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Help: the people I work with think I'm stupid
June 24, 2010 7:36 PM   Subscribe

Please help me maintain my dignity at work.

Background: I took a job a few months ago that is not at all in my field of study. This, as a consequence of being layed off and unemployed for just under a year.

I see it as a crazy gift. It's a good job. And a real challenge to me (quite outside anything I've ever done before). It is, according to my "peers" beneath what I was trained to do in school, but I've never let myself think in those terms. As far I'm concerned honest work is never beneath me. I was more than happy to take this position. And they were willing to give me a wide learning curve. So, win-win = I was all in.

And, not only in the spirit of working again (finally!), but knowing that learning something new is more valuable to me than standing still /remaining in my field. I've learned quite a bit in the last few months and I really want to continue learning.

Problem:

The people I work with treat me regularly as though it's understood that I'm stupid. This, I believe, comes from their attitude toward the position, itself. I can't explain it otherwise (I don't behave like I'm stupid). Also, I'm appalled. This is a company that has every reason to be "open minded" considering what they stand for.

I can honestly say that I've never treated anyone at any of my jobs one way or the other depending on their position.

I can also say that I've never been treated like this before (and I'm including my many years as a bartender - how I put myself through school in the first place, and I'd gladly bartend again).

I'm low on the totem pole. I get that. I have no problem with that. It's the assumtion/subtle abuse that I encounter that I need to address.

Sometimes it's vague. Sometimes it's not so subtle. But the it's always there. Someone started to tell me how to spell something as I was drafting a document for them, recently. Something that any first grader could spell. I was insulted (note: they have no idea that I was insulted). But, worse, it made me feel like utter shit. It took months for such to have an effect on me, but it's having an effect on me now.

My question is:

How do I maintain my dignity while remaing professional in such an atmosphere, and, at the same time, not lose my cool (nor lose myself - because this is seriously starting to mess with my mind)?

I can't come out and say things "casually" about my education without (IMO) sounding like an ass. So that's out. Also, if at all possible, I want to avoid resorting to their behavior. Nothing passive-aggressive. Just some healthy way to deal without starting to see myself in their eyes.

Ideas? Personal anecdotes?

Thanks, in advance, Mefites.
posted by marimeko to Human Relations (47 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think we need more details on the field of work you were trained for and the one you are in now.
I took a job in a different industry than the one I went to college for and nobody has talked down to me. Granted, it was based on a skill that was needed in that particular environment, and I am needed, but at the same time I am clueless to a lot of things they do.
posted by spacefire at 7:40 PM on June 24, 2010


Your description is very vague. Any chance you can explain what your field is and what field the new job is in?

I think otherwise the only real answer anyone can give you is "ignore the assholes."
posted by bshort at 7:41 PM on June 24, 2010


You are in a perfect position to make yourself indispensible. And that is your stepping stone.

Work it.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2010


Thats, indispensable - and that's not the the problem, but thanks.

I can't say what the job is or what my old job was - too risky. Besides, it shouldn't matter.
posted by marimeko at 7:51 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do the people at your office know that you're overqualified/working "below" your capabilities? The might be intimidated by you and your knowledge. I know that was the case with me for the first few years of my job. If so, this may be their way of exerting control and hoping that (especially in this economy) you don't take over part of their duties. They feel threatened, even if their job description and pay scale ensure that they're taken care of.
posted by Madamina at 7:53 PM on June 24, 2010


I would advise you to use humor to your advantage. For instance, in the spelling situation above I would have given them a big, slightly rueful grin and said "Got it!" Good humored, breezy, confident, amused that they would think you didn't know that already, sometimes a little taken aback but still amused. Just keep doing that for a while and they will realize the quality of person they're dealing with.
posted by raisingsand at 7:53 PM on June 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't come out and say things "casually" about my education without (IMO) sounding like an ass.

I really don't think this is true. Certainly don't pop up with non sequiturs about your education! But there's nothing innately ass-ish about contributing to a conversation with anecdotes about something that happened to you at school.

Also, if the people you work with still don't know anything about you, it may be that you're behaving around them in a way that forces them to resort to their preconceived notions about you, which may include stereotyping you.

