Here’s an article from the Journal for Occupational and Insurance Physicians, reprinted in SEN Gifted (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) on Gifted Adults in Work.
I found the case studies and the implications very interesting. They seem to be suggesting that gifted people might develop health problems as a consequence of being out of place at work.
I was going to say that I think the issue might be more developmental and genetic, but then again, you can’t necessarily isolate those factors from the environment, since it’s all one big mix of cellular communication. So the answer would be yes – it seems that being out of sync and not aligned could contribute to gifted people’s problems, whether it is from poor methylation, heightened stress responses, feeling unappreciated as they are or punished for what they like best about themselves, and so on.
The other thing that struck me is that most of their descriptions of gifted people could also be used to describe people on the autism spectrum:
Emotionally underdeveloped, introverted, with sensory problems.
It was also interesting to observe how gifted and artists had something in common, in that they seemed to require particular strange conditions in order to meet their potential and perform optimally.
It’s an interesting paradox that motivation and inspiration seemed to play a bigger part in accomplishment for gifted and artists than did skills. Perhaps that’s something for us to keep in mind when trying to conquer the problems of being gifted; one might be able to achieve a lot on the basis of motivation even when the skills are not all there yet.
I noticed myself in the article, in the line about the gifted employee translating conflicts with management and coworkers as having a great sense of justice. For me it has mainly been that I have a great sense of knowing that challenge and independence are better for both me and the company, and it hits me hard when people require me to operate in a way that is worse for all of us.
That is a common theme for me as a gifted person — Why are people doing things in this ineffective, wasteful way, where they simultaneously torture me and achieve less, when we could all get these things done and have ample free time to pursue what we want (inevitably, more self-directed learning) if we just put some thought into creating optimal processes?
I have frustration for how little time others put into analyzing their processes, how little meta-research or meta-decision-making there is; and then how they can’t see major bottlenecks that are right in front of them.
I would do well to study the phases of gifted people’s adaptation to work.
The “Social” phase is what fascinates me the most. Can somehow learning social skills, or finding a way to sufficiently abstract them, be enough to help gifted people adapt to more types of work?
All in all, this was a great article.
Those exhortations at the end about learning to connect with feelings more always give me a weird feeling. Gifted people are so chronically unusual and different from other people, and so here we go again, asking them to change to be more like these other alien beings who chat about the weekend and make small talk, etc. It’s like consigning people to be expatriates.
I do notice about myself at work that I am extremely, extremely committed to efficiency and the bottom line and basically making things happen in as organized and brief a fashion as possible. Routine things get to me. I just want to automate everything and not have to worry about it. Much of the work could be semi-automated where you simply refer to a chart or list and proceed down the list.
Anyhow, I remain fascinated by the concept of integrating social knowledge to make work work better. I guess I am simply getting a little braver recently at my own work and trying to communicate more and not be so afraid of having conversations. That is taking me out of the isolation stage.
Lately, I use the mnemonic of “try to make people feel safe” when you talk with them, which I got from Crucial Conversations. What a great book. Really amazing book. Probably the first conversation/social skill book I have actually enjoyed, as a semi-Aspie, because it simply makes so much sense and it’s so efficient.
How can we get ourselves to get excited about being social and learning social skills, when these might be almost physically painful for us?
In some sense, it might be about transforming socializing into something analytical that we can then enjoy.
Some people do seem to surmount this challenge by turning socializing into a procedure, or something they can analyze scientifically. You wouldn’t know it if you met with them once, but when you spend more time with them you catch onto their methods.
I guess socializing is like the language we have to use to connect with the “natives” in this land, when we might be the expatriates. Learning another language can be challenging but it can help you to be more integrated.