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Defending against "you're a genius"

Alright Matthew, I think it's the right approach. Going meta. Here it is with my communication style (I avoid lingo when possible):

Him: I was not attacking you, don't take it personally dude!

You: I'm not taking it personally (defend, refute the frame). I think that these kinds of statement (remember, we took away the joke excuse by acknowledging he was making fun so let's not giving back to him) make the person who says it feel and look superior and the one who receives it inferior. I think it's not cool (between friends).

Regarding lingo, to me a "power move" is an "domination attempt", I understand better this way. So this is definitely a domination attempt. However, I would not go as meta as to expose this as a "domination attempt". I would go meta enough to expose what is happening without uncovering the whole dynamics between the 2 people. Let them save face a little bit.

Lucio Buffalmano and Stef have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoStef

On this bit here:

You: I'm not taking it personally (defend, refute the frame)

It can feel defensive, and low on assertiveness. Denying to take something personally when you did feel something at an emotional level, however small, is best avoided in my opinion.
Some other options:

  • Change the frame

It's not about taking it personally or not...

  • Ignore it

And potentially shake your head when they say that, so that you nonverbally reject it, and then go superior and avoid being dragged down in his covert agme.

  • Own it

Of course I take it personally in the sense of being emotionally affected. I'm not furious about it, of course, but everyone is emotionally affected when you make fun of them. Anyway...

  • Power move

Everyone gets emotionally affected when you make fun of them. Unless one is a psychopath or deranged in some ways, but anyway...

John Freeman and Stef have reacted to this post.
John FreemanStef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Boom thanks. Next level. I was not 100% sure about the "I'm not taking it personally". That WAS my best effort. No I got an upgrade, thanks to you 🙂

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Thanks a lot for your amazing answers guys! It's deep and dense. I'll take some time to read it tomorrow. Here is the follow-up:

In the whatsapp group that I created about board games:

  • Me: Happy holiday to all and see you soon for new fits of laughter!
  • A. (so funny): a picture of a board game he bought.
  • Me: Cool!
  • A.: I count on you (plural) to be smarter than 10 years old (because the game is from 10 years old)
  • Me: We count on you as well!
  • A.(backtracking): It's not going to be easy.
  • A.: Merry Christmas guys!
  • JB: (quoting A.) You're asking a lot I think...

I think my other friend did well by going a little bit meta. I think that's the best way of handling and I'm in the process to learning it.

I write as little as possible in this group as all sorts of confusion can happen (see above). I really use it to organize board games. It would be funnier to post funny pictures and videos but then it derails. It sounds a bit military but I find it to be true.

I know I got triggered a little bit by his remarks but I found it a bit insulting. And worse he was insulting all of us. Way to go, man! Insult all your friends in a whatsapp group! Woohoo social intelligence +1!

I think he wanted to be funny and I could have interpreted by looking at the funny side. However he had a history of doing these kind of things half-funny/half-mean.

Hello Lucio,

I would like to have your opinion on this exchange, please. I know I used the group against A. without asking for their permission. What do you think of this defense? I know it was a one-up. I feel he had it coming.

What do you think?


Hey John,

Overall, I don't see any major offense in there from anyone.

A. didn't make a great joke there "counting on other to be smarter than 10 years old". You might have taken it more as a power move than others did because you know him better, while others were more likely to take it as an (average/bad) joke.

Your reply was fair, and you did well to use "we", both to empower yourself, and to put A. back in his place acting for everyone else.

I like JB's reply a lot, turned a so-so joke into a good one, and by pretending to self-deprecate, he went higher.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks a lot, I agree with you. I have a lot to learn from JB. Like you said, it's more the constant one-upping from him which is irritating.

Example: I share with him a cool song that I thought he would like (as a friend). No answer. I ask him: did you listen? No answer. And then: "Blablabla, I think the best one is this one" and sends me a song that I already know.

That's the thing with insecure people: the constant one-upping is exhausting. I know I was insecure and it can happen to me sometimes so I must have compassion. However, I find that I want better quality people around me. They feel like there is a gap that they always have to fill.

Stef has reacted to this post.

I like JB's reply a lot, turned a so-so joke into a good one, and by pretending to self-deprecate, he went higher.

I think it's a topic worth expanding, could you please explain further the part in bold, please?

I think there's an important concept for social power, here.

Thanks a lot!


Well, do you remember when we sometimes referred to as "scratching with the turkeys or flying with the eagles?".

By refusing to engage him at the one-upping turkey-level, he refused to descend at A. level, and instead soared with the eagles, so to speak.

A. derides people by asking them to be better than a very low bar.
JB refuses to both jump over that bar (which denies A.'s judge role), and to take him seriously enough to one-up him back (which would lower him at A.'s level).

Instead, his reply says:

"nah, not gonna jump, that low bar is too freaking high for me"

With that, he wins thrice:

  • By showing himself superior to the one-up (he doesn't take it personally / engage him at the one-up game)
  • By improving on the initial joke, he shows to be (socially) smarter than A.
  • By controlling the frame with social tact, he shows to be socially more powerful than A.
Matthew Whitewood, John Freeman and Stef have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodJohn FreemanStef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for the explanation. I think I also meant: could you explain the concept of "Pretending to self-deprecate". I mean: could you make it a general concept? Such as "social scalping"?

Thanks to you, I understand it better in this case. However, to learn this concept better, a general concept would help me. I kind of understand it but I'm not confident enough that I could use it myself.

My interpretation of this concept is re-framing what the turkey framed as a one-up into something you don't really care about through irony.
It's saying that you can go ahead and one-up me on this.
I don't care about this metric of measurement in my life.

I would call this technique "Letting the turkey have its way".

I recall an example that I used this technique quite a while ago.
It was at a dinner with new people I met.

(Early Convo, Sharing Stories)
Me: There was a period of time where I had to hop from one friend's place to another to save money.

(Later Convo, Talking about Living Conditions)
Friend: I recently bought a new house. Finding a mortgage was tough. Though I'm really happy about finding this new place.

Acquaintance: (To me and another woman) Yeah all these housing matters and mortgages are tough. Maybe both of you will understand when your time comes to buy a house.

Me: I'll stick from jumping from flat to flat.

Brainstorming On Using It Against "You're A Genius"

Him: You're a genius!

You: Thinking is challenging for me. I will let you do all the thinking.

(Shortened) You be the one doing all the thinking!


Him: Wow, you're like a little girl!

You: You can be the big man here!

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman