Some important ideas
- Just, get along with people. A bit reductionist but if you don’t place a high priority on getting along with people you certainly won’t learn how. It really is a habit, and it’s incredibly effective to remember the Cognitive Behavior insight that when you don’t get along with someone, you are almost always choosing not to get along with them ... you know exactly what to do to get along with them and just don’t want to do it.
- Conversly, not everyone will like you and that’s ok. You aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Being ok with that is an important mental tool.
- To crib from 12 steps or The Four Agreements, nothing is personal. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Even if someone hates you, it’s not YOU per se. It’s their experience of you. It’s not personal.
- It may be fair to say that it’s impossible to win an argument. Getting your way by “winning” an argument seems to come with an unacceptable cost attached most of the time. Try getting good at “yes and” style conversations where you run with the other persons point and build upon it creatively, it tends to make conversations more interesting than debating people. Truly, I find compulsive disagreement to be a boring conversational style.
- Take personal appearance seriously, and view it as an ongoing project too. So many people fall in to the trap of thinking they can avoid dealing with signaling, which is silly, you always are signaling so best take a look at what you are sending out there. I think it is very psychologically healthy to care for yourself, the act is good for you, and you can change how you present yourself gracefully as you age, which people screw up all the time and it makes them look older, somehow, instead of younger.
Small talk, feigning interest in kids, in sports, in wine, in whatever useless dull, pedestrian thing a coworker is into.
I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.
It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there. No reflection, no relevant context, no mirror provided by an intimate knowledge of history or literature ... just nothing.
Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.
How do people put up with it?
If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.
You bemoan that you find almost everyone a "paper shell". And yet you are the one who has restricted your opinion of interesting people and topics with a PhD attached to it. You dismiss pursuits that have spanned all of human history like sports, family, food, religion as "pedestrian". That is indicative of an incredibly shallow and one-dimensional person. If you "peel back" the layers of people and frequently find nothing, that doesn't mean their is nothing there, it means you don't have the perception or ability to find it.
You say "all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge", and those with "reflection" or "relevant context", and yet you seem to have done little to no reflection, have limited relevant context outside your very limited definition of what is interesting, and have little to no self-awareness. You have constructed a fantasy where everyone else is inferior and uninteresting rather than accept the reality that you are likely a dull, uninteresting person who isn't nearly as intelligent as you believe.
I strongly recommend you take a step back, and seriously challenge your current beliefs about your relative intelligence and depth, and ask if the problem is not that others are dull, but rather you are a shallow, uninteresting person without the breadth of interests or life experience to relate to others. Doing so may open up avenues you have closed to yourself previously and help you relate to others more easily.
If you find a problem with most people you meet, the problem's probably with you.
1. The inky "proper" way (as you say)
2. Complete and utter lack of words to respond.
Is there anything in between? Doubt it.
Though that would probably be downvoted to oblivion here; you might even get banned - not sure if that's considered "against the rules" of HN or just "really bad taste"? I kinda suspect the latter, and probably a warning from a mod or two...
I see what you did there
> If you talk to a person, and the conversation is dull, they might be a boring person. If most of the people you talk to seem boring, then you are the boring person.
And I don´t really understand how you can come to that conclusion. That´s like 2+2 = duck
> have limited relevant context outside your very limited definition of what is interesting
If the person in question has a limited (according to you) definition of what is interesting then asking him/her to "expand" the notion of what is "interesting" to match or be as "encompassing" as your own definition is not helpful. It isn´t even a viable solution really because you are not the same person.
And one more thing:
> You dismiss pursuits that have spanned all of human history like sports, family, food, religion as "pedestrian"
Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity. Now I enjoy all things related to food for example, but I would stab myself in the ears if I had to talk to people about their eating habits for more than 30 seconds once every 13 years.
Some topics are simple, others are more complex. The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring. Asking him to change his personality and what he "enjoys" just so that he can fit in is so absurd to me because it hints at the idea that you should surrender your individuality in order to fit in with the group. An idea that I don´t really appreciate all that much!
Edit: and adding no offense at the beginning of your post does not make it less offensive. It just makes seem passive-aggressive :P
> Some topics are simple, others are more complex. The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring.
I think it's silly to try to organize interests by some hierarchy of complexity. You're dismissing the topics "sports, family, food, religion" as "pedestrian." Any one of those topics could be discussed with staggering levels of complexity. Just like nearly any other conceivable topic, the only limitation to the "complexity" is a person's willingness to engage deeply with the topic.
If you (or anyone) doesn't find a particular topic interesting, that's fine. But let's be honest about the fact that it's a lack of personal interest in the topic that makes it boring for _you_, and not some inherent "lack of interestingness."
I identify with the feeling that not everyone thinks as deeply about things as I do. But I think it's fair to say that nearly everyone has some topic that they care deeply about and are capable of having a deep and complex conversation about. Just because interests don't always align doesn't mean that the rest of humanity is a bunch of paper shells.
There's no depth or complexity to non-PhD-esque pursuits and interests?
I moved from Reddit to HN because commentators here seemed more self-aware. It's threads like these that really make me question that decision.
As someone who has participated in discussion forums of one type or another since the 1980s on dialup BBSs - let's just say it always devolves into a mess, and you'll never find real satisfaction, no matter how many times or where you jump to.
Rather than try to find the perfect forum or discussion, enjoy it for what it is, and take an anthropological view of things at times, especially when it gets heated or crazy. If you can detach yourself from the discussion in an objective manner, things can become more enlightening and entertaining at times.
Even so - sometimes all you can do is shake your head, close the thread, and go get yourself a stiff drink.
I think you are completely misinterpreting the comment your responding to. That's really not what he said at all. You are essentially take what is a thoughtful suggestion to try and see beyond your prejudices/preconceived notions and turning it into a dumbed down "Just be like normal like everybody else" kind of statement.
But perhaps you do not like the post because maybe you are also one of these "I am smart and interesting and clever and everybody else is a dull, dumb, zombie" types? I might be wrong but I would guess that thats the case.
Your post sounds passive aggressive, mate. Parent's post just sounds direct, bordering on blunt.
You are confusing enjoyment and complexity. You enjoy food, which is only natural because you are a living being person. I could walk up to anyone on the street and they would tell me they "like food". However that is so much different from deeply exploring the topic. EVERYONE enjoys those topics you mentioned in some way, that doesn't mean they have mastered it however. Low barrier to entry, high barrier to expertise.
All of the things you mentioned are deeply complex and take skill and expertise to get right. There is complexity there, you just don't want to engage in it. Thus they are sour grapes to you.
> And I don´t really understand how you can come to that conclusion. That´s like 2+2 = duck
No, it's more like if everyone you talk to is an asshole, it's most likely that you are the asshole.
Plenty of exceptions and I have no explanation for it because I am a paper-shell of a human being, but it's a useful heuristic.
I seriously get tired of seeing these inane observations in this thread.
Alternatively, many people will enjoy hearing you passionately discuss whatever matters to you, and will be happy to pick up whatever scraps of peripheral knowledge they can, insofar as they can understand you.
> Some people are not interested in those pursuits and they are, in comparison, very "pedestrian" in terms of complexity.
No, they are not pedestrian.
* Sports - I have become much more interested in endurance sports. If you have never wondered what it takes to be a top endurance athlete, I'd say, it's something you should wonder about. Lots of people have asked the question "How far is the human body capable of being pushed?", and the answer to that question is fascinating and complex. The difference between top athletes is hugely psychological. Much of endurance sports is just "how much pain can you put up with?". Here's a different, but related question. If people are really pushing themselves as hard as they can, why don't they die more often? If you are talking more about team sports, personally, I like soccer. Ask yourself, how is each player observing the field to maximize outcomes? Every player on the team is playing a live-action RTS to be in the right place at the right time. And every opposing player is doing the opposite. There is a ton of depth in sports. Humans who play sports are not dumb or pedestrian.
* family - What philosophies of family have been most useful over human history? How did native americans' views of family differ from stereotypical modern families? Which do you think is better? If you really don't care about peoples' individual families, take them as data points to learn about how humans build structures of multiple humans. Why does/doesn't polyamory work for some people/cultures? What things does the human brain learn at different times (i.e. how are your kids doing from a learning perspective?) People love talking about how their kids are growing, and the ways that humans grow is fascinating.
> food - Nutrition. What makes good food? What parameters are good chefs optimizing for (hint: it's more than taste, texture, and presentation)? Can you do it? If you think you can cook as well as a professional chef, I challenge you to try. The thing that's difficult about this is that I needed to try some really good food to understand how far short I fall. Cooking is chemistry, and it is equally interesting.
* religion - How can you possibly say that religion is pedestrian? That's mind boggling to me. Religion has been one of the longest running, most universal organizing structures of human experience. This, to me, makes it totally fascinating. How have religions changed over time? What did independently invented religions look like? Why are many so similar? How did humans explain inexplicable phenomenon. I believe that humans have been as smart as we are today for basically as long as there has been written or oral history. The difference was that the didn't have the mental abstractions and information to come up with the solutions that we have today. Religion fills a lot of voids in human understanding over history, and provides a fascinating window into human history. Talking to people about their religion will make your life richer.
> The parent comment clearly enjoys pursuits that are of higher complexity and feels as if people in general do not share that interest and hence to him they seem boring
This exactly reinforces the initial comment of the parent:
Basically, if you cannot find the complexity in "pedestrian" concepts, it's not because they are not there. It's because you're not able to find them. Maybe you're not being curious enough, maybe you're being arrogant, maybe you're just tired, and can't be bothered on that day.
I have a favorite saying relevant to this:
If you want to be interesting, be interested.
Give others the benefit of the doubt, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Lots of very talented humans have dedicated their entire lives to studying your so-called "pedestrain" topics, and they learned interesting things. I think it would be worth it for everyone to try to figure out the things that they discovered - at least some of them.
Everyone, literally every person, has at least one valuable thing they can teach you.
What I really wanted to say was "this post needs to be put on /r/iamverysmart" - but even that doesn't convey what really needed to be said.
People enjoy what they enjoy, it's not ok to demand that they change.
Suppose you lived in a world where everyone was obsessed with Pokemon. No one talked about anything else. Everyone around you had the mind of a 10 year old, in terms of intellectual and emotional development. How would you feel, could you really feel like you belonged?
There are people out there who are so smart that this how they feel about the people around them. They are just genuinely beyond them across the board, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. They are lonely and they are bored and they are often a little bitter.
It's not their fault. It's not your fault. It just is. Leave them be and listen sympathetically to their point of view.
Pointing to arbitrary metrics like phd reinforces this initial read. But at the end it's a numbers game; is a 6th sigma super intelligence on this board venting to the void with a throwaway, or is it an average/below average intelligence person who for one reason or another is emotionally stunted to the point of lacking both introspection or empathy.
I've, for one, seen far more people in the second camp (hell, there was a time when I struggled with identity where I was one, saved from eternal shame on the internet by the philosophy "lurk more"), than the first.
Nah. There are insufficiently socialized people who use this as a self-defense mechanism. Getting good at people is hard work, too, and there's not a lot of room to be sympathetic towards somebody who implicitly shit on that effort because of how so very very smart they think they are.
I know plenty of folks who are Actually That Smart who somehow have little trouble having a conversation with we mere mortals. They're happier, too. And sometimes--wait for it--they too learn something in a conversation. If GGP is actually as much of a bright light as his post wants us to think, surely interacting with we mere mortals in a way that doesn't clank is a solvable problem.
This is definitely not the case in my circle, where the MENSA candidates tend to sound a little bit like the Throw away comment, and if they don't have outright disdain for typical human connections and spiritual pursuits, they definitely don't spend the average amount of time on emotional or spiritual development.
Last I heard MENSA has an annual fee, isn't that already a nice indicator of the intelligence of its members, to pay for an "I am smart" badge?
You know, some people that you would consider simpletons are intensely happy due to their attitude in life and I for one am always interested in those people. People with a drive to explore the world or to make their loved ones happy. To me you sound pretty ignorant if you claim that you can peel back a layer on something as complex as a human mind and then claim to find it empty.
If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you will learn the things you never knew you never knew. Though you seem to feel like you know what you don't know. And I'd consider that a somewhat boring attitude, although I'd be interested in how you came to feel that way.
>It's like you try to peel back a single layer of why people believe what they believe and there's nothing there.
Oh, but there is something there. People are not paper shells, but if you perceive them that way then you reveal your own blindness. Most non-ASD people find the emotional and experiential lives of others to be endlessly fascinating. Talking through a well-worn topic is a chance to see it new again through the other person's eyes and get a new flavor for it as you understand their own experience.
So I think my advice to GP would be lose the attitude. Others can smell it from a mile away and will treat you accordingly. Holding such a negative belief about others will make your professional life much more difficult and you will lose opportunities. It might be difficult to perceive these inner emotional lives of the people around you, but what you can't see exists all the same. People, even the ones who seem lazy or stupid at first glance are awe-inspiringly capable. We all run on similar hardware, and so each of us has a few PhDs worth of hidden depths.
Poverty might mean that a smart one may spend most of its brain power to make rent, instead of getting a PHD. Omnipresent marketing might have ingrained some ideas and dreams.
People tend to stay in their level as long as they find it entertaining. Which can be very long because when you do thing inefficiently you get to face new problems that you can once more treat inefficiently until you are crushed by an inextricable mess of superficial things.
Like you said people are pretty good at pettiness when noticing the attitude, and then close the door even further on sharing anything potentially interesting.
When you are more than a few levels above, it's your role to find the way to make the interaction between the two of you, meaningful, positive and interesting for the both of you. Very often it will require some attention to details.
How would you feel being judged as several levels below me?
In 2013 or so, after going to a congress I booked another 5 days in the cheapest Hostel I could find (in New Orleans) and slept in the large sleeping hall in a bunk bed. One night cost me as much as the wifi in my previous hotel. And I met a teacher doing charity work on the Katrina disaster houses that were still dealing with fungi. He took me around the sites, to camp hope, I ate with all the volunteers. Many Christians and Mormons were there, this was new to me and I don't agree with religious people on many things but it was a wonderful experience. One I would have certainly missed with your attitude. On another night I met an artist living in a van that ran on waste cooking oil she filtered through old jeans. She was very conscientious about our planet and reflected that in her art. She thought me that art, like words and code are a means of communication but more on the emotional level. I never looked at it like that. I didn't see a single PhD that week and I liked it at least as much as the week before, talking about single molecule biophysics.
One of the most important lessons (imho) I teach my kids is to withhold judgement. Do not put absolute values on anything or anyone in a short amount of time. You will do yourself and other a disservice. Someone cutting you of in traffic may have a sick kid at home and in a hurry/distracted, someone being rude may have just been fired and about to burst in tears, etc.
The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as one say. I perceive that there are plenty of different axes to look at things. But I refuse not to see the broken vase as a whole, no matter how beautifully you frame the shiny pieces.
Most people have been broken one way or an other. Some even celebrate it ; I find it quite sad and would rather avoid it, but who am I to know ?
I used to have things I didn't get at all like music, until the day it clicked. Even though I won't ever reach the level of masters in the art, I have enough to find it interesting. But more importantly that was an enlightening and humbling experiment that there are things you don't get until you do.
I enjoy the state of mind model, where to learn a new thing you try to search the state of mind where this thing comes naturally.
Once you get the right state of mind some things become easy , and some other things harder, but communication with a person in the same state of mind flows easily.
Often meeting different people and understanding how they deal with things can help acquire a new state of mind.
>How would you feel being judged as several levels below me?
As an aspie that as been judged stupider than I am most of my life, I have grown past it.
There are usually interesting experiences I can pick with anyone, although the ratio effort/reward depends a lot on our relative paths. I get that life sometimes put you in shitty situations and I don't judge people. As much as I enjoy the occasional serendipity that the chaos of life can bring, I enjoy creating my own path more.
But my Aspie friend felt genuine discomfort around new things and people and he tried to rationalize it by saying he didn't care. But I think he did care. He even cried for a full room when he left us (almost making many others almost cry as well)!
I think he would be better off admitting his feelings and accepting them trying to work from there. He even told me once he read some research where over-expressing some gene would make people feel less need for control and how this could free him in a way.
But who am I, I may be completely mistaken and project a "Vulcan-like deep emotional life that needs to be controlled" -picture onto him, while this is not how it is. But I felt a bond with this guy, I think we did share very similar thought routines. We both felt a need for control but I felt less fear for unexpected things and human connections, though we certainly both felt the need.
It always pays off do something that feels a bit radical. It also comes with some feelings of discomfort and insecurity. There was also a pretty f-ed up guy (abused or something) in the hostel, he was nice but mysterious in a way, but you sleep less well when he falls asleep on the cold floor next to his bed. Also driving 600 km alone sounds adventurous but I felt pretty lonely and had a sense of "why?" as well. As they say, life begins at the edge of your comfort zone ;)
One can find interest, happiness and satisfaction by pursuing passions where scientific knowledge may only be of slight advantage instead of the absolute focus.
Being a Musicians, touching the emotions of a whole crowd in a live performance is such a passion. Deeply complex, hugely important, some would say powerful, but science will only be a minor help if at all.
If you find other people boring ask yourself why you are too boring to see the ways they aren't.
Sure there are people that are ignorant, one-dimensional etc. but speaking from anecdote, i've yet to meet someone that didn't atleast had one experience that was interesting to listen too.
Life is too complex to disregard people that easily.
Excellent all too overlooked view IMO.
> Excellent all too overlooked view IMO.
Intellectual development and logical reasoning serve as the basis for proper personal health, family nucleation, social improvement, and other axes on the human experience map.
Without being able to think, how can you improve your health, friend, family, or financial standing? This is why most of America is overweight, poor, and doesn't care for anyone other than themselves (as shown by both democratic and Republican political platforms) -- they simply don't have the intellectual capacity to care.
And yet all those people are still just as valid and worthwhile humans as anyone else. They all make up the rich tapestry of life. One of the most important skills to be able to relate to people is to realise that, to be able to see the world from someone else's perspective, and to understand what's important to them.
> they simply don't have the intellectual capacity to care
Caring is an emotional response, not an intellectual ability.
I also think the second part of your comment incredibly dismissive, because it asserts that those people will never "be smart enough" to care about this things. You mix up education and intelligence which are not the same thing.
counterpoint: overweight doctors
Personal health, social and financial success is mostly about psychology, not intellectual capacity.
My theory is that the reason for these widespread ailings in American and other modern societies is that we're down in terms of average raw numbers of human interactions, compared to some centuries ago.
Emulation of successful people can guide a whole tribe towards the best path of action, no logic needed. But that mechanism is currently weakened because:
1/ There's only so much emotional understanding possible without face-to-face engagement. It's way harder to guess that someone is unhappy and "defective" despite an appearance of success without real-life meeting. It's way harder to know a certain way of life is detrimental if you've only seen that one. We have less "emotional" data points to pick from.
2/ Centralized dissemination of information (mass-media), isn't diverse enough for any kind of natural selection to occur. People instinctively know who to admire and emulate when they meet them, but unidirectional mass-media only pushes arbitrary success stories. Naturally selected role models are scarce.
If you try and peel back a layer of what you think is most important, but they don't care about it at all, you won't find anything worth hearing. There's nothing there, because they've probably never bothered to think about it. So find something that they have bothered to think about, and learn what you can about that.
You do have to avoid judging others, though. If you decide someone's interest has no worth, then it's going to be a boring conversation. It takes either empathy, so you can see the world through other's eyes and understand why they're interested in it, or just having a view that any learning is worthwhile.
I came looking for someone who'd already said this. I think you hit the nail on the head.
Even the stoners I worked with in food service could have some interesting perspectives on, say, why different video games have such different communities.
I mean, yeah, I get it. Kids make me downright uncomfortable, and that alone is often a huge chunk of what people talk about. There are quite simply differences in interests. But then the question is, what are you trying to get out of an interaction?
In this context, I'd say, find out what that person's goals / difficulties are. Are they trying to switch to a different department? Are they trying to get their kid into a particular private school? Remodeling their house? I think keeping track of this sort of information, checking back in on how their efforts are going or giving any small useful anecdotes/advice ("Yeah, I really got screwed by that moving company -- I wish I'd packed my TV more carefully,") does way more, I think, thank talking about sports.
And the great thing is, even if we were all machines, those would be great things to talk about. I've gained incredibly useful information about home ownership just from listening to my coworkers.
Is there an objective ranking of those topics? Are some of them universally better or worse?
Some people think so. This causes them to feel disdain for the others who don't share their topics of interest.
Some people are truly awful conversationalists and it is difficult having a flowing conversation with them. I've found that the topic is not the issue. The person's conversation skills are. At times I feel that I am the bad conversationalist, not knowing anything about the finer details of this year's soccer lineup. If I did not try to be interested and engaged in such a conversation, the other person could plausibly find me dull. I get to decide how to proceed and what experience they get to base their judgement on. When I do so, I do sometimes find myself learning a lot about things I knew nothing about, and sometimes pleasantly engaged in a conversation about a topic I would generally consider to be not interesting to me.
"No reflection, no relevant context, no mirror provided by an intimate knowledge of history or literature ... just nothing." These are things important to you, and it is perfectly fine to make this choice on who to associate with. Realise it is a choice, and this does not mean other values are less "important"
2. Realise, that it is impossible for each person to have complete knowledge. We are limited in what we can know and do. Therefore knowledge is distributed. If knowledge is distributed, every single person could have some gift to provide the world (and you) based on their own unique circumstance and history.
The question then becomes: are you paying attention? and is it relevant?
"The use of knowledge in society" written in 1945, makes a compelling case for the distribution of knowledge in society:
It helps with making friends, negotiating, having sex, taking care of your health and overall improves the feeling of well-being. After all, if you perceive the world through mostly logic, it's easy to become cynical or be overwhelmed.
Meditation and psychedelics can help learning that if it's something you wish to invest in. Psychoanalysis as well. They all have different time frames, costs and shapes, so it's worth testing all of them. From several sources, given the huge difference in nature and quality of the providers.
It's a long process anyway, but 10 years in, I found it worth it for myself.
Interesting. I like that phrase.
> Meditation and psychedelics can help learning that if it's something you wish to invest in.
Meditation maybe, but I wouldn't recommend psychedelics to someone unless they knew what they were getting into. I knew some folks who had rough trips and were likely NOT BETTER people for the experience -- just DIFFERENT people.
Set and setting is very important.
Real life is intensely boring. It is constant grind for everyone, getting food, cleaning, takes most of their time.
I just had to accept it, as it is. Because most people are struggling with getting their life running, not with "boundaries of human knowledge". Then I started accepting my own shortcomings, there is much more daily easy problems to be solved here and now.
Then when you reflect on it, calling it all distasteful is just wrong on so many levels, because when you try to chase "boundaries of human knowledge" you fail at basic understanding of fellow humans.
I feel that way too a lot of the time. When I was younger I was incredibly misanthropic in many aspects of my thinking, and hell ... even though I am less so as I age, there’s a certain realistic cynicism about human motivation that I’ve gained access to that means I actually have a worse picture of people than I did 20 years ago.
All I can say is, first have some empathy for yourself. Stuff is boring. People kinda suck. That realization is not profound and can’t be just willed away.
Second, there may be some aspects of yourself you haven’t developed yet, and if you really engage in developing your own wider potential, you will find commonality with far more people.
No one, no matter how smart, is pure intellect. Wishing all your interactions with people would happen on that level is a bad framework for enjoying people and for a rich human life.
I can think of any number of people who when I first met them I felt I had nothing in common with them, and really just didn’t like them, who became important figures in my life. Seriously.
I think high IQ low IQ or whatever ... any kind of nuerodivergence makes it more of a challenge to relate and empathize with people.
It’s possible to find richness in interaction. People are much less boring than you might think, when you learn how to conduct yourself in such a way that they feel safe talking to you frankly about their experience, their dreams, their passions. People can be ridiculously insightful when you least expect it.
Your challenge is to make people want to talk to you in a real way.
Start by removing the assumption that you are anywhere near as correct or as profound as you quite reasonably think you are. This self picture is an illusion. I don’t care who you are, it is an illusion.
I used to think humility and gratitude were just dumb concepts. You need humility. Not to “bring you down to other people’s level” but to enable psychological health and functioning, and ultimately happiness and connection and to become a more complete person.
I'd also recommend trying to respect that people may disagree with you on what is important. It is quite possible for someone to have examined their life as much as you expect, and have decided that they like religion and consumerism and other things that you dislike. People are different. That doesn't make them less valid as human beings.
You also may want to think about whether people are hiding their true selves from you. It is clear that you judge people for what they tell you. Did it ever occur to you that you may have a reputation for doing that? People may actively avoid opening up to you because of your own attitudes and behaviors. It may be known that conversations with you become mini-trials of their personal values. There is far more depth to most people than they are willing to show to their co-workers, and if you are known for disrespecting that, people will hide their true selves from you.
There is overlap between PhD-level conversations and all of these topics. Off the cuff, if someone talks about kids, you can ask about genetics vs. nurture, what sorts of behaviours the parents have seen at what ages/genders, etc. There's a lot of detailed chemistry in wine making and wine pairing. Sports involve complex game theory. Religion has complex social dynamics and interplay with morality and neurology, etc.
The point being, if you can't find overlap with your interests in any conversation topic, you either need to work on your imagination, or you need to let go of the preconception that there are boring topics with no common ground, which inherently limits your engagement in a conversation.
>Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.
Unfortunately in my experience that's mostly true. I'm no bastion of social virtue but I try to give most people a chance.
Usually I'm disappointed but every now and then I get a nice surprise. I've met some people with unique outlooks on life and sometimes that's really refreshing.
I work with a lot of very intelligent people. Most of those are in a different field of expertise than myself, but I find intelligence and a sense of humour really go together.
I once heard it said that humour is about taking two disparate ideas and relating them together, or taking something common and interpreting it in an unexpected way. Tool-making or invention is similar.
Try empathy. These are humans too. They have their reasons for living their 'distasteful' lives.
I think it's you who's only got one note on their tune, not everyone around you.
If, in traffic, everybody is honking at you, do you think all of them are bad drivers, or could it be you?
Empathy sucks, I am pretty sure I would be a lot nicer and outgoing if I were less empathetic. You see people struggle with things all the time but you can't do anything about it. All empathy leads to in those situations is suffering because you feel their emotions.
In my opinion people who are outgoing and friendly often have low empathy, they ignore basically everything and just put on their default happy face. It can feel nice, but then you realize that they are super shallow so nothing they say really matters.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference."
On passive consumerism, unexamined life... I'd suggest trying to understand who it is you're talking to. Sometimes that will be a fair judgement, othertimes you'll find that people are trying their best to earn for their families, look after others and simply want some luxury to unwind before getting back to whatever takes most of their waking hours. However without knowing who you're talking to thats all speculation.
On a practical level, I would suggest you should surround yourself with like minded people. Either work in academia or aim for companies with a higher bar to enter, that should help.
I was a bit like that. Things have happened in my life that made me unable to continue being happy only looking life in one way.
Luckily, I developed hobbies and extra activities that allowed me see how many skills are out there that I can develop and learn from people by just watching and having those simple interactions.
I still like philosophical debates but I find also amazing that some people can influence other people just with smiles and genuine happiness.
Life can be broad too.
Most people have something interesting to say, if they don't share it with you it's either because they're not comfortable with you or not comfortable sharing it in that place. Bob from Accounting isn't going to talk to you about his intricate love of Georgian architecture at the work BBQ.
I used to have a similar attitude to yourself. I have a lot of niche interests that most people I come into contact with have little interest in. I learned that having an interest in building relationships with people not built on interests has a vast amount of value that is not immediately obvious if you are emotionally distant, on the autistic spectrum, ADD or something similar. It wasn't until I purposely and thoughtfully corrected for it in day to day life did I appreciate these other kinds of values that I did not find intuitive to value before.
If you only feign interest, then you are not getting to know someone as they can tell you are not genuinely interested and they will not peel back any layers for you. The fact that the average person doesn't ponder subjects you consider deep does not make them shallow.
Your self-examination hasn't yet led you to realize this ain't 'all you really want'?
Have you ever really tasted wine, with others? tried to figure out the different components? I had a friend tell me a few days ago that grape tannins and oak tannins are felt in different parts of the mouth (tongue vs cheeks); I'll have to check into this. I know for a fact that I taste wine differently than my husband -- we taste sweetness differently and bitterness differently. Why is that? Can it be quantified? What are the dimensions along which you'd want to get subjective ratings if you wanted to map peoples' tastes? We could have a party and taste a bunch of wines and rate them and then do a singular value decomposition to find similarity between different tasters and between different wines; maybe then we could form a hypothesis, especially if we had some chemical data...
