10 Reasons Why Highly Intelligent People Have Poor Social Skills

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Do you suspect that you’re more intelligent than most people, while others assume that you’re dumb or slow because of a lack of social skills?

It can be really frustrating when people think there’s something deficient about you because you’re not as glib and superficially quick-witted as they are. You’re not alone. Highly intelligent people can lack social skills more than others, and there are good reasons for it.

1. They overthink responses

Intelligent people tend to care what they say in conversation. They place more importance on their words than others, and this can mean they overthink their responses. A lot of casual conversation takes place spontaneously, on automatic pilot. Once you start thinking too much, it gets more difficult to speak without seeming awkward.

2. Ordinary topics might bore them

A major reason why intelligent people can have poor social skills is that they can’t summon up the enthusiasm to join in everyday conversations with people. Men may understand this feeling when listening to women discussing cosmetics, and women may understand it when listening to men analyze a football game.

Some highly intelligent people feel this way about most of the conversation topics of both the sexes.

3. They can find it tough to find common ground with people

Most of the interests of a highly intelligent person will be of limited interest to those of average intelligence. This can mean that subjects that would make the highly intelligent person engaging and enthusiastic in conversation are off bounds because the other person wouldn’t be able to relate.

Two neuroscientists might be very animated when discussing neuroscience, for example, but totally unable to respond in a conversation about celebrity gossip.

4. They’re more self-conscious

One of the disadvantages of higher intelligence can be a higher degree of awareness of oneself and one’s behavior in social interactions. Highly intelligent people may be super conscious of themselves while socializing.

Imagine if you always had critical eyes watching and judging you while you speak. You’d feel like you were on stage and you’d be unable to act naturally. For many highly intelligent people, that critic is in their own heads.

5. They’re more conscious of you too

Another character flaw that can afflict the highly emotionally intelligent is that they can be extremely aware of other people’s responses in conversation. A person with a high emotional quotient can spot the micro-expressions and subtle body language cues in other people, which show when they’re impatient, bored, or not really listening.

This can be crippling because people don’t really listen to others and aren’t genuinely interested in them at least half of the time! Once you’re aware of this, it can be almost impossible to continue a conversation with someone.

6. They’re naturally more anxious

Many correlations have been found in research between higher levels of intelligence and increased levels of generalized as well as social anxiety. Anxiety is a major cause of poor social skills.

The reasons why this might occur are open to speculation. But it could be argued that ignorance is bliss and someone who is really conscious of what the world is realizes that it is a dangerous and unpleasant place. This naturally gives rise to feelings of fear and anxiety.

7. They’re uncomfortable with revealing personal info

The more intelligent a person is, the less comfortable they may be with revealing too much about themselves to people then don’t know well. This is the logical thing to do in many ways, as we all know that there are people around who might use personal information against a person.

It’s reasonable to want to know a person enough to trust them with details about your life that could place you in a position of vulnerability. This has a cost in terms of social skills, though.

8. They hide their vulnerabilities

Following on from the previous point, intelligent people may be extremely cautious about revealing their vulnerabilities. This kind of self-protective behavior may be learnt rather than innate in intelligent people, but intelligent people are more likely to learn from mistakes and change their behavior in response to failures.

The problem with this cautious attitude is that it robs them of essential social skills. People can’t warm to people who are unwilling to reveal their humanity to others. It prevents others sharing with them too.

9. Their impassioned responses about intellectual matters can alienate them

The problems that highly intelligent people have with social skills are not restricted only to the times when they hardly open their mouths. The real damage can occur when they do get talking.

When an intelligent person gets involved in a conversation that happens to interest them, they can become so heated and enthusiastic that people think they are aggressively opinionated, or even that what they’re expressing is anger.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Intelligent people enjoy a heated debate and aren’t easily offended, nevertheless others mistake impassioned responses for aggressiveness and take offense easily.

10. It’s hard for them to avoid conflict at some point

A highly intelligent person often ends up in conflict with others because it’s difficult for them to let throwaway remarks about things to pass by unnoticed. Intelligent people are highly aware of the importance of ideas and how a bad idea can have terrible consequences for the human race.

For this reason, they’re not likely to let you get away with saying something you haven’t thought through properly like most people would. People tend to take personal offense to being corrected in this way, even if (or especially if) they know they were wrong.

Are you an intelligent person who lacks social skills? Do you identify with the points made?

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About the Author:

Caroline Hindle is a freelance writer, editor, and translator living in Athens, Greece. She has an MA in Ancient World Studies, but has a wide spectrum of interests, including philosophy, history, science, literature, politics, morality, and popular culture.

39 Comments

  1. Israel June 14, 2018 at 11:34 pm - Reply

    I affirm to all the points mentioned but even though I experience them all, I don’t see myself as an intellectual being because I still know so little about the world

    • Jubejubes August 22, 2018 at 3:39 pm - Reply

      Well, you know. They say that Socrates was once declared the most intelligent man in ancient Greece by one of the Delphic oracles and he was flabbergasted. It was only after he tried to discover its truth that he realized there was a good chance they were right. The more you know the more you realize you don’t know and unlike many of the people around him, he was humble enough to realize how little he knew compared to the inflated egos around him.

  2. SM June 24, 2018 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    I’m just thick, and relate to every one of those twelve points.

  3. Khulani July 8, 2018 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    You’ve basically summed it up very well.

  4. Larry Happyas July 23, 2018 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    And here I thought I was just a d**k. It is nice to know there’s more to my brief conversations, familiar descent to boredom and constant avoidance of large groups and social events

    Or am I still just a d**k?

  5. from July 24, 2018 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    I can and do handle 2, 3, 7 and 8 by recognizing their necessity in communicating with most people. I freely share information perceived as personal vulnerabilities by others, and am perfectly able to fake interest and enthusiasm in things I consider banal. Tip to check for this: I have no clue when you’re talking about something you find interesting, or if you’re faking interest in turn, so just start talking to me about something anyone would find boring while feigning interest. A normal person would try to change topic or display boredom, whereas I will match your enthusiasm in discussing the effect of air humidity, temperature and pressure on the release of moisture from oil- versus water-based inks.

    My personal biggest issues are described adequately by 4, 5, 9 and 10. 1 and 6 are easier to disguise, with discipline.

  6. David P August 4, 2018 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Anybody with an intelligence level far off the average of those around them may be seen as lacking in social skills… “intelligent” or “dumb” is always relative. Saying intelligent people lack social skills is unintelligent. Flip the board: saying “average people” lack social skills just because they may not have much socializing success in a highly intelligent crowd (maybe due to the very 10 reasons listed above) is just as wrong.

  7. dzeca August 6, 2018 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    i have them all

  8. Billy August 17, 2018 at 1:42 am - Reply

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 are True for me… But in my society it is unacceptable and unpleasant behavior to handle!
    Means Am I intelligent?…
    What other qualities do they have?
    Waiting more on this

  9. Si August 27, 2018 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    …pretty much everything there relates to me lol…I don’t know how many times i have to dumb down a conversation to not lose the interest of those I am speaking with…

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