I hate being treated like I’m stupid. This is very unfortunate for me since it happens a lot.
While I am nowhere near the smartest person in the world, I am also not the dumbest either. I’ve been lucky enough to experience twenty-two years of fine, formal education provided by my parents and the government.* I have a basic understanding of most things with the exception of Calculus and Physics. I particularly understand basic social science concepts. You do not have to explain double-blind studies, the Flynn effect, (operant) conditioning, long-tail, MacDonald/serial killer triad, or Milgram’s various experiments. I have the skills to understand most current events, English grammatical rules, and historical and scientific concepts. I went to college,** for goodness sakes and pay basic attention to the world. Assuming that you know these things and I don’t just shows that you have no respect for me, not that you’re a smarty-pants. In fact, it makes me start to judge you, your supposed knowledge, your history, experience, and basic social skills.
Notably, the smartest, most important, talented, interesting people I’ve worked with don’t do this. They know that they don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Even though my famous economist boss often told me I was stupid to my face,*** he never talked to me like I was stupid. He trusted that I knew things or could ask or figure them out. I once spent an afternoon geeking out with the DDB’s Head of Strategy, North America and he treated me like a peer. He didn’t need to show off his title – I knew he was smart and talented and he knew that there was a reason why he wanted to spend an afternoon talking to me and that was it. We were just two human behavior geeks drawing on white boards all afternoon.****
And before you ask, yes there were precipitating incidents for this post, but it’s important to say, with or without annoying people. The most important thing I learned from being a Women and Gender studies major is simply to value other people’s experience and, well, treat others like your equals. When it comes down to it, we’re all people and we’re all important, and I wish more people would act like it.
*Thanks mom, dad, and Uncle Sam! Also Macalester College; Dartmouth College; the University of Chicago; the United Nations; the Lebanon, NH school system, particularly Mr. Swainbank; the NSF; NORC; the Federal Bank and University of Chile; the Ford Foundation; other grant agencies; the amazing Chicago Public Library; my super smart friends; Coursera; longform.org; the internet in general; and whoever pays for the political science convention that I sneak into every year.
** Not to say that everyone graduating from college would know all of those things, but really? If you know I have a BA focusing on Social Science and a MA IN Social Science, explaining conditioning means you think I’m either an idiot or the laziest student ever. Also seriously, half of that stuff comes up in Yahoo news stories or procedural TV shows.
*** Notably difficult to work with, aka huge bitch.
**** E.g. awesome! Anyone who wants to geek out like this is not only worth my time, but is completely my friend. I will even bake cookies or provide coffee for geek sessions, anytime, anywhere.