I want to be less smart
October 26, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

How can I make people think I am less intelligent than they think I am?

I'm not particularly smart. My IQ is about 120 or so, so I may be a bit above average, but not very much above average. I'm struggling in the university and I already switched university because the first one was too tough for me. So I'm not very smart. But people seem to think I am.

The people I've known for a while (let's say from a few weeks), make occasional comments about me being smart. They assume I know about such stuff like Art or Foreign Films or all that. I hear comments like - oh, you would not be able to relate with that guy because he's too ghetto.

So obviously, there is something in the way I speak or in my face that is giving this impression, and it's an impression I really don't want to give. I want people to underestimate me. I much prefer that they see me as a normal down-to-earth guy.

Over the past year I've done some eleminations in my mannerisms to remove this stigma:

1. I never tell people about stuff. If someone mentions some obscure thing I know about, I don't lecture them about it. If they mention some country, I don't remark about how I've also been there

2. I don't talk about things that the people I am with do not know about. I don't try to explain programming or electronics to people

3. I don't philosophize or run theoretical arguments

4. I don't make obscure jokes or jokes that refer to things

5. I don't name drop any authors, films or books

6. I don't use any big words. I speak with normal words

7. I don't speak about studies or what I've been doing

8. I don't speak about my ideas for things

9. I avoid any unconventional topics

Now, before you say I am muting my personality - I don't think so. The people I hang out with don't react well to these type of things. Imagine me living in some Fridayesque ghetto to understand what I'm talking about.

In spite of all that, people still decide that I am smart. What effective tricks can I use to make me simply blend in with the crowd I am with and effectively hide any extra knowledge I may have?
posted by ChabonJabon to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Embrace it. Really. Use it to your advantage. Why in hell do you want to dumb yourself down? Use your "image" to challenge your social group to think more.

(they probably think you're smart because you speak in complete sentences and enunciate.)
posted by notsnot at 8:45 AM on October 26, 2008

Maybe instead of trying to dumb yourself down you could try to find a smarter group of people to hang out with? Maybe you just need to reframe the way you're looking at your current peer group. It could be that they "don't react well to these type of things" because you expect them not to.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:47 AM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Be yourself friend. When you go changing your personality for other people's acceptance, you are looking down the barrel of a lifetime of hurt. Be you and you'll attract people into your life that can appreciate your personality.
posted by bprater at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I much prefer that they see me as a normal down-to-earth guy.

You're better off just being yourself. You'll never come off as "down-to-earth" if you're constantly following a complex set of self-imposed rules to make yourself seem a certain way to people with whom you interact. We all have built-in bullshit detectors for that stuff.
posted by poppo at 8:51 AM on October 26, 2008

Stop wearing glasses, start chewing gum, wear dirty jeans and shirts, dye your hair blond, don't enunciate words so annoyingly-well (except for 'nucular'), and to make double-damn certain, slap a nice Palin-McCain bumper sticker on your book bag.

I mean really: if you're actually trying to make shallow impressions on shallow people who care about such things, you might as well use all the worst stereotypes.
posted by rokusan at 8:52 AM on October 26, 2008

Being dumb is a curse. Why would you wish it upon yourself for the sake of fitting in with other dumb people?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:53 AM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, the best you can do is just be who you are. It's fine to be smart, as long as you are not a smartass. As to why people consider "a bit above average" folks as "smart," there's a bit from American Splendor (the movie and comic book) that is insightful.

Harvey Pekar overhears some guys talking:

Guy #1: So is the girl smart?
Guy #2: Well, I guess she's about average.
Guy #1: Average?! Man, average is dumb!

So, just try and not come across as a know-it-all, be sure you listen more than you talk, and be nice to people.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:54 AM on October 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

Sorry, what? Your IQ isn't a sure measure of your intelligence, you know? Have you considered maybe you really are intelligent, but not trying hard enough? Success is about hard work more than anything else. If you're not willing to do the hard work I suppose that's fine, but then you have to accept the fact you are not fulfilling your potential. I don't think you can have your cake and eat it, no matter how... backwards you want it to happen.

On alternative, you can not sleep. If I go without sleep, I get totally dumbed out. Or drugs, I suppose. But see, that's making yourself worse than you are, and... I just can't see what the hell for.
posted by neblina_matinal at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Having seen several of your previous questions I would recommend quitting the constant self examination and constantly trying to second guess other people, and see a therapist.
posted by fire&wings at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2008 [10 favorites]

Seconding hanging out with smarter people. So you're of average intelligence, but you're hanging around with people with sub-average intelligence; of course you're going to appear smart. I'm sure if you look around you can find some people who will underestimate you and write off your opinions. If that's really what you're looking for.
posted by Hildegarde at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2008

Question for point of clarification:

Are you black and hanging around other blacks who view your education as making you different?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2008

You're asking the wrong question. You're already doing too much to "be less smart."
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Talk much less. Develop a talent for just listening and smiling. Works like a charm.
posted by watercarrier at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2008

Yes, just hang around with some people who are much smarter than you. People that can tell you're not above them. It will reduce this problem, and make you smarter as a bonus. That doesn't mean you have to stop hanging out with your friends - just being around the other crowd once in a while will make you more comfortable with being you.

On the other hand, is your problem that they think you're smart per se, which makes you feel uncomfortable? Or is it that them thinking you're smart causes you other grief. Do they all expect you to solve their problems for them, or constantly leave it up to you to figure things out because you're smart? That's a different problem.

Your list of 9 things reminds me of me a long time ago. I've been wondering lately if that had anything to do with people now telling me they think I may have a mild schizoid personality disorder.

Seriously, the answer isn't to change yourself to fit in, it's to find people you fit in with.
posted by ctmf at 9:14 AM on October 26, 2008

"I want people to underestimate me". You're on a losing streak with this kind of thinking already - basically you're asking us to help you find strategies for continuously manipulating other people's perceptions of you. This isn't going to happen. As Poppo said, people will detect this kind of thing a mile off. So, stop worrying so much about what other people think of you and BE YOURSELF - there is no other option in this life and if they don't like you as you are - tough cookies.
posted by Chairboy at 9:16 AM on October 26, 2008

I would think that continuing to hang out with people who look down on "smartness" would restrict the type of ideas you're exposed to and eventually make you less smart.

Maybe appearing less smart might relieve some immediate social discomfort you're feeling, but it will limit your growth and won't help your long term prospects. Try to find people who appreciate your interests.

If you want to continue socializing with your current group of friends, maybe stop thinking about them as less smart and approach them as being smarter in some aspects than you are. You have things you can learn from them and they have things they can learn from you, ie. each person has their area of expertise. I love learning about new things from friends and definitely appreciate their insight into a world I had no previous exposure to.
posted by mixed greens at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2008

*people still decide that I am smart*

How have you actually concluded this? One wonders how a person would know what is running through another persons head without actually going up to them and flat out asking them or doing a poll. Have you done one or the other? Could it actually be that you're assuming? Which frankly rings just a tad of arrogance - and in anyone's book that's not very smart.
posted by watercarrier at 9:32 AM on October 26, 2008

Nthing that you should find less anti-intellectual people to hang out with, and nthing that people have built-in bullshit detectors for this sort of thing.

But if you're determined to do it anyway -- I have no idea why -- then rokusan's suggestion would probably work in reality. All I can figure from your post is that you probably dress like a stereotype of an educated person. Dirty people with bleached blond hair are, whether it's fair or not, generally not perceived to be well-educated. Psychological studies have shown that people with darker hair and straighter hair are taken more seriously. If you can make your hair curly, too, it'll be another drop in the bucket. The chewing gum suggestion would work, too, since it seems unprofessional.

In rare situations where it's been expedient, I've played up my Texas accent to sound less educated. If you have a slight accent of Southern or ethnic origin, you can gradually lay it on thicker and people will (again, fairly or unfairly) assume you're either ignorant or simple-minded nice folk.

Now, you can also see intelligence in someone's eyes. Stop that. Glassy and vacant is your ticket to low expectations. Never look serious or studious.

Do you take notes in class? Stop that too. Only people who are interested in education take notes. And trust me, anti-intellectual people who think it's stupid to take notes spend some of their time looking around the classroom and wondering why people bother taking notes. I know this because there was one such guy in my high school Russian class who would loudly berate anyone who took notes, and some stereotypical sorority bimbos who sat behind me in a college anthropology class who would giggle and say to each other, "Oh my god, look at all these people taking notes!"

A lot of times the anti-intellectual people will seize on any little clue they can get because it boosts their self-esteem to make fun of smart people. For what it's worth, though, they seem to target the most obviously studious people, so if you dress average-to-trashy and keep quiet, they probably won't notice you. But they aren't the only people who will think you're smart, either.

Only people smart enough to follow the lecture take notes. I know this because I was in a math class for liberal arts majors and there were some nice people who just didn't get the material. I sat next to one. She would fret during the lecture and thought everyone who understood the material -- which wasn't anything more complicated than fractions -- was a genius because it was so hard for her. There isn't a whole lot you can do to make these people think you're stupid unless you pretend to be as lost as they are and don't take notes; they're too nice and their self-esteem is too low for them to think bad things about other people. If any of your friends are saying you're smart like it's a good thing, it's hard to convince them otherwise.

Do you participate in class? Stop it. People will think you're smart. There was a government class and a philosophy class where I was interested in the material and would contribute. I would get e-mails from people I didn't really know in the class asking me for help instead of the TA. I didn't mind helping or having people think I was smart, but you absolutely cannot talk in class because anyone who struggles with the material will notice that you seem to understand it.

It doesn't hurt to be conspicuously truant from class at least once a week. It gives the impression that you don't take education seriously and you're not sure why you're at college. (I'm not saying it actually means that; I skipped a lot of classes for various reasons and so do other people.)

If you manage to keep up your grades despite not taking notes and missing out on any applicable "participation" and "attendance" grades, don't let anyone know what your grades are. If they ask, say you struggled to get a C. This may be difficult to pull off if you get papers back in class and they ask to see your grade, but just act like it's so bad you don't want to show anyone. (General "privacy" should be a valid excuse, but in practice lots of people won't take that for an answer. They'll start out asking to see your grades because they think you're smart and want to see what you got, and if you keep saying that you did poorly -- excuse me, "did bad" -- they may not ask as much.)

Hope this is what you were looking for, even though I still think it's crazy for you to bother.
posted by Nattie at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

wear a NASCAR hat
posted by nadawi at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2008

Acquire a Southern accent. My perceived IQ drops twenty points every time I open my mouth.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2008 [7 favorites]

Most people, regardless of their IQ, know more about some particular topic than you do. Find that topic, and ask them about it. Let them teach you something about it. Ask questions. They will feel knowledgeable, plus you'll learn something too.
posted by Sar at 9:54 AM on October 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

I think we need clarification on Brandon's question. My immediate assumption was also that the poster was a member of a minority group, and if that's the case, I think the answer to that question will change the tenor of other people's advice to the poster (the tip to dye hair blond takes on a different cast, certainly).
posted by decathecting at 10:16 AM on October 26, 2008

Nattie's answer may be the surefire way to seem dumber, but it's also a surefire way to fail out of college.

Do your best in school. If your friends comment on it, say you have to work hard to pass - it's not that you're smart, but instead that you've got to graduate, and poor grades aren't going to do it.

Once you're done with school, you can act as stupidly as you wish. Playing dumb in college is only going to end up with you being kicked out with a lot of debt and no job to pay up.

If your friends don't accept you, find new ones.

If it's just a matter of you not being comfortable with being seen as smart, hanging out with even smarter people could help.

Go to a republican/democrat (whichever you know most about) club meeting and argue for the opposite. (So if you're voting democrat, go to the college dem. meeting and argue for the republican ticket...) Losing an argument will make you seem dumber, especially if you initiate the 'brawl' and then seem to know nothing to back up your side.

This works with other groups too. Find some musically inclined people and trash whichever artist or genre they adore. Instead praise the exact opposite. The more unpopular the better. Say, accordion music. I know if someone started telling me that Billy Joel sucked compared to someone like The Backstreet Boys, I would declare them as grade one morons.

This goes hand in hand with what Sar said. Asking a lot of questions, will make those around you feel smarter, and perhaps the pressure will be off of you for a while. It's also a lot safer for your future success with school and life, though not ideal.

