Smart classrooms. Smart cities. Smart houses. Smart phones. Smart watches. Smart TVs. Smart cars. Dumb people. They are everywhere. All of them. This is how historians will remember the 21st century: smart things, stupid people.
Smart objects make life easier and better. With help from technology we can be more productive. Organizations can be more efficient. Wouldn’t it be nice if people contributed to our well-being as much as smart technologies do? It would, I know. But we seem to be investing so much more in smart gadgets than in smart people. How about a psychologically smart workplace, or an interpersonally smart partner? How about a smart team member, or a smart boss? To be perfectly clear, I am not talking about verbal or analytical smart, I’m talking about people smart, as in getting along with others and solving problems together. I’m talking about making life easier and better for everyone, not SAT, ACT, GRE, GPA, L-SAT, M-CAT or FAQ-U smart.
Imagine what life and work would be like without narcissists, hypocrites, entitled, privileged, arrogant, conceited, haughty, egotistical, insufferable and clueless people. To make it easier, let me classify these qualities into two simple categories. The first nine attributes form a cluster of people I shall call unbearable. The tenth attribute, clueless, forms a second cluster I shall call clueless.
Clueless people may be irritating, but educable. For example, some common forms of clueless interactions include repeating what you said four times (clueless subtype 1), or sharing excessive details about your life or work that overwhelm the other person (clueless subtype 2). These people don’t just get to the weeds, they get to the roots of the weeds, and expect you to show similar botanical interests. When interacting with subtype 1, you are thinking, I got the point the first time. In interacting with subtype 2, you are saying to yourself what is the frigging point anyways? A natural reaction to subtypes 1 and 2 is, respectively, I got the point already, and get to the point already.
Clueless subtype 3 is all about poor listening. In the rare event that you manage to insert a word edgewise in the conversation, do not expect any reciprocal interest. For instance, I can tell my friend, I’ve been a little down lately, and he would respond did you know that feed and weed is on sale at Home Depot? You cannot help but wonder, what about my point?
In pure form, clueless people are trainable. However, when they are contaminated by qualities from the unbearable group, prognosis is grim. A dual diagnosis of unbearable and clueless behaviors is fatal.
People in the unbearable group engage in, well, unbearable acts. Take the narcissist who can’t stop talking about himself, his accomplishments, his possessions, his trophies, his ideas, and his sycophants. Nowadays it is easy to picture that person because we have one in the White House.
Stay tuned for Part II………
Isaac Prilleltensky is an award-winning academic and humor writer. His latest books, The Laughing Guide to Change, and The Laughing Guide to a Better Life, co-authored with Ora Prilleltensky, combine humor with science.