The Ecphorizer

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Act Like a Dummy and They'll Treat You Like an Equal
Barry Leff

Issue #48 (August 1985)

If you are a modestly successful Mensan you have probably done a good job of learning that if you "act like a dummy they'll treat you like an equal." If you have been fired from a succession of entry level jobs you have probably failed to learn the lesson. (My [quoteright]wife was once fired from a job for speaking French.) If you are wildly successful, you may not have had to learn the lesson (unless you are in sales).

Many Mensans I know have complained about feeling socially inept, especially among the lower 98%; Mensa is often seen as a refuge, where one can speak of Heisenberg, Kant, Botticelli or the Beverly Hills Diet without fear.

The way to feel socially comfortable with the lower 98 is simple: "Act Like a Dummy and They'll Treat You Like an Equal."

Avoid being overly anxious to show off how smart you are. If you talk about things that are too far over the head of, or outside the realm of experience of, your audience, you  receive a most negative reception.

The key to being socially acceptable while still occasionally finding an interesting conversation is to start with the "dummy" assumption. Throw in an occasional higher-level concept as a "test." If the more arcane concepts meet with blank looks, resign yourself to the dummy level. If you get an "aha" or "of course" response, you can start elevating the level of intellectual discourse until the conversation finds its natural level of homeostasis.

Remember, no one likes a bully. If you engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person you are at the same maturity level as the weight lifter kicking sand in the eyes of the 97-pound weakling. 

Contributor Profile

Barry Leff

Barry Leff was active in San Francisco Regional Mensa in the 1980s and early 1990s. After 20 years of slaving away in high-tech he saw the light, got God, and went back to school to become a rabbi. Leff is now a member of Maumee Valley Mensa in the Toledo, Ohio area, where he serves as a pulpit rabbi. Leff and family are busily preparing to move to Israel in the summer of 2007. A certified flight instructor, Leff tells his flight students hell get them closer to God (or at least hell get them praying) one way or the other.