Really though, you should try to find a way to be comfortable with yourself the way you are, rather than trying to fit what you want people to think you are. You'll end up happier in the long run.
posted by Kimothy at 10:24 AM on October 26, 2008

How do you know that your friends don't have IQs higher than yours? I'm guessing that some of your friends are intelligent in different ways than you. There have been many times that I've kind of pigeon holed someone I've just met, only to find out they have a bigger collection of books than I do, can beat me in Scrabble, have an impressive level of knowledge about a genre of music or have some great artistic skill that they didn't learn by going to college.

When people spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think about them, the resulting self-consciousness can be really obvious and painful to be around. I know college professors, scientists, lawyers and people who can go to a dive bar, a rodeo, a biker rally, a hip-hop show or a front porch on the "bad" side of town and totally fit in without over-thinking the situation and being perceived as the resident egg-head. Maybe you need to re-evaluate the stereotype of the educated person?

Perhaps you are confusing perceived intelligence with pretentiousness? If you are doing stuff like correcting people's grammar or lecturing them against their will about topics that you know more about, I'd say knock it off. Otherwise, just be yourself and relax.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:46 AM on October 26, 2008

Here's a few things to strive towards. Be wary as these are a slippery slope to actually being dumb and not just pretending to be.

1. Stop being introspective. The dumbest motherfuckers I've ever met have been people with very little internal life going on.

2. Deal in solely concrete issues, not abstractions: if you can't eat it, fuck it, drink it, drive it, shoot it or fight it, it's not worth thinking about.

3. See everything in black and white, us or them, terms.

4. Put yourself first above all else; empathy is something only thinkers have. (See also the 'us and them' mentality above'). Look into narcissism.

5. Care about nothing too deeply, even if it seems like a shallow pursuit. I've met people who can elevate automechanics into an artform and articulate the beauty of it. Don't be that guy.

That's a start. I'd also probably deactivate my metafilter account and stop hanging around people online.

Good luck!
posted by slimepuppy at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2008 [4 favorites]

Perhaps you are confusing perceived intelligence with pretentiousness? If you are doing stuff like correcting people's grammar or lecturing them against their will about topics that you know more about, I'd say knock it off. Otherwise, just be yourself and relax.

pluckysparrow said it before I could. Based on this, and your previous questions, you seem to be very in to labeling and categorizing people. While this isn't always a mark of intelligence (I'd argue that it's the opposite), making these sort of assumptions is a sure way to reek of elitism. It sounds like your friends are trying to engage you about intelligent things ("If someone mentions some obscure thing I know about, I don't lecture them about it. If they mention some country, I don't remark about how I've also been there") and you're refusing to do so because you think you're smarter than they are. However, if they're mentioning foreign countries or raising obscure topics, I'm not entirely sure that a lecture would be called for even if you weren't trying to sound dumb--after all, people rarely bring up topics they know absolutely nothing about. Quit assuming that the people around you are stupid or need your lecturing, and instead engage with them honestly. Right now, I'd guess that you're not really doing so because you'd feel threatened if these preconceptions were challenged--if you learned that those around you were as smarter, or smarter, than you are.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:55 AM on October 26, 2008

It is probably unlikely that you will be able to change the opinion of people you already know since belief is a tenacious thing, but if you really want to dumb yourself down I would suggest that many people seem to equate independence of thought and action with intelligence. It doesn't really matter so much as to the quality of thought as it does that it is singular. Become a follower of someone or some group, do what other are doing, don't stand out, agree readily with people on what they talk about, ask advice a lot and tell other people how smart they are all the time and people will stop thinking you're any different than anyone else.
Personally, I would prefer seeking out new people to hang around with instead, heck, finding a much smarter group of friends could fix your problem pretty easily, since then you wouldn't be the smartest person around and would no longer have to worry about having such a strange "problem".
posted by mr.grum at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2008

Why deny the people around you the opportunity of knowing someone who has experienced different parts of existence than they have?

That's silly. Especially in the 'hood. As long as you're not taking on airs or being stuck-up or rubbing it in people's faces or always trying to be Boss Hogg or putting up a front, you shouldn't let yourself be talked out of being whatever level of informed you actually are.

Look, I know there can seem like a lot of pressure to "hide your light" in a neighbourhood like that (I reallyx1000 know*), but you're not doing yourself or the others any favours by locking yourself down like that. And there are likely plenty of people around you who don't want you hiding that light, who could get something out of what you know, who are looking for someone else to talk about these things with so they can learn about it, too or even flex their own knowledge. Don't assume you're surrounded by people who can't handle knowledge. That's pretty damned insulting.

Just don't be offensive or lord it over people. Don't insert yourself all the time. Let whatever you've got in your head come out whenever it's natural and makes sense and won't hurt someone's feelings.

Yeah, some people get pissed off with envy or feeling threatened when someone else is clearly one more rung up the ladder than they are. Don't poke the bears and you'll be fine.

*feel free to MeMail if you want more info...this was my life for my first 20 years.
posted by batmonkey at 11:13 AM on October 26, 2008

Use verbal pauses "Uhh..." "Um..." "Like..." and the most superlative verbal pause of all "Fuckin'...fuckin'..."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:14 AM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

As with many of your other questions, ChabonJabon, I think it would be helpful for us to know some social context - i.e. what country do you live in? Is it your native country? If not, how long have you been there? Do you socialize with people of your same ethnic/cultural group? Are you a native speaker of the language of your current country?

For some reason every time you ask a question I feel like it's almost impossible to have insight without knowing some of this stuff, as it will inform the answers we give.
posted by tristeza at 11:33 AM on October 26, 2008

My situation is not relevant to this, because it will make you all pigeon hole me into some sort of context, which will affect the quality of replies that I get.
posted by ChabonJabon at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2008

Wow. You have "self-esteem problems" in large letters.

Why don't you want to be esteemed for the values others see in you? Why would you want to "move to the norm" (that is, the average), when you can be slightly above it?

Cherish the parts of yourself that are above-average.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2008

My situation is not relevant to this, because it will make you all pigeon hole me into some sort of context, which will affect the quality of replies that I get.

Cultural context is always potentially relevant to social AskMe questions. Anytime you ask a question about socializing or interpersonal relating, it's always wise to include some basic info on age, gender, location, etc.

This question is so over-the-top, I find it hard to believe it's genuinely seeking an answer to what it's literally asking, as opposed to either making a point (it's so hard to seem so smart) or seeking reassurances ("be yourself"). Flagged.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:54 AM on October 26, 2008

King Solomon said it best: *Be not wise in thine own eyes.......*
posted by watercarrier at 12:21 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

To answer the question as posted: I deeply disagree with the "say less" advice. Quiet people are often thought of as smarter than they are. I would advise to talk a lot. All the time. Rule conversations and just talk and talk and talk. Talk over people, interrupt them, change conversations so you can talk about something you know about. Be sure to repeat yourself and tell the same stories over and over. Offer opinions and advice when they're not requested, even to strangers.

Trust me, people will think you're an idiot in no time.

But seriously: Ask them outright to teach you something. It's been one of the most effective ways that I know to strengthen friendships, and they can't claim to be smarter than you if they're teaching. It brings you together, it makes them feel a little better than you, and they're sharing an important part of thier life with you. Everyone has something they're better at than you are. Find out what that is and ask them to teach you about it.

And find fiends who want to talk about what you want to talk about. I'd go insane if I didn't have that.
posted by Ookseer at 12:36 PM on October 26, 2008

Sounds like "smart"is actually "serious". Try lightening up.
posted by MiffyCLB at 12:50 PM on October 26, 2008

My situation is not relevant to this, because it will make you all pigeon hole me into some sort of context, which will affect the quality of replies that I get.

Uh, yeah, it will affect the quality for the GOOD. I mean, seriously, you're not asking for generic, one-size-fits-all answers, you want answers to help YOU in YOUR situation, right? So....

I'll be honest with you - you come across - to ME - as kind of weird and a bit arrogant and just odd.

However, I then wonder "Hm, maybe English isn't his native language, and what comes across to me as odd is just a language thing." Or "Well, maybe his cultural background isn't the same as mine, so he's not being arrogant but that's the way folks around him talk..."

Does that make sense? It's not to pigeon hole you, but to understand the context so we're not just pissing into the wind and *guessing* how you might benefit from our answers.
posted by tristeza at 12:56 PM on October 26, 2008

Blog. Or better yet get a Twitter feed.
posted by LarryC at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

How can I make people think I am less intelligent than they think I am?

My immediate response to this question was "Don't worry. It's taking care of itself."

I don't post that to be flip and snide;* I think it's the end of an unfortunate process. Anti-intellectual people tend to believe that education is a special kind of stupidity, a rarefied ivory-tower foolishness. If the impression you give is chiefly one of erudition, then anti-intellectuals will see you as a dullard. Remember how the pundits complained whenever Obama seemed too "professorial" in the debates? Or, for another example, pick up a Jack Chick tract the next time you see one, and look at how the academics are all evil idiots.

So, if you give an impression of wide knowledge, you most likely do come off as dumb. Do you want to reduce your impression of having wide knowledge? You are already adopting those techniques, you say. But don't be fooled that you're necessarily fooling anyone. People in social situations can detect contempt and condescension, even when it's not overtly expressed. You seem to think very poorly of the people who surround you.

(And by the way, I'd also like to emphasize that your personal situation is important for this question, particularly if your answer to Brandon's question would be "yes.")

* A lie
posted by Countess Elena at 1:42 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

My situation is not relevant to this, because it will make you all pigeon hole me into some sort of context, which will affect the quality of replies that I get.

You're already being pigeonholed and it's affecting the quality of your life.

It's not to pigeon hole you, but to understand the context so we're not just pissing into the wind and *guessing* how you might benefit from our answers.

Exactly. Your situation sounds like one I'm intimately familiar with, hence the question, but since it's not relevant, I'll just mosey on along.

Just remember, you can't hide who you are. Either be proud of that or live as shadow of yourself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:56 PM on October 26, 2008

Oh, couple of points:

I want people to underestimate me.

They're already underestimating you i.e. "oh, you would not be able to relate with that guy because he's too ghetto." The real problem is that for some reason you're buying into their underestimation.

As to hiding your education (that's what you're really talking about, based on the situations you described), you can't and even if try to do it, there's nothing that a Fridaeyesque ghetto hates more than a poseur.

Over the past year I've done some eleminations in my mannerisms to remove this stigma:

You're thinking too hard. It's probably as simple as you proper English ("Yes" or "No" as opposed "Yeah" or "Nah")
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on October 26, 2008

Watch a lot of TV
Eat a lot of junk food
Spend endless hours at Wal-Mart. Not shopping, just browsing.
Just *hang out* doing nothing, preferably with other like-minded individuals
Have zero goals
Follow politics very, very closely
Always listen to pundits
Pepper your sentences with *uhhh*
Develop empty staring eyes - never focus - very important!
Emulate bobble-head dolls' movement till you get it down to pat.

That ought to do it.
posted by watercarrier at 3:17 PM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

You could take up smoking pot.
posted by sunshinesky at 3:27 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

What ever happened to your desire to hang out with more smart people?

Get new friends and get over yourself.

Also, I really like this comment scabrous had for you in a previous thread.
posted by Arbac at 4:42 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Dude, they already know you're smart. Acting dumber after the fact with people who already know won't get you anywhere. (Trust me, I tried it.) That cat is out of the bag.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:45 PM on October 26, 2008

Figure out what's important in your friends' lives and get involved in those things.

What television shows do they watch? What musicians do they listen to? Find out, get yourself into those streams of media, be able to comment on them in a way which shows minimal actual consideration ("Man, did you hear MUSIC ARTIST's latest song? It's great/crap/awesome." "Did you see TV SHOW last night? I can't believe that ACTOR did THING." "Did you see LOCAL SPORTS TEAM last night? They were robbed/were awesome/didn't do anything right.").

Stay in the concrete and in the now. Talk about superficial things like the weather or gas prices. Avoid appearing like you are progressing in life, instead appearing like you are just hanging on by a thread. Show minimal ambition and expectations for yourself. Don't actually listen to anyone else.

Actually, that may be at the crux of what I consider less smart. People who don't actually listen to or think about the things that other people say. You can commiserate but not contribute, especially not a contribution towards a solution to anything. Silly anecdotes about problems you run into (forgetting things at your house, getting into messes, getting drunk) are okay, and referring to certain other parts of a song/show when that is the topic of conversation is okay. Preferably those parts should involve physical humor or crass language.

