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Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

The people who intimidate you intellectually, do you ever let them know?

Asked by Imadethisupwithnoforethought (14635points) August 9th, 2012

I am considering the tendency, at least in my own experience, to compliment people on their physical prowess.

When was the last time you told somebody you admire their thinking?

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29 Answers

gailcalled's avatar


I find it easy to admire somepne’s intellectual take on things; however, I am not intimidated.

I have my own strengths in some areas; that’s good enough for me.

Trillian's avatar

I don’t get intimidated by other people’s intellect, I’m intrigued. There are so many things to know, one simply can not know everything. I frequently understand just a tiny bit of a topic, or I’ll have a theory about something but not the background to know if I’m way off base or not. I often ask others to share their knowledge with me. Sadly, I’ve asked some on this site who were unwilling to share. When I do find those who are willing, it pleases me to the ends of the earth.

JLeslie's avatar

All the time here on fluther. And, outside of fluther too, but it doesn’t happen often in real life.

I am not intimidated. I have admitted when a topic is too complex for me to understand, because of limited knowledge, or maybe I am just not smart enough regarding a specific topic. Doesn’t phase me in the least to admit such a thing.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I have on occasion, yes. I can’t remember the last time, though.

wundayatta's avatar

Is intimidate the right word? What does it mean for someone’s intellect to intimidate you? How is that even possible? Intimidation is a physical thing. It’s about making someone feel afraid. How can you be afraid of someone’s intellect? What can an intellect do to hurt you?

Nothing. Intellect can come up with words. Words can’t hurt you. Yet, people still insist they are intimidated by someone’s intellect. It really makes no sense to me.

Maybe they think they have no business talking to the person whose intellect intimidates them. Or maybe they think the person won’t be interested in them.

I don’t know what an intimidating intellect is. I’ve never met someone who made me afraid to even talk to them because I thought they were so smart. I’ve met really smart people, but they never made me feel afraid. Why would they?

The thing is, I think intimidation is something you feel. It is not something the intellectual person does. It is entirely your feeling and letting them know this feeling is dumping something on them that is really not their responsibility, nor is it something they caused.

So no. If I ever felt this way, I would never tell the person because that would be placing blame in the wrong place.

On the other hand, you might mean it as a compliment. Perhaps “intimidate” really means that you admire the way they think. You are impressed by their intellect. If that is the case, then I would say that, and not use the word “intimidate,” which I think is entirely inappropriate in both these contexts.

Perhaps there are other meanings of the term that I am overlooking. I will consider those when they come to my attention. But I really think this is an issue where you first have to understand precisely how the word is being used before you make any comment. All else is pretty much nonsense.

Sunny2's avatar

I may make a compliment and mean it, but I’m not intimidated. If I know the subject, I can converse; if I know only a little, I can ask questions; If I know nothing about it at all, I can listen and learn.

jerv's avatar

I rarely see anybody whose overall thinking warrants praise. Everybody has a few good ideas, but most of those people are either inconsistent enough that they only deserve praise for that one thought, or they already know they are smart and don’t need the mental masturbation of slow-stroking their ego.

@wundayatta I concur. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I myself am far from dumb, or whether it’s just a touch of megalomania, but I cannot recall ever being intellectually intimidated myself.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv and @wundayatta I can’t figure out if it is a cultural issue or if it is people who are lower IQ or what exactly. I don’t think it is specically or always either of those things. But, it seems to me some people are intimidated by people who are very smart. They don’t ask questions or listen out of curiosity, but rather kind of tune out when a topic is something they don’t grasp well. I guess maybe I tune out too if it is way beyond my knowledge base, but most conversations I know enough to ask a question, or am interested enough to listen to other people discuss a topic.

I have generalized that people raised in strict religious homes who are taught to be obedient, only speak when spoken too, and never question their parents or preacher might be prone to this culturally. Not sure.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I believe you are correct.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have met people who try to intimidate with their (at least in their own estimation) superior intellects. Actually there are several among our jellies who fill that description! But it matters not to me, there are many who are legends in their own mind.

