Addressing Five Annoying Characteristics of "Gifted" People

5 strengths that other people can distort

Posted Jan 07, 2021

Icon Producer, Noun Project, CC
Source: Icon Producer, Noun Project, CC

Most people can be annoying: They’re too quiet or too noisy, too aggressive or too passive, too emotional or hyper-rational, etc.

Brainy people, the so-called gifted, bring their own set of annoyances. Here I describe 5 "overexcitabilities" identified by a psychologist, Kazimierz Dabrowski. I do so mainly in hopes that it might generate at least the level of acceptance that we tend to bestow on other people.

Of course, the term "overexcitabilities" implies that the person needs fixing. But unless extreme, the goal should be the aforementioned acceptance.

Psychomotor 

This refers to the person we typically call, “hyperactive," adult or child, who talks, moves, even eats quickly.

It's important to distinguish between the person with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and the person who is very active yet still can focus well on tasks of interest. Of course, like all of us, they might not necessarily focus on work that's too easy, boring, or irrelevant.

People are put on Ritalin and related drugs to address such inability to focus. So ask yourself, “Is this person able to focus on tasks of interest?” If so, the answer may lie more in changing his or her environment than in medication.

Intellectual

This refers to the gifted person who tends to bore others with extended analyses of issues, probing questions, and fascination in describing all manner of things.

Especially when combined with psychomotor “overexcitability,” the intellectually "overexcitable" person makes other people think if not demand, “Can’t you calm down. You exhaust me.” Parents, romantic partners, and friends of such a person might want to limit interactions with them to small doses and try to appreciate the richness that those interactions can bring.

Emotional

Expressed emotionality is of course not just limited to the gifted. Genes, environment, and culture affect how much emotion we express, and that, of course, can manifest in the full range of people. But a subset of intellectually gifted people may be more prone to emotionality because they’re more likely than others to see an event’s myriad implications, whether of a personal slight such as being damned with faint praise at a meeting, or societal, as in the public’s losing trust in the media. We claim to celebrate diversity. That shouldn’t end with melanin. We should be more inclusive regarding emotionality.

Imaginational

Many gifted people have the brainpower to be remarkably imaginative. And they may find that dream world so compelling that they spend much time in it.

Of course, at its extreme, there are people chasing too-long-shot dreams and end up failing miserably, the Don Quixote syndrome. That's common enough among Jewish people that it spawned the Yiddish term, now in the English dictionary, luftmensch (literally, man with his head in the clouds but accomplishes little.)  But given most of our mundane lives, we shouldn't necessarily shoot down the dreamer, whether a child or adult. Of course, that’s harder if your spouse's luftmenschkeit precludes their earning an appropriate percentage of the family income.

Sensual

This type of “overexcitability” may be as common in the general population as in the gifted. It refers to people who have intense reactions to the sensory:

In sight, it could be ecstasy in seeing natural and man-made beauty.

In sound, it could be music or, on the negative side, hypersensitivity to a noisy room, for example an open workspace or a home that's near a busy street.

Regarding taste, such people might gravitate to careers such as chef, wine taster, or restaurant owner. But many people simply enjoy eating much more than do the rest of us. It’s tempting for us to think or even say, “Why do you care so much about food?” Well, it may be less of a choice than a predisposition.

Regarding touch, of course, some people are more sexual than others. That too may be more dispositional than volitional.

In judging ourselves as well as others, we might do well to honor such dispositions, for example, to be empathic with the person who gets upset by noise pollution and thus refuses to rent an otherwise fine apartment

The takeaway

Of course, in the extreme, these deviations from average may benefit from feedback, suggestions, or professional counseling. But often, our tendency to devalue such people is an injustice both to themselves and to ourselves.

I read this aloud on YouTube.