I think "coping skills" aptly summarizes the issue that arises when people of different temperaments and intelligence are trust into the random stew that is high school. In particular, nerds decide---this being the positive way of phrasing it, the negative way being that they're simply unable---that maybe developing coping skills is irrelevant if they can later work somewhere where they don't need such skills.
As for which is sadder ... here's a quote from Plato's Republic:
"Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by
excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other." --- Plato, The Republic
To wit, happiness is coming from darkness to light and being able to see and understand a little more. Sadness is coming from a place of insight and dealing with a place of ignorance.
[This is identical to the difficulty of taking the blue pill once you've taking the red pill when it comes to ERE and the problem of relating to consumerism once you understand it from the outside.]
I guess it depends on perspective. I realize that the ability to deal with almost any problem is a nice compensation for the interpersonal cost of intelligence. However, in terms of interpersonal relations, would you rather be in a situation whether almost everybody else is smarter than you are or everybody else is duller than you are. Personally, I'd prefer other people to be smarter than I am.
By the way, the quote above is also found on Flowers For Algernon(Daniel Keyes) which I hardily recommend as it covers many of the problems with relating when the mental disparity becomes too large. For a cruder example: The movie Idiocracy.
In terms of coping skills, I have probably spent more time on phrasing and rephrasing paragraphs in my posts on this thread than any other thread. Intelligence is a REALLY touchy subject (unlike being good looking or good at sports)! The issue (as the more intelligent party) is very much one of trying to communicate while not coming across as arrogant, preachy, lecturing, conceited, or even irrelevant(*).
The more intelligent one is, the more of an everpresent concern this becomes. I do not think that this meta-communication has ANYTHING AT ALL to do with some kind of elitism. The problem is that the genius (for lack of a better word---these words change constantly because it's such a touchy subject ... imbecile, moron and idiot used to be technical terms, but now they're insults) is generally very and rightfully sure of a given statement. An average person is not. Since the average person thinks that the other party is also average (and thus not too sure about his statement), someone who appears sure is interpreted as being arrogant. The solution is to fake a lack of sureness: "Yeah, I guess 2+2=4, but who's to say, lol."
Whether this approach "feels right" very much depends on temperament; whether a person takes his cues externally or internally. [There is a technical term for this orientation, but I forget.] This is a whole other and separate discussion. Let's just say that if someone is internally oriented he would consider adapting his demeanor to "play" his surroundings as immoral manipulation. If he's externally oriented, he'd consider it a natural and beneficial thing to do. Whether one or the other approach is "right" is really something that can get people's blood boiling. I just note that the difference is there.
(*) Notice for instance how publicly stating an inability to do math actually _creates_ social currency (whereas being bad at sports detracts). Conversely, the ability to do math detracts from social currency. How can one possibly be cool AND understand calculus at the same time?
Unless much effort is directed at modeling and compensating exactly what for all intents and purposes, say 95% of everybody else, do not know, one constantly has to be alert to the risk of the other person not knowing various references, rephrasing complicated thoughts into more easily grasped metaphors, etc.
Yeah, "coping skills" captures the problem splendidly. Some cope by hiding their brains/minds. They downplay their thoughts. Others just say nothing or try various head-fakes. Yet others learn to interface well.
It all depends on whether someone is able AND willing to learn how to cope.
My point is that the bigger the gap, the greater the effort. And that this effort does not really diminish in scope just because someone is mentally quicker.