Do you eat lunch in the lunchroom with others? Go to happy hours? Heck, do you have water cooler/coffee maker/bathroom conversations? All of those conversations are opportunities to share a little about yourself. And the more they know about you, the more difficult it is for them to rely on stereotypes or preconceived notions about you.
posted by devinemissk at 7:55 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like raisingsand's idea, "F-R-I-E-N...wait, back up a sec."

If you're amenable to the "fake it 'til you make it" school, you can start invoking higher-status behaviors like talking about your school and stuff. It's crass, but it hits them in the lizard brain.
posted by rhizome at 8:01 PM on June 24, 2010


They didn't try to correct her spelling. They tried to tell her how to spell a word that she already knew, while she was drafting a document. It sounds as if they assumed she wouldn't know how to spell it to begin with.

And I think the mistakes in her questions are typos. Making typos is something even good spellers do on occasion.
posted by Evangeline at 8:12 PM on June 24, 2010


Thats, indispensable

That's "that's" (quotes, no comma),

It's the assumtion/subtle abuse

and that's "assumption".

Anyway, the question is how you keep your cool, and my answer is that you remember that the people treating you as if you are stupid are doing so because the people they've encountered in your job previously were stupid. You can't find better work, so you're doing a stupid person's job. That's not their fault, or even yours; many smart people are taking whatever work they can get now. But there's no reason to resent your coworkers for treating you like the person they expect to find in your position.
posted by nicwolff at 8:14 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


See if you can figure out what specific actions, competencies, and courtesies your coworkers value in your position, and embody them. (And then some.) It's easier to prove yourself competent than to change the way they act towards perceived incompetence. Take every opportunity to maximize your learning experiences, ask questions, think analytically about the purpose of your position, how it fits into your employer's purpose, and then begin to consider the roles your coworkers and how they fit into the grand scheme. As long as you're continually, actively involved to the best of your abilities toward 1) furthering your education and strengthening your skills and 2) the goals of the organization—you can remain confident in yourself and your contributions.

Forget your education, and concentrate on your education. Everything else is noise.
posted by carsonb at 8:14 PM on June 24, 2010


I've experienced this too. Recently. It sucks. I think there's a whole lot of people who were brought up being treated like idiots so they only know how to either be afraid of people or treat them like idiots. It certainly doesn't help that you're in the lowest spot. Whoever is in that spot is the group idiot, no matter what that person is like. It just goes with the territory and it sucks. I think the only thing you can do is keep doing your best and just treat it as part of what you're getting paid for. The next time someone does something that upsets you think "The last person in my job probably misspelled that word all the time, so they think nobody in my position can spell it. What idiots." and then go home and do something nice for yourself.
posted by amethysts at 8:17 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been in low-status jobs when I knew that I had a much higher education than any one of my bosses and was treated like a second-grader. It sucks but all you can do is consistently be the best you can be. Usually all it takes is them seeing you doing your job really well and going beyond your job's expectations for people to understand that you deserve respect. You say it's only been a few months; maybe it hasn't been long enough.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2010


Thank you so far.

And, yes, I'm not pretending that I never misspell. I misspell words all the time (here esp). It's because I'm not worrying about such here, in this my safe, happy Metafilter community. This doesn't mean I can't spell. Certainly not at WORK.

No. Everything is spelled perfectly there. TWICE.
posted by marimeko at 8:19 PM on June 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


WTF? Correcting spelling errors in the question? Not helpful and pretty rude, frankly.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:20 PM on June 24, 2010 [23 favorites]


(I really want that to read, "Forget about your education and concentrate on your education.")

coworkers coworkers coworkers

posted by carsonb at 8:22 PM on June 24, 2010


Thanks, PercussivePaul, but I asked for it..
posted by marimeko at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"C-A-T, gotcha!" and smile.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:32 PM on June 24, 2010


I'm smart. No, really. But (long story) I have always worked, for lack of a better term, dead end jobs.

What I do when in your shoes, is-not in an obnoxious way, but subtly-use vocabulary that is a notch or two above. You have to be careful with this, because if you aren't subtle you come off as a pompous ass, but speech patterns do reflect perception of intelligence. Along with that, be totally professional, etc.

After awhile, once your coworkers realize you actually have a brain, things will get better. You will still have one or two who will treat you like an idiot but you will probably notice they treat everyone that way, so you won't let that affect you.

(By the way, in my job, I spell EVERYTHING back. Because, honestly, proper spelling isn't necessarily a mark of intelligence-some very bright people cannot spell worth a crap, and in my line of work, one can't always be sure of the spelling of a name, a street, a city, etc.)

Hope that helps!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:39 PM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bring an obviously intellectually challenging book to work. Leave it on your desk.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:08 PM on June 24, 2010


I think you just have to give it time. It's really difficult to purposefully mention your educational credentials or use erudite vocab in a casual conversation--especially when you're insecure about how you are perceived--without coming across as "hilariously pretentious" instead of "intelligent."

I know it really sucks. I spent some time as a receptionist at a workplace full of people who treated me like a blonde right out of all the jokes. I still remember the looks on their faces when one of them asked me why I was leaving and I said I was going to [Famous] Law School. It wasn't worth it, exactly, but it made me feel a little better.

There is a silver lining: it helps you realize that your work ≠ your life.
posted by sallybrown at 9:09 PM on June 24, 2010


(..) you're doing a stupid person's job. That's not their fault, or even yours; many smart people are taking whatever work they can get now. But there's no reason to resent your coworkers for treating you like the person they expect to find in your position.

My god:

"stupid person's job"


"there's no reason to resent your coworkers for treating you like the person they expect to find in your position."

I don't agree that there is a "stupid person's job". You sound just like the people I work with (Jennifer, is that you?)..
posted by marimeko at 9:09 PM on June 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Marimeko, not knowing what it is YOU are doing, it's hard to extrapolate, but there are indeed plenty of jobs which may not be "stupid person jobs" but nevertheless are filled with "stupid" people. So the presumption of lack of intelligence may be an honest mistake.

One other coping mechanism is to realize that sometimes it is to my advantage for people to consider me dumber than I actually am. No kidding. And it's always fun when circumstances reveal their misunderstanding. But then I guess I am easily amused!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:22 PM on June 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'll go against the grain here. Turn it around. Your dignity does not depend on others. If others choose to treat you like shit, it's their problem. You are making money and supporting yourself. When I started out working in the talent agency business, I started in the mailroom of one of the big three agencies. You were dirt. Lower than dirt. People felt free to actually be sadistic toward you. I saw many people crumble out of the job after a few days, weeks, months. It was a rite of passage (idiotic, IMHO). How I dealt with it? By being unflappable. Doing excellent work. Never complaining. Never showing the least strain. Never giving them the satisfaction of seeing me sweat. "Stay to 11 PM? On a Saturday?" "Sure - no problem, and I'm up for coming in on Sunday, if you need me." Jaws drop. Silence. Promotion.

Never let them see you sweat. Do your work with a smile. Strange effect - when they act like shit to someone like that... they start feeling like shit. And stop. Just my experience.

How do you do it? Use your pride. Make it a game. "You think you'll get my goat? Ha!".

It may take weeks, or months, or even years. But you'll come out on top. And you'll learn invaluable lessons in self-control. Lessons that will come in handy. YOU are in control of your dignity, and nobody else. Nobody will ever again be able to make you feel like X, Y, or Z. It's in your control.
posted by VikingSword at 9:26 PM on June 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


It may not be so much that your coworkers think you're stupid as it is that they don't know what your avocation is. Assuming your current job is an admin job per your profile, there are a lot of different ways to fill in that blank. Some people are fine with working admin jobs and having that be a driving force in their lives. Other people work admin jobs and use it to finance some other project/aspiration. Still others use admin jobs as a stepladder to something else. Each of those approaches can compel people to draw different conclusions -- and those conclusions may honestly be more about the one who draws them, than their object.

It sounds to me like there are people who have filled in the blanks in a way that offends you. While your irritation is understandable, there's no real benefit to dwelling on it -- and it very likely reads as defensiveness, as it does here, which does not achieve your goal at all. If it's possible, I suggest identifying someone who is treated the way you would like to be treated -- admin or not -- and see if there is anything about that person that you could emulate. Doing that might give you something to focus on besides others' behavior, and might help in the long run.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:42 PM on June 24, 2010


Skimmed through the other answers here but I really wanted to ask - is there any chance that work which someone else is doing is being attributed to you? Possibly things predating you joining the organization or something, so that other people are responding to you for mistakes someone else has made?

Also, have the people you're working with previously filled the position you're in now? I have occasionally had problems with higher-ups expecting me to make particular stupid mistakes simply because those higher-ups are kind of stupid themselves and made said mistakes back when they were doing my job.
posted by XMLicious at 11:09 PM on June 24, 2010


My guess is these people do not really think you're stupid; in fact, they see very well that you are intelligent enough to be a threat to them, and are asserting dominance over you and trying to put you in your place with a campaign of flagrant condescension.

Smile knowingly to yourself when this happens, and when you begin to notice the mistakes they make, as I do not doubt you are already doing, correct them with as much tact and delicacy as you can muster. This will bring the ones worth having as allies over to your side eventually, and make the reprobates grind their teeth in their sleep.
posted by jamjam at 11:11 PM on June 24, 2010


its like prison. Find the most obviously intellectually advanced (or assumed intellectually advanced) person and then bitch slap them with some esoteric knowledge in a social setting with other work people around (in a fun way that they don't lose face).

True story: the "smartest guy" in my office when I first started (who is legitimately really smart, no question) treated me like an idiot at first. Then at a New Year's party with work people (very tame/boring) we got into an argument about the civil war and if the south had a shot at winning. He took the position that it was bound to lose in any circumstance (industrial power of the north, attrition = inevitable bla bla bla), I took the position that "winning" for the south was a variable position, that diplomatic victory was possible had Britain/Europe recognized the south as a legitimate nation, rather than a rebellion, and resumed normal cotton trade (Britian was dieing for cotton for their factories)... bla bla bla lincon's divided cabinet, bla bla bla Genius of diplomacy Secretary Seward bla bla bla. You get the picture.

Now, a year later, that work-friend and I are good real friends, we have beers, play chess and talk about esoteric philosophy every Sunday. I have had 2 promotions and everyone always asks me hard questions first if they have one--half the time I have to tell them to go to my friend, but they ask me first :)

By the way, the esoteric books on your desk are good (Recently had "Nietzsche and Buddhism" on my desk, good read. Now on "A Brief History of Everything" by Ken Wilber, also good). However, don't do it as a prop. If you have some Foucault on your desk I would come up to your desk and ask you about it in a friendly manner, so it better be something you can talk smartly about when probed.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 11:32 PM on June 24, 2010


Paraphrasing a quote, attribution, can't remember:
"No one can make you feel like crap without your permission."

When YOU get past the feeling of your job being beneath you, you will notice the clouds dispersing and the sun coming out. You're extra-sensitive to this right now, so your perception of your co-workers' attitudes toward you are skewed.

You can't control what they think, only how you respond to situations. Think of reality TV's mantra: "I'm not here to make friends." You are there for a paycheck, and hopefully you are looking for work that will make you feel more accomplished and fulfiled. Because that all comes from YOU, not anyone you work with.
posted by kidelo at 3:36 AM on June 25, 2010


"Guess what, you lucky duck? The company where you work is so sharp, we actually have an admin who [has a master's degree in linguistics | not only spells fabulously, but also knows 17th century French literature backwards and forwards] -- and LOVES doing this job!"
posted by amtho at 4:08 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you considered the possibility that they are the stupid ones? And they are not being deliberately condescending, they're just assuming that the tasks are as challenging for you as it was for them when they were new.

This actually happened to me when I first started a job in IT at a help desk. A couple guys would just totally talk down to me like I was stupid, explaining really obvious stuff. Since I'm female, I was all "Grar! Sexism!" but as I got to know them I realized that the stuff they were over-explaining had been a challenge for them, and they really were just trying to be helpful.

Another factor was that they were younger than me (early 20's whereas I'm in my 30's) and while they were more technically proficient, they had a lot less work experience than I did. So the job for them had been like, their First Job Ever, so they were learning everything, it was all new to them, and they didn't realize that most of that Job Stuff was old hat to me. A lot of people feel wierd about guiding someone who in most cases would be "above" them, and deal with it awkwardly.