Listen, if you want to get nerdy, you can make anything nerdy. Kids = child development, Chomsky's hypotheses about syntax, the fact that babies' noses are designed to get squashed in when they fall on their faces and then designed to pop out (if your kid's nose doesn't pop out you can gently pull it into shape). Evolution, the microbiome, whatever. Gardening -> mycorrhizae, the game theory or economics of mycorrhizae, pollinators, seed banking, GMOs, edible plants, what is a weed. And there is so much in recent science that is bearing out what "uneducated" but knowledgeable practitioners have been saying for years. Maybe it would help to consider your "boring people" as practitioners of arts that you have not been educated in. Or you can work backward from their actions and thoughts to uncover the assumptions by which they construct their worldview, and then put it into a larger geopolitical context.
Or maybe you're just burned out and tired, and need to recover. Your curiosity antennae are turned off.
I see every interaction with someone else as an opportunity to peer into another life. A life I didn't live. A path I didn't take. Even if that path feels to you completely pedestrian, there is still a whole life there that you didn't live.
Even if they haven't examined or reflected on their life, you can (with respect, and perhaps best silently to yourself :-) ).
You can dive pretty deep into kids: educational, behavioral, development etc...
You can dive pretty deep into wine: flavors, style, type, region, economics, science.
You can dive pretty deep into religion, especially if you are interested in the "examined" life. A bunch of philosophers did this, one famous example is Nietzsche.
Make it a challenge to find out one interesting thing about every new person you meet.
I find it interesting that you seem to contrast religiosity with your definition of intelligence. In my experience, the two are not inversely correlated.
Disclaimer: I have a PhD in computer science and I am a practicing Christian, so I'm clearly biased here :)
They take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts and speech.
Side note: Donald Knuth is also a Christian. You can read some of his musings in "Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About", a sample of which is publicly available. (Unfortunately, I haven't yet devoted the time to read this myself, so I wouldn't consider this an endorsement.)
You really can't find anything in common with someone that you find interesting to talk about?
When I talk to people like this, I hold back. They get the first layer; everyone does. I can sense the attitude and I give them nothing after that.
It is quite possible that is why you see nothing. Nobody wants to show you more.
If not, do that first.
You’re no different from everybody else.
Humor, Modesty and Compassion!
I am a member of Mensa and read ca. 2000 books in the last 30 years. Sometimes I think just like you, although I know it is wrong (and I would never talk about it).
I often meet people who say things like "I find that anyone who isn't a PhD ... might as well be a paper shell." are too shallow and stupid for my taste, and I am one of them. Overconfident, not nearly as clever as they think they are, boring idiots, arrogant. They just think they know, but actually don't know shit about quantum mechanics, general relativity, cohomology, lisp or russian novels and Debussy.
Conclusion: Thinking that other people are stupid, shallow and boring is only allowed if you are a genius - and you aren't. Nobody is. A good life has kids, sports, wine, sex and vodka in it :-)
I prescribe 25 short stories by Chekov and falling in love immediately.
But since we're already here, what I think worked for me (40y old and it's gotten better with age): be yourself. Yep, that old shit. But the why and how is more important. Being 100% sincere with yourself and others will free you of tedious interactions with people who enjoy things you don't. And when you exaggerate in the PhD direction (because trust me, you do) the sincerity will cause feedback loops that will get the interaction to an equilibrium much faster than if any or both parties are pretending.
Discovering what's interesting about someone is an art. The totality of people you will meet have a much wider variety of experience than you could ever accumulate on your own. When I meet someone new, the first thing I try to find out is what it is they have done that I have not, and then I ask them about that. Often, I learn something new and interesting.
In general, people will never realize on their own what you'll find interesting about them, so you have to seek it out actively.
You need to learn how to entertain yourself and start seeing more complexity.
I often feel like talking about esoteric topics like math even though I’m surrounded by people who would gladly kill to never do math ever again. I however want to get along with these people, just like the original poster who wants to progress through people skills. If I was only surrounded by people who value the same things as me this would not be an issue, which is why answers like ”just go where other people are exactly like you” is not productive.
I feel more and more like Larry David in Curb every day.
Alan Kay describes and analyses why the majority of humanity act like you describe in many of his lectures. He answers and explains most of your points. Its hard to recommend these talks, the good bits are spread around 50 lectures. I'll be happy to discuss with you which bits you'll like. A first suggestion is .
>I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.
I love to talk to such people also, so I search for them in the (scientific) crowd and befriend them so we can have those interesting conversations. Please contact me (morphle @ ziggo dot nl) and lets find out if we can have such a meaningful and satisfying exchange.
I'd like you to consider that something in your manner of "peeling back" is causing people to block you out
If I get the impression someone has pre-judged me or is generally disagreeable, I don't feed the bear. I just don't care what they think and if looking dumb gets me out of that conversation quickly that is fine by me.
Or alternately, perhaps there is some sense in which that "not interesting" reflects a useful metric, and perhaps some folks might then find it useful to apply to one's self? ;) And such application might be mutual, or transient, or topical, or situational, or ... any of the many things that throttle the attention and empathy of people and groups, unavoidably or otherwise.
I think I know what you mean since I prefer to talk to friends who are genuinely interested in programming and not just a job. Colleagues who are just here for the job I still talk to them but with other topics which I usually learn from as well - as long as you are willing to listen despite what you may think of them.
Well, academia is full of them and I found it to be the worst place for petty office politics and daft rivalries, as the old saying goes:
"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low."
"why did you find yourself interested in wine?"
"what was it like having kids?"
etc. learning to ask very open-ended questions is really helpful here. you don't need to have knowledge of their interests to share in their interests.
Talking about their relationship with X is a logical follow on, of course, and has more fruit-bearing potential. I think one can have interesting conversations with everyone and it's important to converse with a variety of humans (fellow office workers of any profession being a tiny sample) but sometimes you can only hope to go for breadth, not so much depth. It takes the patience and training of a clinical psychologist to get anywhere with some people, and it's not often worth it.
I think you may get more out of life with a more open mindset. Things may surprise you. That being said, you value what you value, we don’t have to like it or agree with it.
Try to explore a person like you’d explore another world. Consider that this person had just as much time as you in the day, and they filled it up with other stuff. Why did they choose to focus on X, what do they find so appealing about X, what nuances or locations do you not know but they have intimately experienced?
Adult people, after all, did a lot in their life. Why not get new perspectives?
It also seems you don’t do a lot of physical activity, sports, or developing yourself in that way. You may motivate yourself by looking up to people in an area you truly would like to improve in.
“We are all idiots, just on different subjects” - who was that?
In addition, if you haven't found what makes someone interesting or can't conceive of it, you haven't looked past the outermost level. Once I started sitting down with people, setting my ego aside, and listening to what they're interested in, I was way happier and realized that the small world I placed myself in—this artificial bubble of grandeur—was kind of depressing, and pure intellectual pursuits alone aren't enough to live a fullfilling life. You have to find balance.
I trade long diatribes about urban development with meandering tales from the theater industry or discover the background I didn't know existed in the colleage that I've been working with. I'll concede that in a vast, vast minority of cases I can't find a thread to go deeper on. It's usually because they've put up a wall for some reason or another, or their current set of pursuits or passions or romances is just pretty vanilla, and that's okay. Sometimes it doesn't work out, but you gotta explore the human connection. If I didn't take this approach, I would have written off everyone in my life, including one specific developer I know who had a very similar attitude. Through time, I found the value in those people and it's super rewarding to me that they remember my name after a year being gone from a relatively new city. We're just people passing through this world, and everyone has something different and interesting about them... if you let your gaurd down.
Of course all others are "below you" but you know what?
THIS is your blind spot (let this be told to you by people who understand humans much better than you ever will). In science I've seen a lot guys who think like this and the most of them struggle hard to organize their own life.
If you'd be less arrogant you'd see how interesting and fun live can be and how people you now consider "waste of oxygen" might surprise you again and again with their skills and points of view.
I deeply wish that you can overcome this and be happy in your life some day.
If I'm not trying to live up to that standard, at least in how I treat others, or if I'm unable to learn a lesson about peoples potential from that, then I am probably not seeing the bigger picture.
Edit: I find people generally interesting so it's easier for me to find specific people interesting. If you dig a layer deeper and try to figure out why people have that religiosity or consumerism it can be fascinating.
Next time you find someone boring, try to understand what made them this way. And I swear the answers is more complex than "it's capitalism/neoliberalism/consumerism/religion/whateverisyourfavoriteevil, stupid!"
There has to be something even if it is a primal behavior motivated by survival and reproduction.
Anyway, the vast majority of people care about something. Maybe you can sympathize with that if not with their lack of reflection, imagination, and eloquence.
For example : In my team of 6, I am the only one who isn’t married and who doesn’t have kids. The other people almost always talk about their kids, show photos, brag about their achievements - after a while, fatigue sets in. Maybe because I can’t relate? I don’t know.
You're probably projecting. All your hyper-specific interests are intensely boring to ordinary people, so you retaliate by declaring them boring. It maintains your self-image.
People aren't boring, they're extremely interesting creatures that can be studied endlessly. Unlike the other great apes, you can even interact with them with human speech! So many possibilities, yet you're sitting here wasting it all.
You'd probably counter this by saying that looking at people this way is somehow immoral. I'm not going to argue with that, it's a useless argument to have.
> Small talk, feigning interest in kids, in sports, in wine, in whatever useless dull, pedestrian thing a coworker is into.
You don't have to feign interest, just let them talk about themselves and stay polite until you get what you want, which is either that the moment of conversation has passed, or something about them (or people in general) that is interesting. Either way, you're not going to be stuck in the conversation forever.
Childhood behavior in particular is an interesting topic, as is the decision to have (or not have) children. I know, you're not going to have children, but you have a rationale for that. What's that rationale? It's probably something highly misanthropic, outside the overton window of the ordinary person. Isn't it fun to see people's reaction to that? Well, perhaps not the best thing to do at work, but fun nonetheless.
> I find that anyone who isn't a PhD (or could easily have been if they hadn't gone into industry) might as well be a paper shell. I can put on a mask of civility and charm when needed, but all I really want is to talk to deeply self-aware people struggling with the boundaries of human knowledge.
Really? That's what you want to talk about over a coffee break? Come on...
> Nearly every time I work up the motivation to try to really get to know someone who I think I may have judged too quickly I find religiosity, passive consumerism, an unexamined life, something so distasteful that it takes ages before I can do it again.
Yeah, maybe don't be such a judgemental person. You clearly haven't examined yourself enough to recognize that this is a ridiculous attitude. You need to realize that this is a defense mechanism of your brain to save your fragile little ego from getting hurt. The flip side is that if you're overly judgemental, you'll be overly judgemental regarding yourself, as you clearly are.
> How do people put up with it?
Wow, so wasting years and years of your life studying texts and churning out reworded content about those texts, instead of having life experiences makes someone more interesting to you?
I always view meeting new people as opportunities to think outside of my own worldview.
One doesn't have to accept or agree to other viewpoints.
Simple. You don't. People like frauds. Even though they fall victims over and over again, they just can't help but like them. You are doing nothing wrong in being what they like you to be.
getting along with people at work generally entails (for everyone) to laugh at jokes you don't find funny, and be ok with behaviours you wouldn't accept from 'friends'. That's life, learning to live with people daily. it's one of the most valuable things you can learn, to get along with people even if you don't like them or have no interest in them.
