My parents never told me I was smart. Nor did they ever give me the impression I had any talents worth noting.

Fluther has been nice in that respect since a couple of people in the years I’ve been here have said something about me being intelligent. But I tend to reject the notion of intelligence as a matter of philosophy. I don’t know what intelligence tests measure. I don’t know what intelligence means.

Frankly, I think it is a class thing. And this whole discussion feels like a discussion about class, and it sounds like people are patting themselves on their own backs in a back-handed kind of way. Sort of a Kline bottle of self appreciation. It makes me feel kind of icky. Like what is really going on here? Are people bragging about how they have had to dumb themselves down? Or are they bonding? Or both?

And if this is a legitimate phenomenon, then what does it mean? Is it a sign the people have to normalize themselves in order to get along in society? Really? If so, how come I never had to normalize myself?

Don’t get me wrong. There were many times when I wished I was more popular. And maybe I never understood the problem was my attitude. I thought I looked ugly or I was just too uncool, or didn’t like the right music, or was shy and lacked confidence, or didn’t know what to say to girls.

Then again, maybe I was just slow. A slow developer, socially. Slow learner, socially. Maybe it just took me a while to find a way to be a “man” in a way that could appeal to the kind of women I like (which happens to be the smartest women).

I hate the idea of a woman dumbing herself down. I want a woman who can teach me something. I love listening to women I respect and love and admire. I love the kind of wisdom that I find women to exhibit more often than men do. Frankly, I wish women would run the world.

Of course, I’m a lazy little fuck and all I want to do in life is be a sex toy. Unfortunately, most serious women want a serious relationship, not a boy toy. So that plan was kind of dead on arrival.

Hmmm. Did I just dumb myself down? Well, if I did, there is definitely method to my madness. But my messages are very complex and go in several different directions at once. Or so I’d like to believe. Shit! I think I’m going to give myself a headache trying to figure out what I just said. And that would ruin the mystery for anyone else who wants to work it out themselves. I am marvelously subtle, I am!~ Or not. But somewhere out there, I bet there is someone who sees it all.

I find that the people you are really talking to are the ones who understand. Car 54, where are you?

bookish1's avatar

@wundayatta : I’m inclined to agree with you that it is partly a class thing. Like many things Americans obscure by talking about other issues.

I’m very aware of it being a class divide when I don’t talk so much about my work around people I meet who are not into academia. (Aside from the fact that apparently history bores the shit out of most people… And I blame shitty history teachers for that. Tangent.)

In American society, you generally have to come from a certain class background to even be able to be of the mindset that graduate school (and I’m in the humanities going toward a teaching career, not med school or law school or engineering, something that people associate with BUCKS even if they think it’s “nerdy”) is a worthwhile pursuit, let alone to have the cultural/practical knowledge to know how to get in, have a good profile for it, etc.

Hope that makes sense. I don’t have much glucose in my brain right now.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@bookish1 Don’t blame shitty history teachers. Blame the politicians who put so many restrictions on what they can teach, lest someone somewhere be offended.

bookish1's avatar

@Aethelflaed : I won’t dispute you there, but there are also some genuinely bad history teachers out there. I’ve had some and many of my students have only ever had bad ones. It’s not just what they teach, but how. I was just lucky enough to have had one good one who made all the difference.

wundayatta's avatar

I work at a university that is pretty diverse. People come here for a lot of different reasons. A significant minority come purely to prepare themselves to get a good job, however they define that term. A lot of young folks from newly immigrated families are in this category.

The graduate school here sees its share of first generation academics. Indeed, if I had to guess, I think that most of the graduate students are the first generation to get a post-graduate education.

The professors tend to be from more academic or professional families. They’ve had a value for education and access to education for at least a couple of generations, I’d guess. This is a purely personal observation. I can’t back it up with any objective data. It’s just based on the stories I’ve heard, and things I know about the families of people I am friendly with, pretty much all of whom have had at least a college education, and come from families that have been college educated, perhaps for generations.

I guess you could call us the intelligentsia, if that means anything these days. Educated people are not better nor worse than anyone else, in my opinion. But they do have more education and more knowledge at their disposal, and that knowledge makes for more informed opinions. I hope that makes for better opinions.

I know a lot of people feel insecure when they don’t think they have much education. They might not feel like they have a right to participate in certain conversations. I had an experience like that last night with a new member from my crazy group who felt, because she hadn’t been through college, that she couldn’t keep up with some of the rest of us, intellectually. I hated that, and I did my best to make her feel like her ideas are as legitimate as anyone elses, but she seemed to feel that because some of what we were saying was flying right over her head, she was just not doing what she needed to get respect.

I guess it goes two ways. People who dumb themselves down because they feel inadequate that they are too smart, and people who feel inadequate because they don’t think they have enough smarts. The latter can’t smart themselves up, I guess. At least, not quickly.

What intrigues me, I guess, is why we place so much emphasis on these feelings of inadequacy, whichever way they go, and why we feel like we don’t belong if we aren’t the same, and what we can do to make it easier for people to tolerate each other respectfully.

gailcalled's avatar

Perhaps I’ve been lucky. My family and the community I grew up in valued education and learning. It might also have been the era and it may have been where we were living.

It never occurred to me that loving school and doing very well was going to affect any other part of my life, such as my choice of friends and the social scene.

After college, I chose careers that were embedded in academic communities so I had to worry only about keeping up.

At my first job, I used to eat my brown-bag lunch with seven astronomers who played bridge. They used me as the dummy for a while and I simply rotated from table to table. Very soon, however, I was persuaded to learn how to play.
That was a sweaty but ultimately wonderful experience.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

There are only a few people that make me feel the need to do this, simply because they are sweet and thoughtful people but have a low IQ and zero book smarts. In my mind, I’m repeatedly bashing my head against a wall, but I’m carrying on an uninteresting, truly dumb conversation and still smiling.

zensky's avatar

Here? Hardly ever. In real life… actually, fluther has become real life so scratch that.

cookieman's avatar

wait, wait… Fluther isn’t real?!?!

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther