How Does One Deal With Painfully Stupid Friends?

I’ve been friends with this woman for a couple of years. She’s a very nice person. I usually limit my conversations with her to men, movies and money. Last night, I found out that she has no idea what the Berlin Wall was and as I explained it, she tried to act knowledgable about WWII. So, I also found out she has no idea how the war ended (she thought Hitler was alive at the end). This shouldn’t be a big deal I know. But the fact that she has traveled extensively in Europe and to Russia and doesn’t know anything about history, concerns me. She also doesn’t follow the news at all and last night spoke about how it might be nice for her, as a Catholic, to convert to Islam. She likes the idea of Mecca and praying several times throughout the day. Oh yeah, she’s a Bush supporter.
How do people deal with friends like this? I am trying to focus on the fact that she’s a very sweet, supportive woman but more and more I find myself getting frustrated and refraining from rolling my eyes. Any tips or advice would be greatly appeciated!

My tip is that you focus on your own nasty attitude, not your friend’s ‘stupidity’. She’s probably better than you at some things; how would you feel if you knew instead of thinking ‘Oh, AmericanMaid is so lucky I’m willing to take advantage of her sweetness and supportiveness while sitting here rolling my eyes at her ignorance’.

And what’s the problem with her speculation about converting to Islam? What’s stupid about that?

Ookay, that made loads of sense. Try again:

She’s probably better than you at some things; how would you feel if you knew that, instead of just realizing that nobody can be good at everything, she was thinking ‘Oh, AmericanMaid is so lucky I’m willing to take advantage of her sweetness and supportiveness while sitting here rolling my eyes at her ignorance’. I’m not saying you’re taking advantage of her, but if I were in her place, I would certainly feel that you had been if I figured out your ‘problem’ with me.

Is she really stupid then, or is she simply ignorant and unaware?

I am picky with my friends. This also limits my social network a lot, which in turn makes me meet fewer new friends I otherwise would’ve. I don’t think it’s easy to change people or if you should even concider it. If you’re good friends with her and have a good time with her, then just avoid talking about politics and religion.

There are things about nearly everyone I know that make me wonder how they got past the 8th grade.

For instance, I have one friend who doesn’t understand why, when she pays the minimum payment on her credit card, her balance doesn’t go down.

Or my brother, the most educated of the lot of us, didn’t know that he couldn’t collect social security before the age of 62.

Or my mom who thought mice were baby rats.

Or my husband, who can’t spell “squeeze.”

These are all otherwise competent, intelligent, wonderful people. If we put ourselves under the same microscope we put others under, we wouldn’t look all that brilliant either. We’re all human.

I would just like to make this small but important distinction; it’s not hard to change other people, it’s impossible. Thinking that you have even a chance of changing another person is going to lead to frustration and wasted efforts. I’ve seen this before on these boards (the idea that changing other people is hard but possible), and it makes me wonder how prevalent this idea is.

Okay, hopping off my high horse - I would suggest that you are not as compatible with this woman as a friend should be. I think there are levels of friendship; I don’t think you are compatible enough for anything past “acquaintance” with this lady, sweet and supportive as she may be. It’s not a value judgement on her (or you), just that the two of you don’t have enough in common to support a friendship.

I agree that not everybody has to be your friend, and it’s okay to just let people go or limit the relationship. You can even do so because you think the other person is a numbskull - what I think is wrong is continuing the friendship with such disrespectful thoughts bouncing around your own thick head (because as others have also said, we’re all idiots sometimes).

As for changing people…I think people can change together, in a mutual process, and that what’s really foolish is thinking you can just tinker with someone else’s deep-rooted personality with a tweezers like you’re playing Operation.

It just plain doesn’t work, beyond being sort of icky to even try, when you think about it. What do you think you can do here? Say ‘Friend, I love you dearly, but your stupidity causes me pain’? ‘Read a damn book’? You can’t say anything about it, ever, without being rude and unkind.

And just knowing more stuff than somebody else, or even being able to think more clearly than them, or faster, or more comprehensively, doesn’t make you superior to them. Sometimes you can do all of the above and still be, say, untrustworthy, or cruel to puppies, or just a condescending jerk. I’ve known plenty of smart jerks. My advice is that you do your best to avoid becoming one. :wink:

Jeez folks, ride your high horses much? **AmericanMaid ** certainly has pushed some buttons here.

AmericanMaid, maybe you could think about whatever it is about this person you *do * enjoy and then determine if the pleasure you derive from her company outweighs your frustration. As was already expressed, you can’t really change another person, so you gotta take her as she is, no bitching about it, or walk away.

Yes, everyone has their strengths/weaknesses and we all balance each other out. I agree it’s not the nicest thing to smile in someone’s face under the pretense of friendship whilst secretly marveling at their stupidity. That being said, an adult, a well traveled adult no less, who hasn’t a clue what the Berlin Wall was is a bit troubling.

It’s not disrespectful to call someone stupid. It doesn’t mean you don’t like them.

It’s rude to do it to their face, or to call them stupid to their family. But the OP is asking “how to deal with a stupid friend.”

Some people are fucking stupid in pretty much all ways. Some of my good, lasting friends are fucking stupid. Big whoop. They’re not doing my taxes for me.

They make bad financial decisions, they haven’t learned anything new since high school, they make bad career decisions, life decisions, relationship decisions. They don’t read newspapers or books. Some don’t know history. Some can’t follow a conversation. Some can’t discuss a movie.

I go out drinking with them, go to a ball game with them, or go see a band with them.

I don’t know what to tell the OP. You can either abide stupid people or you can’t. If you can’t, then stop hanging out with them, or stop doing things where their stupidity coems into play.