In any case, I agree with those who say just do a good job and try to have a sense of humor about it. Getting defensive and snippy won't do you any good.
posted by cottonswab at 5:54 AM on June 25, 2010


Your coworkers believe that their higher position on the totem pole means that they must be smarter than you. They are asserting that. So it's not really about you. What would you get out of it if they did indeed know about your education? People like your coworkers would have no problem using that against you. They need to believe that they are in their positions by virtue of their superiority. Let them. Spend time outside of work with people who appreciate your intelligence, and don't give these jackasses any power over how you feel.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:59 AM on June 25, 2010


You say the job is quite different from what you were doing before - so I'm guessing you're receiving on the job training? Some people seem to lack the ability to be realistic about what to expect out of newcomers. They cannot seem to recall that all the things that they take for granted now (I.e GRRR she can't alphabetise the numerals!!!!) are an actual SKILLSET that they too had to learn. Or, they simply want to shirk their responsibility to train you up, by trying to convince you you're stupid, rather than actually taking the time to teach you what you need to know to do your job. And perhaps this blindspot/laziness is coming through in the passive agressive behaviour you're suffering through.

So, recognise the shabby treatment for what it is - the other people's problem, not yours. Does not know all there is to know about making acme widgets automagically=/=you are stupid. They should know that.
posted by ultrabuff at 6:31 AM on June 25, 2010


Sometimes it happens simply because you are new. Also, I've worked in places where everyone was very unhappy, insecure and frustrated, and the unhappiness seemed to trickle down. It may also be that people are jealous of you because they somehow sense this job is not the be-all and end-all to you that is to them. I think it is common in certain jobs for long-term people to feel stuck and envy people who appear to be just passing through. I get the sense from your question that you are handling the situation pretty well and not projecting that you are above this job or anything, but people have their own baggage.
posted by BibiRose at 7:39 AM on June 25, 2010


This isn't exactly a parallel, but I see some similarities. I'm a woman and I've been in the motorcycle industry for about ten years, mostly at parts counters. It is not uncommon for customers to not-subtly refuse to talk to me, presumably because they assume I can't know what I'm doing.

This infuriates my husband but I find it funny. You see, it's their loss. The only way I can correct their assumptions is by being competent, and if they won't give me the opportunity, then they can wait however long it is until a man is free to help them.

With a customer, it isn't helpful to make a fuss or call the guy out. If he's a repeat customer, he'll either figure it out or he won't. With a coworker, I think I'd stick to being slightly arch (one raised eyebrow, if you can do it, says "WTF are you doing" with Spock-like elegance) on the outside and make a big shrug on the inside.
posted by workerant at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bring an obviously intellectually challenging book to work. Leave it on your desk.


I did that once, to 'signal' the fact I wasn't a total idiot at a clerical job- and I still cringe at the memory, sciencegeek.

The book was "The Allegory of Love" by C.S. Lewis - a classic study of the rules of the medieval romantic tradition. (!)

The nice boss of the department glanced at the title and said (so very, very sweetly): "ah, love stories - what would we do without them...!"

I immediately felt like the boastful idiot I was.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:43 AM on June 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


This seems really common for a lot of women. My girlfriend has virtually the same complaints at her workplace (as an office manager/accountant for a small tech company) about how the bosses treat her like she's an infant, micromanaging her on simple tasks and not trusting her intelligence or input, and she gets absolutely livid when she talks about it. I think some of that is management's failing in not being able to delegate responsibility, but at the same time I'm going to throw out another viewpoint.

I work in a small data processing shop. We design and optimize software that does sophisticated text algorithms on hundreds of millions of rows. There are only 3 engineers, but all of them are some of the brightest people I've had the pleasure of working with, like solving math problems for fun type of guys. The way we divide labor up, one person basically takes ownership of a job or process and runs it through to the end for each client pretty much on our own, with very little input from other team members. They're all busy too and nobody has time to lord over and micromanage anyone. This is pretty much exactly the opposite situation of what you describe, total autonomy and trust in your ability.

And here's the big thing. You know what? Sometimes, we make mistakes. Sometimes we misunderstand a project spec, or write a query that doesn't quite do what it's supposed to, but is close enough to fool us into thinking it did. Sometimes we just do something straight-up wrong. This isn't because we're stupid. It's because we're human. And the ONLY DEFENSE against human error, is a robust system of double-checking and objective measurements. We rely on a robust system of QA, reports, double-checking, the lynchpin of which is the code review. When I'm done with something, I get up, go find another engineer, and I get 20 minutes with them, and we sit down and comb over what I just wrote. Because if I made a mistake, I want them to find it, and not our clients. They do the same with me when they complete something. If something is important, I want it to hit to 5 different tests that all say "Good!" rather than 1 test that says "I think its good!". The more I can throw at it, the better. The only thing that matters is whether the output at the end is correct. I don't think my coworkers are stupid when I go over and code review their jobs, it's simply what you do to ensure correctness. I'd rather pour 3x over something that is perfect making sure that it is perfect, than onceovering it briefly, trusting that the person is right, and letting an error get through. It has NOTHING to do with your skill, and everything to do with the proper process to guarantee the highest quality end product.

