Thursday, February 15, 2007

Negative, Intelligent or Just a Wanker?

Or maybe all three.

I had a social encounter recently that annoyed me. I shan't name names or give a lot of detail but it was with a friend who I'm normally fond of and whom I have a lot of respect for. Occasionally he demonstrates the kind of behaviour that I'll explain, that makes me question whether I actually like him.

We were discussing something, a group of us, and the friend had some objections. Fair enough, I can accept that. He voiced his objections, but then kept going on and on with a torrent of negative criticism about everything we talked about in the ensuing discussion. We've all seen others and maybe ourselves do it at times, when we just go off on one. You know the scenario; someone casually says that it's 2007 and the bloke spends four and a half days arguing that it's not, someone else says that Kylie Minogue's got a nice bum and the bloke argues that she hasn't. Just ridiculousness.

He was not just negative but he was also destructive, giving objections to virtually everything but with no ideas of his own and certainly nothing to add. The old business adage springs to mind of

"Don't come with problems come with solutions".

His demeanour and tone was full of sarcasm, cynicism and sceptism. Frankly I would have like to have put another "ism" in there but couldn't think of one. It turned out to be one of those sessions where we all ended up feeling drained, mostly because of the negative energy that he seemed to infect us with.

When I reflected on things afterwards I remembered something I had read some years ago, written by Edward de Bono. I'm a big fan of de Bono, his contributions to management thinking have been immeasurable and yet he still finds the time to release new albums and write songs.

The thing that I remembered was a topic he called "The Intelligence Trap". You can read his proper explanation of it here. Or let me try to explain it.

It occurs in more intelligent people when they get too wrapped up in trying to prove a point and win an argument. The theory goes that the intelligentsia are better equipped to win an argument by using logic and reasoning than the less intelligent of us. So they continue to push their point and get so absorbed by thoughts of winning the debate that objectivity and rights and wrongs go flying out of the window. A bit like that story my Grandmother used to tell me about the chap who could prove mathematically, with no room whatsoever left for uncertainty, that the Earth is flat. All well and good, but wrong.

The less intellectually able parties are the ones who are more likely to see sense, they are more likely to change opinion because they're more open to ideas. The highly intelligent are attracted to negativity as it's often a way to assert their intellectual superiority and are often the ones who are overly critical of others.

I bet everyone gets caught in the intelligence trap at times and I think that's what happened to the friend the other day. It's frustrating for all around but, I always think that if you know about a trap, then it's much easier to avoid.

Negatively critical thinking has its place and its uses. But, given a choice, I'd always rather be classed as an ideas person than a critic.

What about you?


Indyana said...

Yeah! The intelligence trap seems to afflict plenty of arm chair philosophers, and intellectuals. Nothing like a good dose of reality to get them down to earth !

Gowri said...

Enjoyed reading your post. I have a similar friend in my circle and he always argues to his point ( like if we look at a rabbit and say it has four legs he would say no it has three legs and keep on arguing). Recently, I just stopped getting into arguements cause he would always want to win his point and there is so much negative vibes around when he starts..... I never knew thought of him as an highly intelligent person but more of a pessimistic no logic person.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Indyana - Yes you're right, although I reckon this blogging thing may be the ultimate form of armchair philosophy or intellectualism!

Gowri - Thank you very much. It's very hard not to get into a discussion sometimes though isn't it? I suppose it's entirely possible that your friend might be a no logic pessimist who is also intelligent.

Darwin said...

Couple of thoughts on this one.

I find arguments based on intelligence easier to handle than those based on ignorance. At least with logic and rationality, you can get somewhere. Hence why I avoid religious debates with people.

That said, I find arguments tiring regardless. Most people don't really care about my opinion when they argue with me; they just want me to change my opinion and agree with theirs (and give them the ego-boost of being told "yeah you're right"). I don't see the point in arguments like this. There is no genuine interest to know a different viewpoint.

Similarly, with some arguments, there is no resolution. You can't argue with someone that pink is nicer than red, it's simply a matter of individual preference. No one can 'win' it.

Based on all this, I tend to nod my head, give the person the satisfaction of thinking he's won the argument so he'd fuck off faster and leave me alone after that.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering why the singer was touring Africa and came up with all those poverty-reduction ideas ...i like your etymology

people act weird/different in groups - any armchair pschycologist will tell you this. this doesn't deter them from being wankers or great intellects. some people just like to take a stance on anything..

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Darwin - Agreed, arguments with intelligent reasoning involved can be stimulating and interesting, but those with ignorant people are usually painful. I don't think the de Bono is saying that the more intelligent you are the more you are likely to fall into the intelligence trap. More that thick people don't!

Religious and political arguments are the 2 types I avoid fervently. No one ever changes their opinion and they just end up draining all concerned.

As I've got older and wiser(!) I've come to realise that most things are merely someone's opinion or viewpoint and it's fine for different people to hold different views. We don't have to go around trying to persuade everyone we meet that they should agree with us on everything.

PS - I love your early morning comments ;)

Java Jones said...

Here's the one that missed the bus!

I’m not entirely sure that this view is true ‘across the board’. In fact it all depends on how ‘intelligence’ is thought of. To be truly ‘intelligent’ (for me, anyway) is to not get caught up in ego trips and try to assert points of view. If ‘intelligence’ is present, one would be able to see the aspects of the discussion objectively and assess the chances of a rational debate. And if this is found to be lacking, then the ‘intelligent’ person would not expend useless energy trying to flog a dead beast. In my view it is the ‘unintelligent’ that behave and act the way you describe your friend’s behaviour. But this is just my view (and Java’s agrees!) and I’m sure you will get some other responses from both sides of the divide.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Java - I think the subject of how we look at intelligence is a massive topic in its own right. It is something I am greatly interested in and have studied in a bit of detail. My assumption is that de Bono is referring to "logical" intelligence in this context.

I agree with you about being "truly" intelligent, but I also think that there is a certain type of intelligentsia who frequently get caught in the intelligence trap because they are keen to demonstrate their "superior" intelligence. Maybe it's people with superior wisdom who don't get involved.

Computer Consultant said...

I have found myself in this “intelligence trap” partly through frustration. It was during a time where I was working for a boss that used very definite negative reinforcement style. Who only after I asked him why he never appeared to show support to me to the rest of the business, he made a token gesture by attacking the “weakest” member of another departments management team. This did nothing more than inflame the situation, yet I was left to attempt to recover the position.

After finding my opinion being treated in the same way, with little or no regard to the “arguing” the relative merits of any position, I found myself becoming increasingly negative. It was not simply down to the need to “win” the argument, but a feeling of not being recognised for having an opinion which may be valid.

The overall emotional effect on both of us was very obvious for everyone to see. The major problem was for me that was neither would be able to contain our frustration. It spilt out into our other relationships and we both found that our need to release our frustration which inevitably ended in dragging others into the emotional discord.

Now with him being the superior in the business he had to resolve the situation to best suit himself which was to remove me. Now, yes I am still a little bitter but everyone could see how his attitude was effecting my demeanour yet it was of little concern to him.

I can see how I feel into the “intelligence trap” by virtue of the need to be heard and recognised to how a valid opinion. Where as the other person in the story has a poor grasp of the idea of “Emotional Intelligence”.

Hopefully I have highlighted how the surrounds and events leading up to that point has a bearing on whether the person is “Negative, Intelligent or Just a Wanker?”

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

CC - Thanks for the long and informative comment, I hope things have worked out for you.