Don’t try to change her, it won’t work. If you want to be friends with her, focus on the things you like about her and ignore/avoid the rest.

I have friends with whom I absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, talk about politics (and politics are very important to me, a frequent subject of conversation with almost all of my other friends). I love them because they are my friends, not because I like to talk about politics to them, so I avoid the subject with great care. If I didn’t, I’d lose respect for them, and get mad at them, and then what would be the point of hanging out with them?

Accept that you can’t change her. If you can avoid the topics that make you disrespect her, do so; if you can’t, you probably shouldn’t be friends with her.

I’ve had a lot of friends similar to the OP’s description. A lot of them withered not only because of distance, but also the unsaid fact that, in the long run, there was not enough support on either side to maintain the friendship.

Some of it can be plain disinterest. I travelled to Italy with one of my dearest friends a few years ago. Her only interest was the food. At first I was like, “Whoa, here you are in one of the most culturally-rich countries in the world and all you care about is gelatio?!?” Then I understood. Sort of like the OP’s friend going to Russia. That’s not to say I don’t love my friend any less for not being as academic/cultural as I am – I just don’t try to broach such in depth with her.

As much as I dislike the analogy, friends can be categorized into certain mental “slots”. There are those with whom you enjoy partying/shopping, for instance, but you wouldn’t dare discuss current events with them. There are friends with whom you share one large common thread, be it a job or a baby. There’s the friend with whom you confide everything in the world. There’s the friend who shares your interest in ancient Greek culture. You get the idea.

That’s not to say any of them cannot overlap, but, in my experience, very few do. You just have to take them for who they are and enjoy their company. Nothing more, nothing less. If you don’t, then why you still friends with them?

I thought, based on years of watching TV sit-coms, that everybody had at least one painfully stupid friend!

I don’t believe the OP is being nasty at all. Merely pointing out something that I also would wonder at. The cites given don’t necessarily mean that that person is stupid, but the OP knows the person in question better than we do, so benefit of the doubt there.
Different relationships for different people I’d say. Focus on “men, money and movies” Have fun and love em if you love em.

I think it depends on how you define someone as a friend.

For instance, I used to have a few “bar buddies” Most of them didn’t know the difference between Washington DC and Washington State. I didn’t consider them friends, although we’d gather every Sunday to watch NFL games. I simply tried to avoid bringing up any other topics besides sports and the weather.

Still, I always made myself realize that they had certain knowledge that I didn’t have. One was an auto mechanic, one was a custom engraver. I don’t know anything about either of those topics.

There are one billion people in this world who speak Chinese. I don’t know one word of Chinese.

How I deal with my stupid friend:

If she often complains about a situation that confuses her I will try to explain it with the attitude from me that I think it’s a little confusing too. I will tell her new things if I think they would interest her or make her life easier. I’ll mention funny things I read in the newspaper which often makes her more interested in reading the paper. I’ll try to lead her a different way if she’s about to make a huge life changing mistake, like getting into a bad financial situation.

I don’t initiate conversations with her that I know will be over her head. If she mentions something that is extremely incorrect I will correct her. After the World Trade Center collapsed she thought that gas prices were going up because all the gasoline in the country was kept in the WTC buildings. If she says prejudice things because of ignorance I will correct her.

If I don’t feel like explaining something to her I’ll just say that I don’t know and tell her to look it up online.

I talk to her about the kids and her work and my work and we can shop and do crafts together. I have other friends that I have different conversations with or do different activities.

I take it all back. Every word. I’m sorry.

I forgot about my stupid friend. :stuck_out_tongue:

Just bite your lip and gently educate her whenever she seems receptive.

I had an engineering friend at work similar to the OP’s. Very friendly, smart in matters concerning engineering, but absolutely no knowledge of current events, etc. (despite this she was a hard core GW fan) Anyway, we pretty much restricted our conversations to things that interested both of us: fashion and celebrity gossip. I’d occasionally mention something relating to world affairs if I thought it might interest her but anything political was strictly off limits.

I have another friend who’s hopeless with money. (I actually posted a thread bout her a while ago) She’s over $30,000 in debt and keeps making stupid moves. For instance, she’s 46 and just left a really secure state job to take a lower paying job, she keeps racking up debts, etc. She’s also really into flakey alternative medicine stuff and spends beaucoup money on expensive supplements. I still enjoy hanging out with here but everytime she start talking about whatever miracle suplement she just started taking, I just bite my tongue and stay silent. I don’t encourage the conversation btu I’m not rude about it and attempt to steer the conversation to something mutually interesting.

Not meaning to get too personal here, but has it occurred to you that you may have gaps in your general knowledge that make other people roll their eyes? Myself, I am completely, utterly disinterested in sports, and know virtually nothing about the subject. There have been any number of times when I’ve seen friends and family drop their jaws and gawk at me when the subject turns to sports and I ask, “Well, who is this?” or “What is that?”

I basically agree with the other posters who recommend that you focus on the topics and activities that you share with your friend and value those.

Might you have areas that you are generally less well-versed in than your friend? Well, okay, but that is not your question and I don’t feel much need to get all high and mighty on you - nor do I think that is what you are doing in relation to your friend.

I used to be very intellectually intimidating with my friends and you know what it got me? Fewer friends. But, by the same token, some folks I enjoy hanging out with in a number of settings are fucking clueless - period. So, I try to focus on the good stuff and shut up. But I haven’t changed my basic POV about how much I value basic knowledge and know-how - I just don’t try to engage some people at that level and that has served me well in my personal and professional life…

I’m not going to play the political correctness card. Your friend sounds like a dolt, but may be skilled in an area your not. You can try get involved, and maybe she can teach you some of these things. If not, you have to compromise.