DEAR KRISTIN: I have an exercise buddy who is super-intelligent, but all of his super-intelligence is getting on my nerves. He thinks he knows everything under the sun. In fact, I’ll use the sun as an example: During an early evening workout last week (we were outside), I said, “Look at that beautiful sunset,” and he responded immediately with, “I hope you know that smog and pollution contribute to the vibrancy of that beautiful sunset, right?”
I don’t care how smart he is. The fact of the matter is that hanging out with somebody who can mess up something as simple and beautiful as a sunset is starting to feel like a pretty dumb move. Help! – FRUSTRATED
DEAR FRUSTRATED: Go back and read your last sentence. Let your own words soak deep down into your psyche. You admit that it’s problematic to be “hanging out with somebody who can mess up something as simple and beautiful as a sunset.” And while this is certainly true, you’re also kinda missing the point:
You buddy isn’t messing up the sunset ... YOU are!
By making the conscious choice to view life through someone else’s prism (in this case, your buddy’s), you’re selling yourself short. Who cares if he knows more about the molecular structure of the setting sun than you do? Why should his knowledge about the sunset compromise or undermine your ability to appreciate its beauty? It shouldn’t. Look at the world around you through your own lens, not through his. Quit giving him so much power and dominion.
If you really enjoy spending time with him, figure something out. Change the situation. You certainly can’t change him -- so don’t every try -- but you can try to change the situation itself. Here are a few options to consider:
When you can feel that his fountain of infinite knowledge is about to start flowing, try building a protective “bubble” around yourself so that all of his know-it-all-ness just washes right past you. Redirect its current. The good thing about this bubble is that it is impenetrable and invisible -- he doesn’t even have to know it’s there!
When you’re inside your bubble, you have all the control. In this protected space, your buddy can spew all of his knowledge about how pollution contributes to the vibrancy of the sunset until he’s blue in the face -- and you can even nod and act like you’re listening -- but all you see is the beauty of the sunset! This is your headspace, not his.
You could also consider broaching your concern with him, but be kind and gentle: You want to open his eyes to the situation -- not hit him between the eyes with a sledgehammer of harsh criticism.
Learning to offer (and accept) constructive criticism is a delicate matter and an acquired skill -- but mastering this skill can deepen our self-awareness and enhance our personal growth. Again, if you try to open his eyes about his know-it-all ways, do it gently.
Try one of these suggestions. If none of them work, a final option, of course, would be to give the relationship a break; maybe a temporary hiatus.
But do something. Respect yourself enough to take action.
Quit letting him throw shade on your sunset.