Your Rainforest Mind

Support For The Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

The Arrogant Know-It-All Conundrum

51 Comments

Flickr Creative Commons Gaurika Wijeratne

Flickr Creative Commons Gaurika Wijeratne

My counseling clients talk fast. They use words I don’t recognize. They notice when I’m a teensy weensy bit distracted. I don’t know how it happened that I became a therapist for smart people. OK, for g-g-gifted people. Seriously, on the continuum of giftedness, I’m BG. (barely gifted)

I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. I love my job. I’m just saying. I’m not sure how I got here.

In spite of my BGness, I know some things about these people. I mean, I know some things about you.

I know that you’re intense. If you don’t “dial it down,” you may even be accused of being arrogant, a know-it-all. People don’t understand your exuberance or your natural warp speed or your love of language. They don’t understand your glee over dark matter. They don’t know that you don’t realize when you’ve lost them. Or you do realize when you’ve lost them and you’re actually trying to dial it down but you don’t know which ideas they won’t understand and which ones they will understand. You’re just being yourself. You don’t feel special or gifted. You’re just you.

The (wanting-to) know-it-all.

Am I right so far?

Oh, I realize that there are gifted people who are extremely competitive, who try to display their intelligence whenever they can. But I think their numbers are smaller than the stereotype would have us believe. And I bet their behavior comes out of the pressure they feel to meet the expectations that have been thrust upon them since they were little tykes blowing everyone away with their abilities. They have to prove that they’re smart again and again because they think that’s what makes them lovable.

And, you may feel pressure to achieve, too, and guilt when you don’t. You may have learned that your worth depends on your accomplishments. And perhaps you fight the urge to scream in frustration when everyone you know is so s-l-o-w. Patience with coworkers and family members may be difficult to maintain. And at times it becomes too much to bear.

But I know you. Your rainforest mind chooses compassion. Not every time. You aren’t perfect. But kindness usually wins.

True?

So, the next time you’re accused of arrogance, the next time you’re called a know-it-all,  understand where the misperception comes from. Stop blaming yourself for your poor communication skills. Appreciate your exuberance. Warp speed. Love of language. Glee.

Find a safe place to vent your anger– in a journal, on a racquetball court, through an art form, to your therapist.

Then, think about how you might lovingly and selectively dial it down some of the time. Consciously choose what you share and what you don’t. Use your intuition to assess the people you’re with. What can they handle? When do they glaze over? Breathe between sentences. Agree with your partner and friends on a hand signal that they can use that will alert you when you need to switch communication style from fire hose to garden hose.

Then search high and low for someone with whom you can express yourself fully. Another rainforest mind. Someone who loves knowing it all. With you.

__________________________

To my blogEEs: Does this describe your experience? What do you do when this happens to you? Do you see it in others? How would you explain your intensity?

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Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rain forest to describe this population. Like the rain forest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore.

51 thoughts on “The Arrogant Know-It-All Conundrum

  1. Yes this is me! Thought of your work when celebrating my birthday with my nieces. One of them is most likely gifted with straight A’s, accelerated classes,etc. So much emphasis is on achievement and winning ( she’s also an athlete). We were brought up that way, but my sister is a therapist too and thought she’d understand. Yet I do not think she is gifted ( doesn’t possess many of the traits you describe). Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes yes yes yes. Some of my core issues come from my bewilderment from childhood at people being angry at me or feeling hurt by me when all I was doing was being my true self (and always trying to do the right thing). It’s been a huge relief to let that go and choose people who get me.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is absolutely it…. there’s one thing I was reminded of a lot. Sometimes I associate something and just take these associations for granted and people I talk with get really confused because they think I just junmp from one subject to a totally different one. My dad always understands, I think he’s probably gifted too, and we talked quite a bit about this issue. It’s sometimes funny when we talk and my mum is totally confused about our conversation 😀
    But you are right, sometimes we need to have someone who simply understands. It’s amazing how much this differs now (I’ve started med school aboujt a month ago and there are amazing people who think jsut like me!!!!) and I simply feel so much safer now when I don’t have to explain so much and can simply talk.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh and that’s another issue– when you have a creative mind and others don’t follow or don’t know how you got there. I’m glad you have a dad who understands and that you’ve found amazing people in med school. Yay!

      Like

  4. I needed this. Been struggling the past few weeks with exactly everything you’ve said. It’s such a mind warp. Especially when most of your life you edit yourself to fit in and then when you do find your “tribe” you want to scream from the mountain tops because even as introverted as one may be you want to finally feel free then you don’t know if you’ve gone too far and the tretcherous cycle starts all over again. Am I being too much? Now I need to learn how to gauge myself again. Am I isolating myself again?.. ugh it’s really been a whirlwind of a time.

