We’ve all had the feeling. There’s a group activity that we can participate in, but we don’t want to. Psychologists call this social withdrawal. Social withdrawal can happen for many reasons. One particularly important reason is intelligence mismatch i.e. our own intelligence and the group’s intelligence don’t match. Let’s take a closer look at social withdrawal that is due to intelligence mismatch. 

First, there is a concept that feels like it’s meant for intelligent people

I once heard a conversation between two people that was about economics. The minute I heard that conversation, I felt like only intelligent people can discuss economics. A friend of mine felt the same way about a conversation regarding psychology. He felt that discussing human behavior is definitely only for intelligent people. Likewise, different people think of different concepts as signalling intelligence. For some it’s economics. For some it’s psychology. For some it’s literature. So on and so forth. The beginning of intelligence mismatch in social interactions is the idea that a concept signals intelligence. 

Second, you feel that you too should be able to follow at least a little

When I heard the conversation about economics and sensed intelligence in it, the first thought I had was “Well, I think I’m pretty intelligent myself. So I should be able to follow what they’re saying at least a little.” In this way, the second step of intelligence mismatch in social interactions is thinking that you should be able to understand at least a little. 

Third, you realize that your mind is on a different level

As expected, you are able to understand a little, but the level of understanding is different. For example, I could understand some of the economics in the conversation I observed, but I looked for the big picture. I looked for examples in some places. My insights and ideas about what I heard were different from theirs. All in all, my mind seemed to be on a different level than theirs.

Fourth, how they’re doing it seems a bit out of reach for you

Let’s go back to the economics conversation that I witnessed. They were talking about things in India, in America, and eventually everywhere in the world. There was a long link of information pieces to track, going all around the world. I couldn’t keep up. For me, that ability was out of reach. Although I had enough intelligence to understand economic concepts, I couldn’t resolve so many information details inside my head, without using pen or paper. That’s when I made the decision not to participate. That’s when I began to zone out. 

Finally, you wonder whether that out-of-reach ability could’ve been within reach

There was a time in my life when I neglected my studies. If I had buckled down and sank my teeth into the material, then maybe tracking information inside my head, without using pen and paper, would be as easy for me as it was for them. Basically, I wondered about what could have been. It might seem unrelated to participation, but it is. You see, with regret comes hope. Hope that one day you will have the ability that’s currently out of your reach. It is that same hope that tells you now is not the time to participate. There will come another time, and by then you’ll be ready. 

Thank you for reading.