So basically, embrace that you are human, and make mistakes. See them as helping you catch the mistakes you could not, rather than mistrusting your ability. I am sure that they value your work, as my girlfriend has even said that her boss said she is the most indispensable person in the office and none of them could even function without her.
posted by spatula at 10:05 AM on June 25, 2010


Yeah, humor. I can't say what the right technique is for you but here's some good ones:

Pretending to be extra stupid is fun. "Can you spell that for me again? Louder? On the white board?"

Throwing out huge vocabulary words that your coworkers will need to google privately: "This ad hominem attack makes an imbroglio of your logic!"

Mixing the two: "I had no idea that's how you made coffee! It's just a simple thermal extraction of a caffeinated solution from dried vegetable matter. Huh. I'll be back in my cube studying my times tables."

The first one is the best because sometimes people will go out of there way to help you until they realize you're just seeing what you can get them to do. Also, pretending to be stupid is easy.
posted by chairface at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your problem is that you think not knowing how to spell something would somehow make you a lesser person.

Otherwise why would it bother you so deeply?


1. Being smart is like being tall--mostly genetics and lucky environment
2. There's nothing wrong with being stupid, stupid does not mean bad
3. If it bothers you that people think you're stupid, you can prove them wrong
a) Name-dropping education, smarty facts, that you listen to NPR (all more class indicators than anything but I imagine that's a big part of the problem)
b) Seek out difficult tasks and do them well

4. If it doesn't bother you that people think you're stupid (and it probably shouldn't) use it to your advantage--you'll have to figure that one out for yourself
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:21 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nthing humor. I have a 40 hour a week job and an associated graduate degree. I also do part time barista/pastry packaging work at a bakery. I can't believe some of the things customers say to me! And I get called stuff like "Missy" and "Hon." I'm sorry you have to deal with this at a full-time job. Humor is good but too much sarcasm might fail. You'll get your point across but people might think you're no fun/sour grapes.
posted by ShadePlant at 7:32 AM on June 26, 2010


stupid does not mean bad

No? Then why did I work so hard my entire life to be educated, then, I wonder (why does anyone)?

Having anything to prove goes anything goes against my personal MO. Leaving a book to "speak" for me on my desk (for instance) would be fake. Not because I don't read voraciously (I do), but because it would be for the specific purpose of getting attention /validation outside of the my original, more authentic altogether more personal reasons for reading those books in the first place. I'm cetrtain I speak for many when I say: that's silly.

I'm disgruntled, hurt, dismayed - yes. But the point was to find a way to maintain my dignity minus passive-aggressive maneuvers resorting to "proof" of any kind. I already know that I'm smart. They might already know it, too. It's the treatment (based on assumption /neat and tidy form of abuse) that I'm not okay with.

Thanks to everyone for their input. It has ben very helpful. If anyone wants to add, I'm all ears.
posted by marimeko at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2010


No? Then why did I work so hard my entire life to be educated, then, I wonder (why does anyone)?

The assumption that stupid (or uneducated) is bad that is causing you pain. Reconsider it for that reason, and reconsider it because it's rather thoughtless.

First, smart and educated are different. There are plenty of smart and uneducated people. There are plenty of educated people who aren't particularly smart.

Second, you're smart due to luck. Life is unfair. You don't get rewarded with intelligence because you are somehow better or harder working. Therefore, it's not something to be proud of in and of itself. It's just like having brown eyes or being tall. Your intelligence is determined by genetics, nutrition, other environmental factors. These have little or nothing to do with how hard you have worked or how cool you are as a person.

Third, intelligence is only valuable when you use it as a tool. You have obviously applied it to your education, which you value. That's good. If you want people to know about your education, tell them about it. That is something to be proud of (within limits, because access to education is--just like intelligence--largely an accident of birth)

Fourth, allowing yourself to be so disturbed by the mistaken assumptions of others is unwise in the extreme. Perhaps the last 3 people in your position didn't know how to spell that word. What does that have to do with your value as a person? Nothing.

