10 Reasons Why Highly Intelligent People Have Poor Social Skills

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poor social skills highly intelligent

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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Caroline Hindle

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.

Copyright © 2018 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.


  1. Anil January 27, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

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

  2. Pam Bella January 27, 2017 at 7:10 pm - Reply

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

    • Irrelevant July 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

      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).

      • ARNK October 9, 2017 at 10:03 am - Reply

        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.

      • mel January 9, 2018 at 3:16 pm - Reply

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

  3. Miro January 31, 2017 at 6:05 am - Reply

    Really does feel like you are stupid sometimes..

    • Jake February 4, 2017 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Like the honesty, hate the attitude.

  4. Aimia February 4, 2017 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    So true of me.

  5. George Glavas February 11, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Considering a partial lobotomy

  6. Pierre-Yves February 13, 2017 at 3:36 am - Reply

    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.

  7. Bro McKnight (@BigBro254) March 12, 2017 at 1:51 pm - Reply

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

    • anonymous November 10, 2017 at 10:16 am - Reply

      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. Michelle June 9, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    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. D'Artagnan August 20, 2017 at 8:01 am - Reply

    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.

    • Bleank November 2, 2017 at 4:03 am - Reply

      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.

    • KayDee March 9, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

      +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. Grace August 26, 2017 at 2:31 am - Reply

    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. Kat October 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    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 😂

    • Amy February 28, 2018 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      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. tami December 9, 2017 at 3:13 am - Reply

    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. Joe December 22, 2017 at 3:46 am - Reply

    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. noname February 6, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    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. bertolt February 27, 2018 at 10:05 pm - Reply

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

  16. steve mathis February 28, 2018 at 5:29 am - Reply

    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

    • KayDee March 9, 2018 at 11:23 pm - Reply

      +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. A May 13, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    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. Eric May 26, 2018 at 8:33 am - Reply

    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. Artemis Julius Silver June 11, 2018 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    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. 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

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