Volunteer Jennifer Van Vleet experiences what it would be like to be arrested after failing a field sobriety test. (2009) Orgeon Dept. of Transportation. (CC BY 2.0)

How Simply Being BIgger (like a Hidden High Potential) Gets You Arrested

E. Forrest Christian Coaching, Underachievers 4 Comments

When you are bigger than everyone else, you are much more likely to get hammered for irritating people. It doesn’t matter if that’s physical size or “work” size, where you have the capability to do a larger job than the people around you.

This is one of the key problems of Hidden High Potentials (HHPs). Work comes in different sizes, and people’s capability comes in different sizes to match it. When someone who is bigger comes into the room, people can sense it. It’s not as immediate as when a beautiful person comes in the room, but it’s pretty quick that people know that the warp of the room has shifted.

And that can cause you a lot of problems.

People get threatened by things that are bigger than they are. They are afraid that they can’t control you when you start going off about something. Even more frightening, they see that you are “bigger” than they are and know that people have a tendency to follow bigger people. That makes you a double threat.

Take a look at what happens when you are physically bigger.

Incredible Hulk sticker

Hulk misunderstood. Puny humans always trying to kill Hulk. Hulk smash puny humans!

Awhile back, a guy in my neighborhood had to be down in the courthouse. His wife works a different shift, and he brought his three year old boy down with him. The boy isn’t bad for a three year old, but he’s really big — like his dad — and looks like he’s five. The boy was simply being a boy, according to all accounts, but was noisy.

Dad is six foot, six inches (~ 2m) and probably weighs 230 lbs (104 kg) when he’s down to nothing but muscle. This is a very big guy. I like him, but he is very imposing.

And that’s the problem.

The court officers are older men and women, most with large bellies these days. They came over to him and started in sternly telling him to control his three year old because the judges had their doors open and it could cause a disturbance.

My neighbor pointed out that the judges could close their own door.

And then it immediately escalated, with him getting pretty damn angry but never actually threatening anyone with violence or appearing to become violent, and suddenly he’s under arrest.

A few years ago, I was at a dinner hosted by one of our friends, who we knew as a Chicago trader. He’s a guy who doesn’t talk much and qualified as the mellowest guy I knew. Turned out he used to be a Chicago cop, and even was one of the first “swat” marksmen there in the 1970s. Someone asked him if he had ever drawn his weapon.

“No, of course not,” he said.

We all look surprised.

“The main problem cops have is controlling the situation immediately,” he said. “I’m six foot five. I’m a marksman. If I draw my weapon I’m going to hit you right where I intended to hit you. I’m not going to miss.

“When I come on the scene, I’m in control. My size is threatening and I’m confident that I can control it because I know how to use my weapon.

“You always hear about these cops shooting someone pulling out a cell phone, and it’s a woman cop. It’s because they’re smaller and frankly they are allowed to get by without knowing how to use their pistols well enough. They get into a situation and they don’t feel in control.

“So they end up shooting you.”

The cops at the courthouse were older. They are fat. (I write a lot in a coffee house right across from the courthouse, so I’ve been seeing them for 10 years.) They are even shorter.

When these people came up against my neighbor, they weren’t in control and felt immediately threatened. So they ended up “shooting” someone too early, escalating something that never should have been escalated.

The lesson for you: when you are bigger, people see you as a threat. They will “shoot” you quicker because they don’t feel in control of you. The rules are different for you. You don’t get to rant like the other do, to be yourself. You have to put forth a happy face or people start pulling guns.

It’s said, but that’s the way it is.

Image credit: Volunteer Jennifer Van Vleet experiences what it would be like to be arrested after failing a field sobriety test. (2009) Orgeon Dept. of Transportation. (CC BY 2.0)

About the Author

Forrest Christian

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E. Forrest Christian is a consultant, coach, author, trainer and speaker at The Manasclerk Company who helps managers and experts find insight and solutions to what seem like insolvable problems. Cited for his "unique ability and insight" by his clients, Forrest has worked with people from almost every background, from artists to programmers to executives to global consultants. Forrest lives and works plain view of North Carolina's Mount Baker.  [contact]

Comments 4

  1. Hmm… apparently lost my first try.
    Just saying I was thinking of you the other day, about one person talking about “six feet” of work and the other person only understanding “three feet” but thinking they got it all. It came up in the context of talking to a friend who thinks, when I talk about feeling different, that I am deliberately trying to push other people away.

  2. Post
    Author

    What a horrible thing for your friend to say! As if we all must be alike. This was the “promise” of communism not the freedom of western democracies. The trick is knowing what we all share and what differentiates. HHPs have a different life experience than normal people because they develop certain types of thinking too early and it colors their life experience. I covered this some time ago in The Growth Trajectory of the Underachiever, where I quote Stephanie Tolan:

    The child who deals with abstract concepts early brings those concepts to bear on all later experience. This different, more complex way of processing experience creates essentially different experience. The result is that the differences, far from shrinking as the child develops, are likely to grow larger. A child whose cognitive development is within the normal rather than the gifted range will not “catch up” with the gifted child any more than a younger sibling will catch up in age with an older sibling. The developmental trajectory diverges early and does not come back to norms.

    Or I could quote that great work of western though, The Incredibles:

    Dash: You always say ‘Do your best’, but you don’t really mean it. Why can’t I do the best that I can do?
    Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
    Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
    Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
    Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

    Perhaps you can give her a gentle reminder that the Body is made of more than elbows, as useful as they are.

  3. “The trick is knowing what we all share and what differentiates.” Exactly.
    I don’t think she thinks all people are the same, but I don’t know that she would give much credence to the idea of these different levels and trajectories. I’ve known about this idea since I first read it from you a few years ago and still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around it — especially the application part of how then to interact with other people in such a way that is accepting, not condescending / superior, not expecting unrealistically, etc. Especially people who can’t or won’t acknowledge the existence of trajectories, or their impact on difference, inclusion, and the possible extent of understanding and fellowship.
    Funny, I was also thinking of that line from The Incredibles.
    Also, she’s right in a way — when I feel that a difference I am discussing (not that I spend all day pronouncing on my differences) is not being understood (or, especially, is being dismissed or ridiculed or negated), I tend to keep pushing for clarification, which usually ends up with overemphasis, exaggeration, and a definite sense of pushing for a separation, a distinction. Because otherwise I’m not really included — only an approximation, a partial, of me is included. And the lesson that only an approximation / partial / attenuation of me is acceptable is a lesson I’ve had to fight fiercely to get untangled from. But from my point of view, I’m pushing away in order to make true connection possible, not just pushing away to stay isolated.

  4. I love this post!

    I had a recent experience at a trade show in NYC that got me down. I had stepped into a very cool booth done up to look like a smoking lounge for men and was showing the seated gentleman my work. The guy was hilarious and gestured extravagantly with his empty pipe at every opportunity. We were both enjoying ourselves. I wasn’t ranting but I was definitely being myself and feeling very animated and theatrical.

    Then I heard distant screeching and a woman who had become my enemy the day before–apparently for having a good idea (that she immediately appropriated)– came speeding over and caused an interruption. Then turned and gave me a dirty look.

    I had let her steal the idea the day before (while heaving a sigh) because she was a person who had made a name for herself and I was nobody in the context of the trade show. The thought of fighting her for it made me tired.

    And in the gentleman’s smoking lounge booth my moment had passed once the woman interrupted and I moved on. But I was suddenly depressed and thought, “is it just me or is anybody else at this trade show being targeted by this maniac?”

Tell Forrest how wrong he is: