diverse group young adultsDecember was a full and rich month for me. January was very different. It was full, but in different ways. One of the major differences was that I was able to be more people smart in one month than in the other. Therefore, I have been recently reminded of how being people smart can frustrate adults and kids. I’m glad to continue this series by examining this seventh of our eight intelligences with this theme.

When we’re using our people smart, we think with people and want to talk with people when we’re excited. As I’ve written about many times, every child and adult has at least some capability in each smart. When we draw upon our people smart abilities by choice or need, we’ll want to be with people.

When people smart is a strength, we think best with other people. We enjoy getting others involved in our discussions. We ask people for their opinions and insights. We ask them what questions they’d like answered about a topic that intrigues us. We get new ideas from these discussions and ideas we’ve had are clarified and strengthened.

When our people smart is activated, we’ll look for people to talk with when we’re excited by ideas. These can be our ideas or other people’s ideas. This is different from children who are predominantly word smart. They talk when they’re excited, but they don’t need an audience. People don’t necessarily hurt their learning, but they’re not essential. If, like me, children have strengths in both, they probably do prefer to talk all the time – sometimes inside their head or out loud to themselves and sometimes to and with others.

One reason I had such an enjoyable December is I spent most of the month with my brother and sister-in-law. For part of the time, my nieces and nephew and their friends were also with us. Mutual friends stopped by to visit and I spent a night and a day with other friends, enjoying conversations with them. I was rarely without people to enjoy and to think with. Every meal was rich with fellowship.

In January, I was in my home, missing them. And, I wasn’t just missing them relationally. It’s true that I had no one around consistently to encourage and inspire; things people-smart people value. But, I missed them more intellectually. Sure, I was able to use my word-smart strengths and other smarts, but I had so enjoyed using my people-smart abilities, and benefited from them, that I missed my family.

When word-smart children have to spend lots of time alone, they’ll be frustrated. And, their work won’t be as well done so they’ll be additionally frustrated. They may get lonely more quickly than other kids. They’ll want and even need friends and benefit from mentors and people of all ages investing in them. Frustration will set in when that’s not their reality.

When teachers don’t encourage group work and times to at least talk with classmates, these kids will not be happy or as successful. Frustration will also show up when they’re allowed and encouraged to learn together at home and at school, but all assessment is done individually. They may be frustrated when they can’t independently recall some of the great ideas they had even the night before when talking with their parents or peers. Group projects and assessments will tap into these students’ strengths.

When people smart is not a strength, group work and projects where students have to depend on other students will be stressful. They most likely won’t be able to contribute as much as others. Without people-smart strengths, they won’t think on their feet as quickly and all the ideas shared can overwhelm them so they shut down rather than contributing anything. This will negatively affect peer relationships so that’s a stress, too. And, they may have been stressed if they were with me in December because they wouldn’t have had much time alone to process their thoughts. Having people constantly around can fatigue and irritate them.

What do you think? Do you know children I’ve just described? Can you picture talking with them about this? I hope so because I’ve met many children who benefit from knowing why they’re frustrated when alone and why other kids frustrate them. Make the time. Talk about it.


Next Wednesday I’ll wrap up this series about how smarts frustrate kids by looking at our eighth intelligence – self smart. For the first six posts in this series, you can search our Multiple Intelligences archives. You could also use the “Search my blog” box at the very top of the sidebar for all posts related to your topic of interest.

[callout]Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.[/callout]