ETpro's avatar

@Imadethisupwithnoforethought I hope you don’t feel intimidated when I note that the OP asks if I let people know when they intellectually intimidate me, yet the question details seem to be asking if let them know when they intellectually intrigue me. Past sharing the same initial 3 letters, the two words mean very different things. :-)

There are intellectual bullies. I’ve never personally encountered one who was so brilliant they could use me as their punching bag, but I am sure they exist, as modern fiction is full of them. If I felt someone was bullying me with their brilliance, you bet I would let them know. I might even warn them that I have the brawn and martial arts skills to level the playing field if they make such action necessary. A truly bright person ought to get that subtle hint.

I’ve met plenty of people whose intellect totally fascinated me. And yes, I tell them how much I love and am fascinated by their grasp of their strong points. Interestingly, there are few indeed who are true polymaths in today’s world. I can surpass even the brightest I’ve ever met in my own niches.

In that vein, I had an engineer working for me back when I owned the electronics tech. consulting firm that my ETpro screen-name came from. He may have had mild Asperger’s Syndrome. He was certainly not what’s called an idiot-savant. In his domain, he was a savant par excellence. But he was no idiot by any measure. He had a masters in engineering from MIT. Still, he was quirky.

You could ask what you thought was a simple question about whether a electronic circuit could be designed to do a certain function, and he would appear to go into a trance. He would cock his head slightly to the side and stare unblinkingly at you, not even acknowledging that you had spoken to him. But depending on the complexity of the actual circuit design required, within a few seconds to a minute or two, he would begin to rattle off the circuit details complete with all specifications to do the job. The sort of computations he was doing in his head would bog down a supercomputer.

You better believe I let him know how talented he was, and how I valued his unique thought process.

Judi's avatar

Often, when I feel intimidated, I just start asking questions until I understand. Half the time I figure out that they were just talking bullshit and didn’t understand what they were really talking about in the first place.
I have found that the smartest people communicate their knowledge in non intimidating ways so us ordinary folk can understand it.
I thank them for explaining in a way I can understand.

jerv's avatar

@rooeytoo Substitute “morals” for “intellects”, and that describes many others. IMO, the Holier-than-thou types are often worse than the egotistical eggheads. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with a “legend in their own mind” than a self-proclaimed archangel.

@ETpro Quite possible, but if so, it wasn’t mild. I am mild.

ETpro's avatar

@jerv I would never have guessed it. You’re obviously very bright.

Would you say my friend was somewhere short of mild Asperger’s Syndrome or beyond mild. It’s an area I don’t know a lot about.

jerv's avatar

@ETpro Beyond mild. I am mild, and prone to occasional hyperfocus, but generally able to remember that people are in the room (though whether I care or not is another matter entirely), whereas the more serious cases may not. Occasionally, I do get trapped in thought to where I don’t even notice being physically shaken, but even then, I am still with it enough to notice that my eyeballs are drying out and blink.
It sounds like this guy was mid-range, and here’s why. I can usually pass for no weirder than any other computer geek, so I’m fairly mild. Severe cases cannot hold jobs; I know a few on 100% disability. This guy is notably “off” but able to hold a job. Therefore…

ETpro's avatar

@jerv Thanks for the info. And I’m glad you are able to make do in this world.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think I’ve ever been intimidated by superior intelligence, mostly just awed by it. I regularly tell my very smart friends, “I bow down to your giant brain.” I love ‘em!

bookish1's avatar

super intimidating sexy teachers? No, I’ve never told one that I find them intimidating. But that’s probably apparent from my behavior around them. I blush easily…

ucme's avatar

I simply bat them away with my far superior big shiny racket, “advantage @ucme!”

