You might be surprised to hear that exceptionally intelligent people do some exceptionally silly things.

Did you ever have a conversation with someone where you realized that you were talking to someone who was much smarter than you?

I’ve met some genuinely brilliant people in my time – people whose intelligence has truly humbled me. But one thing I’ve also noticed when spending time with people of that level is that they often do silly things that we mere mortals would never do.

Once I took a very intelligent individual to the gym with me, and this person started doing their exercises with the most ridiculous form. I tried to explain that the way he was doing his exercises would be more likely to do him an injury than get him in shape, but he just wasn’t willing to listen to advice and stubbornly kept on aiming for a hernia.

What could I possibly know that he didn’t?

Well, it turns out that this isn’t just something I’ve imagined. After doing some research, I found out that unusually intelligent people are indeed as prone as others to doing silly things.

Indeed, there are some silly things they excel at.

1. They’re more likely to make mistakes through overconfidence

Very clever people often do silly things because they’re overconfident in their abilities. Self-serving bias is a phenomenon whereby most people overestimate their abilities, whether they’re, objectively speaking, competent or incompetent. Highly intelligent people are more prone to self-serving bias than the rest of us.

Self-serving bias has two major pitfalls. Firstly, it means that by overestimating their own abilities and underestimating the difficulty of problems, smart people rush to give solutions without giving the problem sufficient thought. Indeed, they might blurt out a solution without even paying proper attention to the details of the problem they’ve been given.

The second major pitfall is that they tend to think they are better than other people. As a result, they undervalue the opinions of others and refuse to listen to feedback. This can be a fatal mistake.

No matter how intelligent a person is, there are always blind spots and there are always new things to learn. Getting trapped in the illusion that you know everything means you aren’t allowing yourself to develop.

2. They lack practical intelligence

Another way in which intelligent people are prone to doing silly things is their lack of practical intelligence. You may have an IQ of 150, but your IQ only measures analytical intelligence. Practical intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge to real-life situations and, simply put, to get things done.

Highly intelligent people often lack practical intelligence. They can be extremely adept at theorizing, spotting patterns, and generating ideas. Nevertheless, they can be absolutely useless when it comes to the simplest and most basic practical tasks.

This can mean that they actually seem stupid to other more practical people in an ordinary workplace setting, or even at home, where managing routine daily chores can be almost impossible for them to cope with.

3. They often have low emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, otherwise known as EQ, is also something that people with a very high IQ frequently lack. This can make them do silly things in situations that involve other people.

They often have no ability to recognize and understand other people’s feelings, and so frequently make themselves unpopular with others by offending them.

Equally, by blurting out socially unacceptable things, they can often make fools of themselves. All of this can be detrimental to their progress in life, as all of us, even the geniuses, tend to need other people to help us get on.

4. They give up when they fail

Smart people get used to being right as they grow up. This is one of the major traps set for the exceptionally intelligent. It can have a debilitating effect on their personal development.

If someone becomes too used to being successful, a minor failure can take on gigantic proportions in their minds. All human beings fail at some point or another – none of us are gods. However, for people who are accustomed to being right, being wrong is something they often just can’t cope with.

As a result, they tend to view failure as a sign that they’re no good at the task they attempted. And, consequently, instead of trying again, as those of us who are used to a few failures tend to do, they just give up at the first hurdle. This can mean that they are quickly overtaken by people who might be much less naturally gifted than they are.

The big lesson that seems to come from all of these ways in which intelligent people do silly things is that they mustn’t over-rely on the gift they were born with.

If they want to maintain superiority over average people, they need to put in the effort that average people put in. It’s not enough to have a high IQ in this world.

Real-life demands more than theories and abstract reasoning. The real-world demands that you can apply your knowledge, respect and absorb the opinions of others, honor social conventions and common courtesy, and put in the effort to better yourself when you find that you’re lacking.



Can you think of any other silly things that smart people do? Let us know.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Todd

    I might suggest that you may not have been dealing with someone who is truly intelligent. Your example of bringing him to the gym seems to describe narcissism rather than smarts. I enjoyed your article. I would suggest that you might consider the Dunning-Keurig Effect. (That states that people of low ability tend to over estimate themselves. Those of higher intelligence will underestimate their performance because they assume things are just as easy for everyone else as they are for themselves.) You make good points in your writing. I’m not so sure that “Self-serving bias” is a trait of mentally gifted individuals. That’s more of a psychopathy that any chucklehead is prone to. It reminds me of a “King of the Hill” episode where LouAnn’s boyfriend is a “Self Proclaimed Genius”. Narcissism is a mental disorder that infects people of all abilities. Even senior citizens that claim they’re a “Stable Genius”.

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