How to Work and Get Along With Really Stupid People

We all have them in our lives.

Trump lovers, Bernie supporters, birthers, 9/11 truthers, and people who send you a voicemail/text/email and then stop by your desk two seconds later because they need a response.

14 tips for dealing with stupidity

Here’s how to work with stupid people:

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  1. Smile. Pause. Breathe. It diffuses the stupidity.
  2. Begin with praise. We’re all narcissists. Works for everybody.
  3. Speak slowly and user fewer words. Cognitive processing speeds are sluggish.
  4. End your sentences with a declarative statement. Inflect down. Don’t invite follow-up questions with your tone.
  5. Be non-controversial whenever you can. Boring is the new black.
  6. Don’t gossip. It invites more questions.
  7. Look busy. Have something in your hand. Point to a pile of papers nearby. Shrug your shoulders. You’ve got to go back to work. Blame the man.
  8. Feel someone’s pain but move on. You can’t go wrong by adding a nod. But go back No. 7. Those papers on your desk aren’t going to sort themselves.
  9. You could sigh deeply, too.
  10. It never hurts to say, “It is what it is.”
  11. Speak in bullet points. If you truly need information from someone stupid, break the question into three parts and say, “I need three things from you.” Pause between each bullet. Speak slowly. Have a notepad in your hand, write the answers down, and walk away because you have to “enter this information into the computer.”
  12. Be sympathetic. Not everybody operates at 100 percent. Sometimes stupidity is really stress, exhaustion, depression, or disengagement.
  13. Be considerate. Just because someone is stupid doesn’t mean he or she isn’t contributing in some capacity.
  14. Be kind. Sometimes you’re an idiot.

This was originally published on the Laurie Ruettimann blog.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


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