First Thoughts for a Guidebook





  Here are a couple of unedited, unreviewed first-cut paragraphs for a "Guidebook for the Hyperbright". I feel that I ought to offer up a caveat about what I'm writing here. First, I'm certainly no last word on human relations. I'm hoping we can get other inputs regarding such real-world strategies. You might see what you think of them, and think of how you would change them.
Modelling Good Vs. Bad Behavior
    Virtually all the behavior we see modeled for us is bad behavior. Most novels, soap operas, movies, and TV shows capitalize upon startling or dramatic behavior, or upon suspense, horror, or non-stop action. If you want a novel or a screenplay to be a success, write it around bizarre characters, or around sado-masochistic misunderstandings and melodramas. Who wants to see stories about people who are simply calm and happy, and whose lives are contented and uneventful? There are some exceptions. "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" are two examples. And sitcoms can deal with common problems in a jocular way. But the kind of behavior that reveals mastery of human emotions and deep knowledge about the human psyche are seldom, if ever, depicted in our sources of entertainment. Most people learn their interpersonal skills from their parents, from their peers (who learn their skills from their parents, peers, or personal reasoning), and from their own reasoning, but few of us ever take courses in intra- and interpersonal relations. (Since there is such a paucity of training in interpersonal relations, there might be quite a market for courses designed to coach, and to enable practice in these human relations skills.)

Listening
    One important message is that of learning to draw out others about their ideas. Most of us have a strong tendency to want to sell our ideas--to put them across. So what we get is everybody talking and nobody listening. The remedy for this can be to draw out the other individual(s) thoughts concerning their position(s), remembering that their desire to put across their ideas probably involves their emotions and their desires for appreciation of their ideas quite as much as it does logic itself. (After all, if a computer gets the right answer, it just sits there.) So...
(1) Get others to explain their reasoning and the facts that underpin their reasoning.
(2) Praise them for their contributions.
(It might help to think of ourselves as the little kids we are when it comes to winning favorable attention for our ideas and our intelligence. Instead of regarding discussions as a jousting match in which we're trying to unhorse our opponent(s), we might, perhaps, want to try to show that we fully understand his or her position and its antecedents, and that we appreciate his or her cleverness in thinking this through.)
    After they've explained their ideas, and the basis for their ideas, it's time for us to present our ideas and their bases, not as gospel, but in the spirit of "My thoughts have been along these lines... "
    Crushing one's opponent is a Pyrrhic victory. He or she is going to be gunning for a chance to even the score long after we've forgotten the whole thing. (Never step on someone on the way up whom you might meet again on the way down. It doesn't take many enemies to outweigh a lot of friends.)
    We want to win the war even if we lose a battle. And we really only win when both we and our antagonist(s) win. We want him or her to leave the field of honor knowing that we admire him or her, and that he or she didn't lose, but that we both gained. (It's awfully hard to respect someone who holds us in contempt. It's much easier to find some reason to look down on them, also.)
    The next time we see people arguing or debating some topic, it can be instructive to think about what's motivating them in the debate, and about how well they're listening to what the other party has to say.
    I should also mention that I've experienced situations in which this kind of listening simply wouldn't work. For example, in a meeting, there's no time or opportunity to draw out other people. The situation really gets bad when there are two or more groups with adversarial relationships to each other. I would hope that we could create sheltered environments for our hyperbright such that they're not thrown into such bear pits.
:Later:
   Re-reading this, I've realized that it sounds like a prescription for manipulating people, and that's not what I want to convey. What the above listening approach really does for me is to encourage a mutually constructive, mutually respectful exchange of ideas, in which not only the other party, but I also may learn, and may decide to change my ideas as well as my correspondent's.