As a general strategy, I recommend repeatedly asking yourself the question:
Is my behavior appropriate in the respective situation or towards the respective person?
- Estimating whether your behavior is appropriate in a situation or not includes taking into account what this situation is about and its intended goals.
A real life example: If you meet at a bar, most people won’t be interested in discussing politics, even though you might be very interested in that. For many gifted people, their emotional associations as well as their intellectual activation and effort conflicts with their intention to relax and party. The same is true for funerals, for example, where it also doesn’t make sense to demand a lot of space for this kind of conversation, because this event is about the grieving and consolidating family members.
- Appropriateness towards the respective person: Here, you need to take into account three different aspects:
1. Is the other person intellectually capable of understanding me?
2. Is the other person interested in my topic?
Actually, all people – gifted or not – need to consider these two aspects all the time: For example, you adapt your way of speaking to a child’s age, or speak more slowly and pronounced when you are speaking to somebody who is just learning your language, is deaf etc.… And if somebody wins a sports competition, you don’t give away a physics book as a reward.
Nevertheless, a gifted person needs to adapt much more than the normally gifted.
The third aspect is particularly specific to the highly gifted and concerns the following question:
3. Is the other person emotionally capable of handling my giftedness?
You need to estimate whether a teacher can handle when you know more than them, or whether this will cause negative thoughts and emotions they cannot adequately deal with. A boss might fear that a gifted person wants to take his seat.
In both of these examples, both parties suffer: The person who feels afraid or envious as well as the gifted person, who is facing openly or covertly negative reactions that are mostly unconscious (cf. Ambivalence Dilemma).
This is why it is so important to gauge the emotional reactions of your interaction partner and set priorities. For example:
- I understand the other person’s reaction and put my needs aside for their sake.
- I protect myself from negative reactions and put my needs aside for my own sake.
- I don’t have to assert myself completely and immediately, but I can, for example, approach things more strategically and diplomatically, seek exchange, or insist on only one specific aspect, etc.
- I can’t accept that (e.g. I expect more professionality from others/ the sacrifice is too big). That’s why I show myself and fight.
Reading the above, you may realize that social integration needs to come mostly from the side of the gifted people, which leads to constant inner tension (cf. Ambivalence Dilemma).
This process is exhausting for many and must be recognized and appreciated.
Sometimes, it will cause feelings of frustration and overexertion.
If this happens often, it can lead to feelings of helplessness, depression, resentment and aggression.
The more competently, autonomously and effectively you can manage the challenges of giftedness and the more access you have to you own resources, the more these symptoms will vanish. This includes developing realistic expectations and withstanding some circumstances and certain unfairness. This is something all people have to learn and there are groups who are just as bad or worse off, such as people of a different skin color, of immigrant descent, disabled people etc. Normally gifted people also need to cope with the unfairness of having to work harder to intellectually understand things or certain doors remaining closed to them.
It is very useful for the gifted, however, to seek exchange with other gifted people, since this requires no integration efforts (or not more than usual). Click here to find addresses of giftedness societies etc.
© Frauke Niehues