Trying to be the smartest in the room shows you’re not

Recently I spent a few days with a young, bright woman. But her constant attempts to prove she was the smartest person in the room backfired. The more she tried to one-up others, the less smart she was seen to be.

I empathized because at her age I, too, suffered from the same low self-esteem that caused me to try to show anyone who’d listen how smart I was. I guess I didn’t believe enough in my own capabilities to be at peace. I felt an urge to try to put others in their place so I could appear to come out on top. And I would argue about nearly every statement mostly just to show I was a critical thinker.

But over time, I saw that if one was constantly argumentative and cantankerous to try to get others to see one’s superior (?) logic and intellect, it really showed one had less of both.

This young woman would make broad generalizations about many groups: “All men just want…” “(An ethnic group) are really lazy.” “Californians are…” She had strong opinions and generalizations about those belonging to each political party, profession, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. When someone would push back and say, “Some Californians are like that, but not all.” She’d argue why her opinion was right.

This grow wearisome. So much so she was hard to be around. She would spew forth “facts” she’d heard from some commentator on cable news programs without realizing this was opinion, not fact. She’d share findings from “research” which was really surveying people’s point of view.

She didn’t realize she’d garner more respect if she said, “I’ve found some (Californians, men, etc.) can…” Or, “I heard an interesting commentator sharing his ideas about…” Or, “I’ve noticed that…. What’s your experience (or opinion) regarding that?” By being interested in other’s perspective, you show you don’t believe you have all the answers.

Have you ever felt compelled to try to show you were the smartest person in the room? If not, have you been around someone who did? Tell us your experience.