Just remember being nice and helpful doesn't mean you need to be someone's friend. you can be nice and helpful to everyone you meet and still dislike them or find them uninteresting. it's just making life easier / causing less friction daily.
Look into a mirror, and imagine that the person in the mirror is a different person. Try to discern how that other person feels about looking at and talking to you.
Now imagine that you are the reflection, and that you actually do not exist when the real person is not looking into the mirror. What could you do for your person to keep them looking into your mirror longer, and therefore allow you to exist longer?
Once you have mastered that perspective shift, remove the mirror, and instead stand in front of another person. Imagine that you are their reflection, and they are yours. What would it take for the person and person-reflection that you both are together to be happier in that moment?
There are no NPCs in real life. Everyone wants to believe that their existence has value, even when all they ever do is useless, dull, pedestrian things all day and all night. Maybe they are that way from lack of intelligence or ability. Maybe they once had hopes and dreams of usefulness that were ground down and rounded off by the endless tides of banality and mediocrity, until everything they once wanted to be, or to do, is now beyond their reach. Maybe they discovered that intellectualism was a false promise, and that those who pursued it became lost in self-delusion, believing themselves to be better and more important than others, when in reality they were all just walking slabs of meat that hadn't died yet, just like everyone else.
When someone gazes into the void, they feel that fear--the fear that nothing really matters, that everyone you have ever known or loved or heard about will die, and everything everyone has ever done will be forgotten and lost to entropy. The one thing that salves it for the moment just may be that knowledge that someone out there knows your story, today. If you can submerge your ego, for just a moment, to stand and listen to someone's boring-ass story about some trivial part of their stupid life, without showing on your face or with body language that it is excruciatingly dull, then that person will no longer be empty. You will have put a small reflection of them inside of you, and that might make them happy for a bit. You won't advance the boundaries of human knowledge, but you will make humanity a tiny bit more connected and eusocial.
Is that important? No. Not at all. Everyone you have ever known or loved or heard about will die, and everything everyone has ever done will be forgotten and lost to entropy. Billions of people have lived, died, rotted, and disintegrated, with little more left of them now than a damaged strand of DNA in a fragment of a tooth. And so will you. Any illusion you may have that you, or the things you do, are greater or more important than other people is just preventing you from connecting with those you see as lesser. All that crap you cannot stand in other people--their irrational beliefs and practices--may be their attempt to avoid even glancing at the screaming black maw of nihilism, so it doesn't eat away all their sanity and motivation. They might only be doing it because no one cares to know their story, today. And if you wish to be seen as important, isn't that just your desire to put a tiny reflection of yourself in as many other people as possible?
I put up with people talking about kids and gods and sportsball and food, not because it is important to me, but because it is apparently important to them. I can stand between them and the void, because I'm not scared of it any more. I can help people pretend that their life has meaning, and I don't need to pretend that mine has more meaning than theirs--because zero equals zero. If you only have to peel back one layer to find the empty, is that better than peeling back two, or five, or ten? Is the value of a person in the number of hollow shells they have around their nothing at all? I personally don't need to be considered important or remembered any more. And that makes me boring, because I generally don't talk about myself, or my niche interests, unless someone asks. Nobody ever asks. So instead, I put on a distracting performance, with the existential black hole of the inevitability of utter annihilation by time and entropy as my backdrop.
Get over yourself. You are as individually important as a raindrop in a hurricane. Take the opportunity to dance in the wind before falling back into the ocean.
When life itself has no inherent meaning, what you choose to do anyway becomes performance art.
A stereotypical jock/lad will look down on guys who are not athletic or can't get girls and make fun of the nerd who prefers reading books and contemplating philosophy.
A stereotypical nerd (like the commenter here) will look down on guys who only talk about sports and girls and will write posts like this on hacker news about how dull these people are.
The reality is that all of these aspects of life are important. Knowledge is important for reasons which will be obvious to most HN readers. But so is sport - all humans need physical exercise, the body and mind do not function well without it. So are attractions to the opposite sex - do I need to explain how new humans come to being?
So to say that somebody is dull for wanting to talk about sports or kids is as narrow-minded as it is to say that your dull for wanting to read books.
A way to meet the second part of don't go looking for a fight is to follow advice that's actually a rule here and assume the best possible interpretation of what's being said.
I really love this recommendation.
I was reading reading "the making of a manager" by Julie Zhuo earlier this month (which b.t.w. I personally think is a very good book), in her book she mentioned the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie (at first I was a bit scared by the title, to me it sounded like a mind control bullshit boot, but it's actually very interesting, I can't definitely recommend it, because I'm only on page 50 or so). But I think the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is a good source to learn or just get remembered about the things you mention in your question, like "dealing with your own emotions" or "improving the quality of the communication with your coworkers / team".
For another group of people the complete and opposite advice is the "right" way to go about it.
Trying to live life by other's people strengths and desires will cause a lot more problems than it will solve.
There are also people like Grothendieck who were notorious for insisting on individuality and were the better off for it.
You can also be likeable and follow these steps "naturally" in a group that is closer to your affinity whereas in other groups you are the clear outsider.
Maybe I just don't like these kind of books?
"It may be fair to say that it’s impossible to win an argument." 10/10
Interacting with people is like driving: you have to avoid crashing into others, but sometimes you make a mistake and others will avoid crashing into you.
And wear seat belts.
Everyone is complex. There are aspects we're comfortable with and others we are not. So you want to improve the latter and stick with the former as long as they work for you, in a sense they help you achieve what you aim for.
Some aspects of yourself aren't really working in some environments so you would just be an idiot to display them while failing to get the results in life you really want to.
That's not objective though, "you suck" is entirely subjective, it also depends on context and, in the end, if someone you work with thinks you suck, just talk to them.
> Some aspects of yourself aren't really working in some environments
So change environment, because sooner or later they will show up.
And if you repress them, they will show up amplified.