Tips for the profoundly gifted: social skills

So, you’re deeply gifted, and therefore very probably a misfit and possible outcast. But you are not incapable of learning social skills. Acquiring social skills can actually make it easier to be true to yourself, as you will find people are more likely to listen to and accept you.

Social skills are like any good habit: hard to acquire, easy to keep. In the beginning, you may feel very artificial, but this will change over time, in the same way that learning difficult piano fingering becomes natural with practice. They range from basic verbal niceties (wishing people a nice day, for example) to subtleties of body language. Small efforts go a long way. Humanity is a social species, and the most introverted, misfit genius will discover that social skills vastly improve your life and make it more likely you can accomplish your goals.

The approach I used was to begin paying attention to people who did well socially. Do you find one teacher or doctor preferable to another? Chances are this is at least partly due to better communication skills, and if you observe the differences you’ll discover useful tools to make your life less stressful. This can be better for your health, as well as more pleasant for those around you.

You’ll be more likely to choose the right techniques if you follow Kant’s categorical imperative: never treat the person in front of you simply as a means to an end, but as an end in themselves. In this way you will avoid taking people for granted, and your behavior will begin to adjust accordingly.

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2 thoughts on “Tips for the profoundly gifted: social skills

  1. I had reached this conclusion myself, and selected some individuals for study. However, I think a book or three would be very helpful. Can you suggest some reading material?

    Note: My main issue is not with treating people as a means to an end; it is with remembering they exist while I’m focused on an interesting problem. What have you done to overcome this issue?

    1. Well, the book is so well known it’s almost become its own cliche, but How to Win Friends and Influence People offers excellent advice. I didn’t read it until my forties, but it helped refine my understanding. (There’s a reason it’s still in print.) Beyond that I don’t know. Perhaps you might try novels that describe characters extremely well? Authors like A.S. Byatt (The Children’s Book is nothing but an explication of how various characters are shaped by both nature and nurture), or John Fowles?

      Forgetting others can be a problem. What about writing notes to yourself? I used to leave myself notes taped to the bathroom mirror or fridge, since these were places I visited regularly. Put important people or events’ names up somewhere useful to you, to remind yourself there are more things in life than the problem of the moment. Or, if you’re always on the computer, set appointments in your calendar to remind you of important things.

      On a related note, I’ve made talking to others part of my problem-solving approach. Whether they’re knowledgeable in the area of the problem or not, this always helps clear my thoughts. If you have to explain it, you understand it that much better. Minsky said you can never understand anything until you learn it more than one way, and having to filter a problem through someone else’s perspective is one approach. Think of Sherlock bouncing thoughts off Watson, or Einstein using Besso as a sounding board. Just make sure you give as well as get from the relationship :–)

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