Oct. 10th, 2011

Ok, I feel like this should be self-evident, but it strikes me again that confidence and intelligence don't combine to equal correctness, even in questions where a 'correct answer' exists. This guy in our work-group was clearly confident and clearly did understand a lot of the material thoroughly and could easily synthesize the knowledge, but the answer he gave was way too broad (even if insightfully constructed and well-condensed), so that he didn't hit on the simple and straightforward information necessary but rather took the oppotunity to demonstrate his own insight. I must underline that I am comfortable and happy with highly intelligent people whether or not they're brusque or arrogant, it's just that I don't think the arrogance is supported when the answer isn't well-pointed. Most scientific/factual questions have simple answers that are narrow as well as clear. A broad answer is rarely best to narrow questions.

Another guy in our group answering the question was more amiable but even more fuzzy; he admitted his own fuzziness but merely prodded at the edges (of what was essentially a simple answer) and showed no great discomfort with his lack of precision. Note, I think this is better than a pre-supposed precision: Brainy Guy thought he was precise (that is, it all made sense in his head) but instead wasn't. I prefer at least knowing your flaws. However, Fuzzy Guy's lack of focused pressure to gain more precision made him, too, an underperforming scholar. Granted, he is eighteen.

My favorite responder was a girl who was neither 'fuzzy' nor arrogant, but rather clear and precise about everything she did and did not understand.

Granted, I myself am not very good at giving precise and focused answers, but neither am I (usually) arrogant, nor am I normally content to be fuzzy. I like helping people with writing because some fuzziness is ok, and 'clear' means somewhat different things in the context of writing, though I often have people who are naturally concise/straightforward get frustrated with me. I never want to be transparent (like, lowest-common-denominator or mass-appeal level clarity), but as intelligent as someone is, if they are too broad or imprecise verbally, I definitely think it's a sign they don't understand as much as they think.

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the one who stumbled

January 2015

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