    Why am I tearing up? Ugh these sensitivities. Lol.. Paula you really speak to my heart. I feel (bg) at times too. After going almost 28 yrs feeling substandard then finding my tribe I often question… do i really belong here? Am I an imposter … ahh this rainforest mind..

    Thank you for writing and sharing this post

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Far out. I am poised to return for my second therapy session today; first item on my agenda is an apology for the quick-paced hour long vent that comprised the first session. I’ve been prepping myself on how to slow down this time. Fingers crossed it works out. Felt a bit like I left the therapist in my wake before, which isn’t how I want things to go.
    Usually, in everyday conversation, I try really hard to s l o w my mind down and lower my expectations of the interaction. Just try to be friendly and listen well. Even if somebody isn’t always 3 steps ahead the way I seem to be (on a good day) if I focus and listen it’s usually true that we can relate with each other about plenty of things. After all, the human condition is not reserved merely for those who communicate quickly! As for somebody who I can talk in all dimensions with (including some probably not discovered yet – we are an odd pair) I’m very lucky to have my husband in my life. We typically discuss topics through many different lenses; and can easily find ourselves chatting for hours late at night. Somebody looking from the outside would probably see two over-animated, happy people with sparks in their eyes – talking absolute rubbish 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ro, Your therapist may have been fine with your fast pace. I love the intensity of my clients and find that I can follow them as they race all over the place in random directions. I’m so glad you have a rainforest-minded hubby.

      Like

  6. Great post – so descriptive about what gifted adults go through and how they seem to others. Love your “fire hose- garden hose” metaphor also.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I recently got a new computer and setting it up and getting everything working has proven to be a challenge. This frustration came out when I had to spend over 2 hours on the phone with tech support for one company and another hour on the phone with tech support for another company. I get so impatient with their stupid protocols, when I know that the things they are suggesting AREN’T the PROBLEM. I interrupt them in my impatience. I talk too fast, I talk over them. I want to get the phone call moving to the REAL problem. I am not a know-it-all, I swear, but Oh, my, I know I sound like one at times.

    And, yes, I have been on the other end of the phone GIVING tech support. I know that people have to have the simplest things explained to them slowly and carefully.

    But it is SO frustrating when they can’t tell the difference between someone with a simple problem, who just needs to be walked through the fix and someone with a complicated problem, who has tried many of the simple fixes they have suggested already, if they would only listen to me.

    I am not a know-it-all, I swear…

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Paula,

    To quote one of my students, “I sighed all the way down to my toes,” when I saw this post. 🙂

    I first went to counseling three years ago after my new boss wrote me a confrontational letter about how I was, “Too authoritative and declarative rather than collaborative; condescending; and dismissive.” I was told that I didn’t take time to reflect before sharing my thoughts and that I didn’t, “seem to reflect an understanding that we are facing complex issues that we may not be able to fix perfectly.”

    I wish I could explain how deeply violated I felt by that letter. It emotionally crippled me. With that said, I really did have some serious blind spots. Ironically, I had no idea that I had significantly more capacity and competence than my new boss (and at the risk of “sounding arrogant,” my whole department). I guess I had always found a way to, “go along to get along” throughout my life. Becoming aware of the real differences between us was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. I don’t mean to cheapen the word “trauma” when I say that it was traumatizing. (I should add, though, that a series of difficult life events all happened at the same time, both in and outside of work, creating the perfect storm). It was just too much, too fast.

    The blinds of my Johari window are now open, and I hate it. I would take the metaphorical “blue pill” any day, if I could. Like you, I doubt that I am g-g gifted, but i am gifted enough that it hurts. This is why your post caused me to, “sigh all the way down to my toes.” I think becoming self-aware about one’s giftedness is the more loving action, but it is a hard thing to endure without a little encouragements along the way, which you do so well with this blog.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I think many “regular” people don’t realize how devastating their actions can be to sensitive rainforest minds. I love that expression “sigh all the way down to my toes.” It warms my heart to know that you’re receiving encouragement from my posts.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Holbart,

      Your tribe is out there (yes, referencing prior post replies). We exist! We suffer the same violations, the same feelings of confusion. Though I never received a letter from a boss mentioning that I was “too authoritative and declarative rather than collaborative; condescending; and dismissive”, I totally could have. I’ve had 1 principal who understood me and my mission and 1 who set out to destroy me from day one. I get what you mean about trauma. I’m still suffering the loss of my life as a teacher having left of my own volition because the standardization hurts my soul too much to return.

      Just know that we live and feel more passionately. While it’s tougher on many levels, it’s also more fulfilling and I wouldn’t trade me for anything. Hang in there. Connect with others like you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, Atlas Educational, can I call you Atlas for short? 🙂

        That sounds like a really big loss, leaving teaching. Thanks for sharing your experience. My situation was very similar, with a wonderful boss followed by a not-so-wonderful boss. Thanks for reaching out to me. That means a lot. It’s nice to know that we aren’t alone in being alone. I hope things look up for you soon with your work as a teacher.

        Warmly,

        Holbart

        Liked by 1 person

    • holbart, I can completely relate when you said, “blue pill”! At first I was O.K. with it and pretty content because this is who I have been all my life… but suddenly it does feel a little much “too much” at moments. I COMPLETELY get what you mean!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have recently started following your blog. I really like it, I look forward to your posts. I am a therapist in india. Giftedness is in kind of nascent stage here. I am not sure I belong to the the rainforest mind..
    But I loved your post! I have been struggling with the experience of making it easy for others to get me, they still don’t! Some Of them are wonderful therapists themselves. I can’t seem to understand despite toning it down, how tough it is to get my thoughts or feelings or actions!
    Thank you for this post, it warmed my heart & eased some of my pain..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suspect that if you connect with what I’m writing, then you have a rainforest mind. Thank you for letting me know you’re reading my blog. I’ll be curious to hear more about what it’s like to be a therapist in India!

      Like

      • Thank you for replying. Mental health issues are gaining more sensitivity as days pass by in india. We don’t work on insurance, it’s challenging to make it profitable. At the same time, thanks to the Internet, we are more connected to the world, getting trained by experts & more access to latest researches. I belong to a group of professionals who support each other in this journey, so it’s a tough but meaningful endeavour. Will fill in more as time passes.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I am a recent follower of this blog. I love reading your posts. I am a therapist from india & understanding giftedness is in a kind of nascent stage here.
    This one touched my heart. Just this week, after a particularly embarrassing incident where a respected teacher & fellow therapist looked at me in a group & almost screamed at how my expressive face doesn’t give her a clue if I agree or don’t agree with what she is saying, kind of ignited the struggle of after so many years can’t you figure it out! Why does it matter? I am making it easier by simplifying my thoughts, feelings..
    Thank you for the post, it warmed my heart & eased some of the pain..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Paula-

    I saw your comment on mine and thought I’d jump over and leave my comment here. I wrote on exactly this topic last week (http://irenehila.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/know-it-all/) and love your personal spin on the know-it-all phrase! In fact, side by side, they represent the adult, child, and parental perspectives nicely. It is, as we both acknowledge, one of those phrases which condemns as much as it soothes.

    And by the way, I giggled at your BG comment…. ha! You have such a great way of laying it out. That is what I know!

    Thanks for your note!

    Warmly,
    Irene Hila

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow – this is my first visit to your blog. It’s like you’re inside my head!! Thank you for expressing this so clearly. It almost brought me to tears to see that someone “gets it.” I will be back.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Being able to discuss deep and complex things with each other was definitely something that drew my husband and me together, and it still does. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love your post! I also struggle in being patient not just with people around me but also with myself. Not because I know it all but because I struggle when others are slow to see/notice or sometimes fail to see what I think is obvious. I struggle with keeping my intensity in check so as not to overwhelm those around me and so that they would not say I’m OA or exaggerating. Sigh. Your post describes a good part of me and my eldest son.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you, thank you so much! I don’t know why but I cried while reading your blog. I mean I have loads of great friends and everything and even a few who get my mind leaps sometimes, but I’ve always felt like something was missing. I have to dumb myself down for a lot of people and ask questions I already know the answer to just to make them feel like I’m not that much smarter than them. I have to struggle not to yell “How do you not get this?” or become frustrated with how slow everyone is at understanding things. I have to act like I find some things hard to comprehend just so I don’t come across as condescending. It feels good to know that there are other people out there who have the same problems.

    Liked by 2 people

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  18. No. No more dialling down. I will seek my people, my peers and even if I find only a handful, that will still be more than the rest or the world to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi, Paula! I found your blog this morning and couldn’t stop reading! Congratulations for your great job and thanks for answering so many questions and being so clear and fun!

    For the first time in my life, I feel so cliche… I fit in every single description in every single post I’ve read so far! 🙂

    About your question of being accused of being arrogant, of course the answer is yes. All the time. I was accused of being arrogant even by my psychoanalyst while I was trying to explain how afraid I was to succeed and my efforts to “dumb down”. As you can imagine, I knew she was wrong, but it took me some tome to really believe. I’m from Brazil and currently I’m living in a small town… Not so easy to find a therapist who understands rainforest minds.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: They Say You’re A Know-It-All. Are You? | Your Rainforest Mind

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