But it's an uphill battle if they already think that you're smart.
posted by that girl at 7:33 PM on October 26, 2008

Start drinking heavily. It will slowly but surely remove that cursed 20 IQ points causing your unhappiness, and you'll have practice emotionally numbing yourself when you realize what you're trying to accomplish.
posted by Benjy at 8:13 PM on October 26, 2008

try speaking more slowly, being less responsive/reactive and quieter? if you were a female i'd give you tips on dressing 'dumb', but i gather you're not female. and i like slimepuppy's advice in the context of answering this question - indulging in banality and deliberately not-thinking are concrete steps towards acting or becoming less smart.
posted by aielen at 11:45 PM on October 26, 2008

Keep talking. Ad infinitum.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:08 AM on October 27, 2008

I'm a white suburban girl, so take this for what it's worth, but Brandon's question immediately leaped to my mind. If the answer is yes, I don't think most MeFites have the cultural context to give you a good answer, given the demographics of this site. Certainly wearing a NASCAR cap or slapping a McCain sticker on your vehicle will not do anything to endear you to a Fridayesque ghetto crowd. I honestly don't have the faintest clue to what would (see above note about being white & suburban), but if you were willing to provide the context, I'm betting the Mefites who DO know would answer the question in a way that is useful to you.
posted by desjardins at 3:27 PM on October 27, 2008

Race has nothing to do with this. Why would it? Is anyone inferring that blacks are disturbed or threatened by a brother/sister's cerebral levels? WTF. Seriously. Just WTF.
posted by watercarrier at 3:45 AM on October 28, 2008

I think maybe a lot of folks are missing the point of the question (including, possibly, the OP). Is the issue being SMART or is the issue that there's a perception that it would be difficult for you to relate to people less smart than you are?

If it's the latter, that's a behavioral thing that doesn't require "being less smart," it requires adapting to different situations, being open and willing to listen to other points of view, and not standing on airs about what you do or do not know.
posted by softlord at 6:07 AM on October 28, 2008

Race has nothing to do with this. Why would it? Is anyone inferring that blacks are disturbed or threatened by a brother/sister's cerebral levels? WTF. Seriously. Just WTF.

No, but *culture* certainly has a role. I dare not try to explain it, as a white woman, but there's also tension in some African-American communities around being perceived as "smart" vs. being perceived as "cool". (Brandon, help me)
posted by tristeza at 9:40 AM on October 28, 2008

OK, upon further research, I have no idea what I'm talking about. Sorry if this is a derail.

The "Anti-Intellectualism" of Black America
The "Acting White" Myth
Another interesting article
posted by desjardins at 10:06 AM on October 28, 2008

but there's also tension in some African-American communities around being perceived as "smart" vs. being perceived as "cool".

Yeah, but the whole "educate" vs "cool" or "real folks" dynamics exists all sorts of cultural/racial groups. Just spend some time in any college town. Sure, among blacks there may be specific cultural issues (stayin' "real" vs "fake", leaving "the hood" etc, etc), but the overrall dynamic isn't anything new. These days, I think it's less racial and more class i.e. "You college kids don't know what real work is like, I worked 12 hours shifts six days a week, I know work and therefore am more authentic than you!"

To the original poster: Can you identify with the ghettosque guy your friends say you can't identify with? If so, what's the issue? If not, learn how. What's the point of being educated if you can't understand different types of people?

Tristeza, desjardins, I'm sorry race relationships are such that ya'll don't feel comfortable saying much about this stuff. That sucks, for everyone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:20 AM on October 28, 2008

Rather than "dumbing down" in order to fit in, just work on the actual relating with others. I'm not saying that you aren't already well-adjusted in your relationships, but if you want to change something, that's where to put your effort. When others talk, really listen, and put yourself in their shoes. Offer advice when it's solicited, otherwise just commiserate and celebrate and be a regular person. Listen to interesting stories from others, and tell interesting stories when it's your turn. People will still think you're smart (which is not a problem), but they'll be less likely to think of you as an outsider (which is what you're really concerned about).
posted by Chris4d at 3:44 PM on November 6, 2008

Also, if smart people really had to "dumb down" to get along in the world, we would not have Einstein, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Galileo, or (insert personal hero here). As someone with intelligence and curiosity, you should be "smarting up" your friends (not in a dickish way... but as someone with recognized good judgement and intelligence, who is willing to help when help is requested). You may think you just want to be average, but you're doing yourself and your friends a disservice.
posted by Chris4d at 3:57 PM on November 6, 2008

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