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?

Caroline Hindle, M.A.

Copyright © 2012-2020 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.

This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Anil

    Well wrote in ur article . Everything is true about this article . 100% true madam

  2. Avatar
    Pam Bella

    Very insightful article. I would have added that highly intelligent people are not “people person” types most of the time.

    1. Avatar
      Irrelevant

      This is definitely not true. The smartest people I know are in fact the “people person”, and those are very rare and far between (which is consistent with their exceptional intelligence).

      1. Avatar
        ARNK

        I don’t think you can say one way or another really, you can have socially accepted geniuses. On the other hand, you can have socially outcast geniuses. As far as the “people person” thing, I can’t agree. In my worldview, the majority of people are “people persons”, definitely not far and few between. They maybe exceptionally intelligent in some cases, but like the majority, I really don’t think so. But to repeat, I see a lot of articles on the correlation between socially inept and highly intelligent people, but I wouldn’t think this is necessarily the case.

        Extremely extroverted and overly confident people are annoying as shit though, I think that can be scientifically proven.

      2. Avatar
        mel

        Iirrelevant??? It may also mean those that you think are highly intelligent are just boastful or narcissists that have you believing their manipulation.

        1. Avatar
          Aditya Bansal

          Well said Mel

  3. Avatar
    Miro

    Really does feel like you are stupid sometimes..

    1. Avatar
      Jake

      Like the honesty, hate the attitude.

  4. Avatar
    Aimia

    So true of me.

  5. Avatar
    George Glavas

    Considering a partial lobotomy

  6. Avatar
    Pierre-Yves

    I have never considered myself highly intelligent, nor will I ever, I hope, but I did hit 9/10. Number 7 (uncomfortable revealing personal info) no longer applies much, if it ever has. It is my way of opening up and helping others feel comfortable to do the same. I am not afraid of being judged, as no matter what one does, one will always be judged in numerous different ways (judgments are far more about those who judge than the targets, in my opinion). So one might as well be oneself, at the risk of sounding a little self-centered. As long as I also take the time to listen, all is good.

    1. Avatar
      Daisy

      I’m the same as you! Not afraid of being judged and speak my mind most of the time. It’s most comfortable for me to behave in that way, with the side benefit of encouraging others to do the same!

  7. Avatar
    Bro McKnight (@BigBro254)

    Which is why its best to hire or partner with a people person as a handler or liaison

    1. Avatar
      anonymous

      I’d never hire a people person if I’m an employer. Instead, I’d hire an intelligent person .But if I hire both, I’d favor the smart one over the social one.

  8. Avatar
    Michelle

    I don’t tend to consider myself as highly intelligent, but I’m an information sponge and tend to think deeply and intensely about things. By default this usually gives me an arsenal of more factual information than a majority of the people I come in contact with(knowledge is power is NOT a way of life in my small hometown). It’s led to a fair share of heated debate and conflict to the point that I I treat with others as little as possible here.

  9. Avatar
    D'Artagnan

    I doubt this comment will get almost any notice, but I appreciate this article. I don’t know if I would classify myself as being ‘smart’ but I personally deal with every issue mentioned and it can be challenging. Honestly my biggest issue is talking to people in general without sounding weird or somehow deficient, most of the time I have issues putting my thoughts into words especially when explaining things. Some people in my life have no idea how I feel most of the time and get angry because of my lack of ability to describe or explain it. I shared this article with someone in my life and they said that they think they understand me better and things have been a lot smoother between us since.

    1. Avatar
      Bleank

      I feel like we shared the same mental womb (and I’ve gone weird on the first sentence). I just read this article and I thought “I’m going to share this article with her” though I wish I could scrub the “genius” bit. Not that I’m not one, just prefer not to rub it in 🙂
      Anyway your comment did get noticed and I appreciate it; you some my mind in a clear, unmuddled fashion…and I’m going to stop taking now

      Big thanks to the author of the article, I have some different opinions about some of the things but overall it’s a fine article.

    2. Avatar
      KayDee

      +D’Artagna – I wish I could share this with others, but my concern would be exploiting myself as a genius, which would cause judgement that “she thinks she’s a genius!” I also can relate to each item in the article, but don’t have the guts to share it. Besides, I like being the man out. I can’t get into the shallow discussions out there. So, I’ll remain a social outcast and continue to soak up information of interest and get involved with like minded individuals on the net, like here!

  10. Avatar
    Grace

    I don’t think the above points necessarily indicate signs of “very high intelligence”, but rather signs of very high introversion, especially numbers 1, 6 and 7. You could argue high introversion equates to high intelligence, but this would suggest all geniuses are extremely introverted, and all extremely extroverted people are stupid, which is obviously not factual. Overall, I think you mentioned some good points about “intelligent” people tending to be more private, slow to warm up, and self-conscious, but you need more proof to demonstrate these introverts are intelligent and not just private.

  11. Avatar
    Kat

    I’ve noticed that highly intelligent people often render social interaction redundant as they don’t benefit from it directly. For example, they often have the confidence in their own abilities to problem solve alone without the need to ask others for advice. Also, gossiping about the problem doesn’t solve the problem, therefore inefficient use of time and energy 😂

    1. Avatar
      Amy

      I think there are a lot of fallacies and assumptions being made in these comments. I myself am an introvert; however, the older I’ve gotten the more I have come to understand that there is a lot of subtle and important information conveyed through social interaction and it is a very important skill to be able to tune into that. What you may think is “gossip” can actually be really telling. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to look down on others. Often times people are communicating something but we just don’t know how to listen. Why do you think sociologists and anthropologists spend so much time just observing people if all that social interaction is just gossip? I really think the way everyone is dismissing social interaction, extroversion, and the ability to be really social is actually really shortsighted. They say that the more you know the more you know that you don’t know. This is the divide between someone who is merely intelligent and someone who is wise. If we were all the same and all had the same approach to problem solving or thinking we would solve very few problems. A truly wise and intelligent person knows to value difference and diversity in thought and not malign it. Also, curiosity about others and the world around us can really be a way to learn new things and perspectives that change how you think and allow you to think more creatively. There is a reason reporting/sharing research is considered important in academia. Problem solving on your own is actually more inefficient. Many systemic injustice are also perpetuated when we take the efficiency first approach, rather than taking the time to ensure we are being understood and that we are understanding someone else. Listening is a really undervalued skill and introverts are in a better position than most, but you can’t be a good listener if you are just looking down on those around you.

  12. Avatar
    tami

    My IQ ranks in the top one percent of my peers nationwide and I identify with this article completely. It’s a lonely, misunderstood place, which makes me even more thankful for my family. This is a much needed reminder after yet another shun in the lounge.

  13. Avatar
    Joe

    So many people here proclaiming to be smart to justify their awkwardness, when you might just be an awkward person with low theory of mind who assumes people are idiots because you don’t know how to communicate properly. There are those who excel in both social and intellectual endeavors and there are those who are deficient in one or both.. your social deficiency is not a proof of your intelligence.

  14. Avatar
    noname

    I don’t think this is precisely explained, and there’s not evidenced. They didn’t even define the meaning of the word intelligent.

  15. Avatar
    bertolt

    Every point you made describes me to a “T.”

  16. Avatar
    steve mathis

    I think people that have no social are just plain stupid,you have to interact with other people and if you do not do that you are a fuckin idiot,in my mind

    1. Avatar
      KayDee

      +steve mathis – By your reply, we can all tell where you stand. Can’t spell (capitalization), can’t punctuate, and can’t complete a sentence properly – well done!

  17. Avatar
    A

    I’m not really commenting on the validity of your article or lack thereof depending on your viewpoint, but the points about having high EQ and not taking offense easily don’t necessarily seem to fit together.
    The thing is, you’re making blanket statements. Nothing wrong with that but rather difficult to be truly exact/accurate this way. Sure, I know some very intelligent people who would agree with both mentioned points being part of the same person, but wouldn’t having high EQ suggest ability to feel slighted easier and deeper?
    That being said, I think taking offense is a highly subjective experience and linked more to insecurity than intelligence (whatever your definition). But, if you meant it more in the way of ‘not taking offense to something usually seen as offensive’, that I could agree with more. You can’t sate curiosity by taking offense when being told new or conflicting information. But if overthinking is the problem, wouldn’t it follow that those who do it can see offense where maybe none was meant, or completely miss actual insults/offenses because they’re hidden in plain sight?

    I’ll be the first to admit that I experienced behaviour at work today that left me feeling rubbed the wrong way and angry at the perceived unfairness happening. I didn’t even google anything with ‘intelligent’ because I’m fully aware I’m half indulging feeling petty, half trying to find some way not to be so affected/change how I’m being treated. I just clicked on the first result that came up.
    I never considered myself ‘highly intelligent’ nor stupid, but it obviously (like anyone else, I imagine) pokes a raw spot when I’m being treated or spoken to like I am actually stupid. Hence the rabbithole of seeking validation by doing a late night google search…(excuse my rambling).

  18. Avatar
    Eric

    One other point that can be made is that many of us were the objects of a lot of bullying in school. If you applied yourself in school, or showed intelligence above the norm, you put a target on your back. We were alienated so our friend base was other “nerds” or other uncool kids with their own social oddities. For me, I would generally have 1 or 2 friends and a few acquaintances. Now, as a mid 40s electronics engineer I see the same social traits in many of my peers. In my personal life my social anxiety makes me come off as cold. The people that actually know me know that I’d give the shirt off my back to help someone in need, but if I’m in a group, I’ll be the one that tries to find something to fix instead of mingle. Well, unless I have enough liquor to overcome some of the anxiety, which hardly ever happens. In most cases I’d rather be the fly on the wall to listen and think over what I’m hearing (while fixing something haha)

  19. Avatar
    Artemis Julius Silver

    Thank you. Only a little part of society is in the more-intelligent group, and for some reason, lot of them are socialy… awkward. Including me. I have problems with being friendly. I help everyone, they told me i’m funny a lot but they still think that i am rude or a loner. Most of the time, i’m alone because when i wanna talk to kids my age, they A, talk about something i already know perfectly and it makes me bored B, talk about something uninteresting (pop music, football, sport brands, friends…) and i don’t wanna join C, talk about something good but when get happy and try to tell them all about it because i can finally share it, they think that i’m angry at them and that i think they’re stupid. Which is not true… There are a lot of other thing that makes it hard for me to find friends but this one is something that i’m seeing the first time in this article. It’s really helpful to know that i’m not the only one to whom it happens.
    Thank you.

  20. Avatar
    Israel

    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

  21. Avatar
    Israel

    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

    1. Avatar
      Jubejubes

      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.

  22. Avatar
    SM

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

  23. Avatar
    Khulani

    You’ve basically summed it up very well.

  24. Avatar
    Larry Happyas

    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?

  25. Avatar
    from

    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.

  26. Avatar
    David P

    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.

    1. Avatar
      KVH

      I think that EQ rather than IQ drive social awkwardness.
      But what do I know with my 138 IQ and the ability to socialize with just about anyone…..

  27. Avatar
    dzeca

    i have them all

  28. Avatar
    Billy

    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

  29. Avatar
    Si

    …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…

  30. Avatar
    Dallin Atniop

    i dont know if im really intelligent or these topics are just really relatable just to make the people reading it feel better about themselves

    so yeah i dont think there are actually any people out there that are just all around intelligent there are different people who are really good at different things some people are born amazing at specific things and alot of us have to work to be the best at one thing

  31. Avatar
    Arvind

    I pretty much hit all of this. I often find that when I find topics interesting to me I’m much more enthusiastic and able to engage easily; however, when I don’t, it can be very difficult to muster similar enthusiasm. In some ways, I consider it a blessing in disguise because I can just cut through the crap much quicker. But it can cause problems when communicating with people in general, where it’s harder to find common ground. It is sometimes hard to recognize whether the issue is poor social skills or just a byproduct of being extremely smart.

  32. Avatar
    Nerd that intollerant towards people's intolerance

    I can relate to the majority of points raised except for 6 to 8. It’s actually the opposite like the previous comment says, I also share way too much personal information that makes people around me uncomfortable.
    I also able to do the small talk shit now nur for some reasons I tend to be too direct and despite my careful thinking I feel that every time people still find something offensive in a sentence or if it’s not the words it’s the way u say it or how I pronuniced it or when I said it. In fact I’m getting tired of this shit – we seem to be surrounded by snowflakes who are just waiting in a conversation that you say something that could be misinterpreted in their “you offend me” favor. Also I really don’t get why the whole society has build up a social construct in which people are faking interests for each other or pretend to be someone else wearing a custome a la googliness every day where they just live for their Instagram likes and Twitter followers – where in fact deep down they are suicidal and lonely. I also don’t get why we have decided certai topics are taboos to discuss and the list seems to get longer everyday soon everybody will end up like in blackmirror nosedive episode and talk about the weather since that seems to be the only topic that hasn’t been censored yet.

  33. Avatar
    Marilyn Adams

    I could so relate to this article, I’m floored. So many people just don’t ever listen to anything you’re saying, just waiting for you to take a breath and then they jump in with their subject and off it goes. You’ve lost your voice to speak and they’ve taken over and it’s just a waste. Usually people talk about things they know nothing about and I’m not about to correct them, just nod, smile and subtly move away from them. Ugh, I hate loud mouths too, know-it-alls, and just plain uninformed, or boring or self absorbed. It’s sad, but having a simple conversation seems to be a lost art, if it ever truly was.

  34. Avatar
    Jase

    This really hit home for me. I grew up in an aggressive, violent place full of people with poor emotional management and basically no desire to educate themselves. Everything was like chimpanzee heirarchy, mindless posturing and physical conflict. For many many years I felt like there was something profoundly wrong with me. I got bullied, beat up, ostracised, mocked, degraded, humiliated. I never felt like I fit in. My immediate family did not recognize the damage that was being done to me and to this day I struggle severely with a horrifically harsh inner critic and long term depression. Socializing was always very difficult for me because I felt like I was the bottom of the pile, worthless, an object of derision and disdain. Like mud on someone’s shoe.

    Only when I got older and went back to school and got my undergrad, masters and now PhD have I realized that the major reason why I have suffered in my life is precisely because I am emotionally sensitive and intelligent. Something about that combination of traits causes revulsion in unintelligent people. I was always treated like a scapegoat even in my own family circle and there is a lot of anger and bitterness in me about this (though I am trying to move past it, it is hard not to be angry at people for so royally screwing with your well-being). Lately I have noticed myself just being an asshole to stupid people because honestly I just find myself hating stupidity. Every time I am confronted with it, I am reminded of how people’s stupidity made my life so difficult for so many years, and still does to an extent.

    I find it very difficult to empathize with people who are so bent on being wilfully ignorant and who live their lives with no introspection. And I notice the more accomplished I become, the more anger and contempt I seem to draw from unintelligent people.

    I don’t want to be an asshole. I don’t want to be that person who is looked at like a jumped up pompous arrogant jerk. But to “fit in” with most of the people from my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, I would have to become something I’m not. I tried to do that for long years of my life and it made me miserable. So miserable I nearly committed suicide on two occasions. Living a lie is soul destroying, but so is trying to be vulnerable and kind only to be mocked and bullied, or trying to make honest mental connections regarding interesting things, only to be rejected and teased.

    Having met some wonderfully intelligent and kind people over the past few years, I’ve come to realize that the flaw was never with who I was. I never needed to try to fit in and change myself. The flaw was with those around me. For whatever reason, they saw a threat or an enemy, and I was bullied into acting less like myself and more like them.

    The psychology of it all is, as I age, becoming ever clearer to me as the days go by. Intelligence is threatening to people. They mistrust it. And as a result, when I behave like myself, they mistrust me. It’s a sad truth but through no real fault of my own, the genetics that led to my mental awareness have made me, for many people, an enemy.

    That said, there are other people I have come to know who are incredibly intelligent and with whom I share profound mental understanding. They are a true joy to be around. I find them uplifting and inspiring. Every time I spend any time with them I come away feeling hopeful, refreshed, and most importantly, like I belong somewhere. And this is a sensation that has been so missing from my life for so many years that feeling it, finally, brought me to tears. I have never felt such overwhelming relief and happiness.

    My advice to highly, highly intelligent people is to seek out similar minds and learn from them. Learn how to be sociable, engage with their wider circles, and prove to yourself that it is possible to be intelligent and in good company. It’s possible to feel engaged, happy and understood even if you have spent a lifetime feeling bored, unhappy and misunderstood.

    The most important thing that you can do for your own sanity and integrity is stop trying to fit into places where you have to change yourself to do so. Instead, settle only for intellectual and emotional equals. And if necessary, move abroad. A change of scenery is a wonderful way to clear your head.

Leave a Reply