In summary, your ego is too attached to your self-image as a "smart" and/or "educated" person. Focus more on what you do, not who you are or what others think you might be.

In your downtime, research the factors that affect IQ and level of education achieved, and meditate on just world bias.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:58 PM on June 26, 2010


Also--you keep using the word "abusive"--if the behavior is genuinely abusive, then you should try your best to find another job. Trying to put up with abuse or "make" abusers behave differently is pointless at best, crazy-making at worst.

Best of luck.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:00 PM on June 26, 2010


mistaken assumptions

Oh me oh my.

I both enjoy and dislike what you have to say: I enjoy your ideas, but I don't like that you have obviously not read my post, and that you think your telling me anything I don't already know - and in a haughty manner, to boot.

Abuse? Yes I should look for another job. Clearly. Seeing as it took me a year to find this one (again, read the post) that's out of the question. In this economy the luxury of leaving any job is fairly kaput.
posted by marimeko at 2:52 PM on June 26, 2010


They are "mistaken assumptions" because they are assuming that you are stupid and/or uneducated, and you are neither.

You may think that it is obvious that I have not read your post, however, I have.

The first time I read it was when I made my first reply. The second time was when you replied to my comment and I decided to respond with more depth and organization to make sure that I was communicating clearly. I read it a third time just now, and I see nothing that indicates that I have not read your post.

Instead, I see that I disagree with you about something, and that you assume that because I disagree with you, I must not have all the information. This is true in one sense--I'm not you and I'm not there, so I cannot have all of the information that you have.

What have I missed in your post that you feel is making my answer incorrect?

As far as this "you think your telling me anything I don't already know - and in a haughty manner, to boot."

You are being very defensive about this. It seems like it's a little microcosm of what happens at your workplace, doesn't it? I wonder why you react in this way to perceived slights against your intelligence.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:55 PM on June 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Okay. Not that anyone is reading this anymore. But here is why:

you're smart due to luck. Life is unfair


I'm sure this is partly true. I like to think that I was smart due to luck then did all kinds of really difficult /time consuming (not to mention expensive) things to hone my lucky/gene pool specific smarts. I like to think that that is more valuable than being born smart and doing nothing with it. But that's just me..

allowing yourself to be so disturbed by the mistaken assumptions of others is unwise in the extreme

Unwise, yes. Extreme? No. It's human: No one wants to be treated poorly.

Your problem is that you think not knowing how to spell something would somehow make you a lesser person.

I'll say it again: you didn't read my post (I knew how to spell the word).

In summary, your ego is too attached to your self-image as a "smart" and/or "educated

No. I expect people to wait until I've actually have done something stupid before they treat me as though I am stupid. These very same people give such consideration to everyone else. It's the position I'm in (that is, that they can get away with it) that makes it easy to treat me this way. That is what makes it wrong, unfair, and (yes) plainly abusive.

You're right about one thing. I am defensive. I've been unfairly pegged as something I'm not - for no good reason. And your answers provided nothing in the way of advice, only that I should suck it up. Others (here) gave me great advice and got fewer "favorites".

Take from that what you will.
posted by marimeko at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2010


Respectfully, marimeko, you're misinterpreting ifdss#9's comments as a criticism of your own abilities, when what she's trying to do is suggest that a change in your own personal outlook might make you happier and less bothered by the circumstances.

She did not claim that you didn't know how to spell. Rather, she's pointing out that you think not knowing how to spell is something to be ashamed of, and thus when someone else makes that assumption about you, you get offended. If you were less attached to the idea that spelling, and intelligence in general, is something that warrants respect (and contrarily that assumptions about low intelligence are disrespectful), then you would be less bothered by the situation.

Intelligence is of course something to be valued. But you don't have to be attached to that value, and you don't have to need validation of your own intelligence, especially when that need is causing you pain. Instead you can choose to forgive people for their own misguided prejudices and observe their mistaken assumptions as a product of things beyond your control which have nothing to do with you. Let it roll past instead of jumping in front and letting it hit you. It doesn't solve the problem or make things right or fair, but it is a way of taking control over the only thing that you do have control of, which is your own reaction.

(It may not be the right advice for you, but I felt the need to respond because it's clear to me that you've misinterpreted it.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:46 PM on July 3, 2010


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