No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
 -Theodore Roosevelt

Who Are the Really Smart People?

Today’s newsletter explores a topic which was discussed in these blogs within over three years ago. It focused on the concept of multiple intelligence and the work of Howard Gardner (See the November 9, 2014 article “How are you Smart?”) In that piece, I elaborated upon Gardner’s view that our culture perhaps overvalues certain measured forms of intelligence, such as math ability or strong verbal skills, while greatly underestimating the importance of other personal positive attributes, including strong interpersonal talents and one’s ability to look at ourselves honestly and accurately.

Today’s message flows from a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine. While working at his job (which involves dealing with the public), he explained that he had been discussing a mutual acquaintance of ours. My friend was commenting on how “smart” that other person was. As he narrated this simple experience to me, I sensed a degree of admiration in his tone about our mutual acquaintance. Typical of my public servant friend, he showed no envy or resentment: only respect and positive regard for that “smart” person.

It later occurred to me that my friend may be guilty of underestimating his own worth based upon the criteria of judgment that has been long perpetuated in America’s schools.   Kids who are good at math, science, reading and writing are deemed “smart or intelligent.” Those teens are succeeding in ACADEMIC classes. Other adolescents who take music, art, or shop are described as talented or “good with their hands.” They are in the non-academic OTHER classes. Surprisingly, courses that are business-related fall into the OTHER category. Does this make sense? Does anybody make a good living, pay high taxes, and succeed in life while working in “business?” I suspect so.

But back to my friend. I briefly described Howard Gardner’s theories about multiple intelligence, including interpersonal intelligence, to him. I complimented both his wife and him for having a generous quantity of that commodity and expressed my view that being “good with people” is probably the most useful of all of Gardner’s forms of intelligence.

People with strong interpersonal skills have friends. They attract customers in their work and have loyal, repeat business. They know how to get along with their spouses and partners, and teach their children how to do the same. In general, they live pretty happy and productive lives. I call that REALLY SMART.   And that describes my friend.

Homework for my readers: Consider how life is going for you. Even the most balanced of lives occasionally encounters rough spots: a pothole or two. My guess is that the “bump in the road” has something to do with another person. A temporary diminishment in your “interpersonal IQ” has occurred. It’s time to polish that skill and refresh your technique with others. You do know how to do that.

Or ask my friend how to do it. He’s a genius at that.

Getting along with others is still the world’s most needed skill. With it there is no limit to what a person can do. We need people. We need the cooperation of others. There is very little we can do alone. Earl Nightingale