Trillian's avatar

@ucme You men and your fixations with the size of your rackets; why don’t you just plop them onto the table, measure them and be done with it?

ucme's avatar

@Trillian What, & disturb the children at dinner time? I think not!

wundayatta's avatar

There’s a difference between people who know a lot and people who are intolerant of those who know less than them. I’ve been around people who know a lot most of my life. I grew up in a university environment and I work in one. I’ve also hung out with people who know a lot online for most of the last thirty years and I’ve even worked in a think tank. People who were professionally smart, in other words.

I’ve met people with attitudes about those who know less. People can be very impatient when they don’t want to explain things they believe should be obvious. Sometimes they will take a very acerbic tone and act like they are trying to make you feel stupid and shut you up.

Fuck that shit. If you want to have a conversation, then talk to me. If not, go ahead and cop an attitude, but I will call you on it. But mostly my strategy was to ask them for information. I’m very open to learning, especially if you have something to teach me. And I’m generally interested in almost anything.

In my job, which is to be smart, I find that people often diminish their own knowledge and abilities, and it becomes my job to shore them up. Sometimes though, with my colleagues, I find they are being meaner about students than I think they should be, and I try to defend those they are being mean to.

It all depends, I think, on attitude. If someone comes to me and they have an opinion about something but they don’t know much about it, I’ll offer to educate them. If they still keep saying ignorant things, I’ll try to explain another way. But if they still maintain their ignorance, offering no reason for it, I take that as giving me permission to make fun of them.

That’s surely not very kind of me, but I only have so much tolerance for willful ignorance. And remember, this is willful ignorance. These are people who maintain an opinion for no reason. They don’t try to argue. They just know they are right because that’s the way they want it to be. I think that when someone remains willfully ignorant, they are cheating. And cheaters lose the right to fair play. They aren’t even trying.

On the other hand, there have been two or three people—all women—who told me privately that I intimidated them intellectually. Oddly, all of them liked me for it. So clearly intimidation was not a negative. I was pretty surprised, but I think that’s because for me intimidation is a bad thing, not a good thing. It has been hard to wrap my head around. But I guess you can be attracted to someone who intimidates you if you are not threatened by them otherwise.

josie's avatar

One of the qualities of a good leader is to never let your people forget that you know that they are capable of good work (otherwise, how could you expect anything from them). That means complimenting them on the things that they do well, both physical and mental. If you want to project your personal power, you have to be willing and able to give a sincere compliment.

Intimidation is a different issue. I know folks on this site don’t like the following kind of talk, but people do not intimidate me. I have been in a couple of intimidating circumstances to be sure, but individual people are not a problem.

jerv's avatar

I tend to judge people less on what they know and more on their willingness to listen and ability to learn.

Patton's avatar

I can think of one person in particular who intellectually intimidated me, and I never once said a word about it to her. It was one of my professors who was a combination of brilliant and disdainful towards everything. You’d write outside her subject area and it would turn out she still knew everything about it. And not only did she know everything about it, she had strong opinions on why your proposal just couldn’t work. She got a lot of good work out of her students, but her classes were always just short of traumatizing. I guess it was good for us?

@rooeytoo Your post is written in such an obviously defensive manner that I am now off to your post history to see who has intellectually intimidated you here on Fluther!

jerv's avatar

@Patton Actually, I can take a guess. I’m not always nice…

rooeytoo's avatar

@Patton – thank you and jerv for the pity. You are too kind.~ But as you can see by my lurve, I have been here a while and I do manage.

jerv's avatar

@rooeytoo I wouldn’t mess with you if I didn’t like you.

Paradox25's avatar

I can’t say that really anybody intimidates me in an intellectual way. There are a few things that I could easily intimidate others with, regardless of their intellectual prowess, relating to my knowledge of certain topics. Like everybody else, I have strong points, and weak ones.

When it comes to debating I do tend to get myself in trouble when I comment about something that I didn’t research too well. However there are times when I catch my opposition doing this as well when it comes to something that I’ve researched very well.

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