Why Highly Intelligent People Have Poor Social Skills

While reasoning comes easy to highly intelligent people, most of us with a high IQ experience a degree of social apprehension, lack social skills, and are branded socially incapacitated geniuses. Here's why...

highly intelligent

If ignorance is bliss, is intelligence a curse? Are there any downsides to being highly intelligent? Intellectual capabilities are by far the greatest of gifts that a human being can possess. But the reality is: some of us are born smarter than others; some of us have higher than normal intelligence; and some of us, who are highly intelligent, are cursed in many ways.

Most of us don’t know there’s a neurological correlation between being socially awkward and being highly intelligent. While reasoning comes easy to highly intelligent people, most of us with a high IQ experience a degree of social apprehension, lack social skills, and are branded socially incapacitated geniuses.

It’s not because highly intelligent people are social fools, but because they see the world on an entirely different level than the rest of us. People who are socially anxious are usually highly intelligent and vice versa. Here’s why being highly intelligent is both a blessing and a curse:

  1. They overthink responses

Highly intelligent people have a keen eye for detail. They are overthinkers who constantly analyze everything happening in their life and beyond. They tend to ponder what they/others say/do and contemplate conclusions/solutions for a long time, which eventually interferes with their interpersonal relationships. By over-analyzing things, moreover, they distance themselves from mainstream conversations they think have little face value.

  1. They constantly self-doubt

“The problem with today’s world is that while intelligent people are full of doubts, the stupid ones are very self-confident” Charles Bukowski

As they possess a rather objective view, highly intelligent people are more self-conscious, have a higher degree of self-awareness, and constantly doubt themselves. Being hyper self-aware makes these individuals super conscious, critical, and judgmental in a social setting. They forget to go with the flow and get frustrated in social interactions.

highly intelligent

  1. They have high standards

Highly intelligent people know exactly what they want, what they talk, and what they do in every area of life. This is why they tend to have high expectations, both from themselves and from those around them. They know how to deal with logical situations, but social situations are not logical. When their expectations face the raw reality of life and people with average intelligence, they get anxious.

  1. They detest small talk

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” Anonymous

Ordinary people gossip, laugh at each other, do stupid things for fun, and discuss mundane things like food, cosmetics, and soccer to keep a conversation going. Highly intelligent people find themselves out of place while socializing as they can’t summon up the enthusiasm to join in everyday conversations.

  1. They are aware of your state of mind

Brianna Wiest, American writer and founder of Soul Anatomy, says “highly intelligent people are highly attuned to how someone is thinking, feeling or perceiving a situation, a little bit beyond what would be appropriate and healthy to function without over-thinking, worrying and trying to react to someone’s perceived state of mind, rather than the reality they are presenting”. As a result, all they can think about is how much they’d like to escape.

  1. They suffer from general anxiety

Psychiatrists at SUNY Downstate Medical Centre in New York have found that higher levels of intelligence and increased levels of anxiety are linked. An anxious mind is constantly examining ideas, information, and experiences from multiple angles simultaneously. Thus, highly intelligent people find social engagement too overwhelming.

highly intelligent

  1. They are well-guarded

Highly intelligent people think analytically, even when it comes to things like interpersonal relationships. They have a harder time opening up because their analytical brain never stops reflecting back on past situations where they survived a not-so-pleasant experience.

  1. They hide their vulnerabilities

Highly intelligent people learn from their mistakes and change their behavior in response to failures. However, this cautious attitude robs them of essential social skills. No one wants to interact with someone who is unwilling to share their experiences; someone who inadvertently sends a signal that they are cold or distant; someone who never failed.

  1. They get obsessive

When highly intelligent people open up to topics that interest them, they become so heated and enthusiastic they tend to monopolize the conversation and appear as aggressively opinionated, know-it-all, and angry.

  1. They can’t avoid conflict

Highly intelligent people often end up in conflict with others because they unintentionally begin correcting others; act as an overly argumentative debater, and start being intellectually competitive in social conversations. These people are so brainy and on a different wavelength that it interferes with their ability to relate to others.

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  1. It’s false that highly intelligent people are socially awkward to deal with. Some of the best comedians and actors were highly talented academicians. The society wilfully stagnates them cuz they through their narrow vision feel threatened by them. A loud mouth brat can have n number of girlfriends and a nerd can get rejected even if he’s having 16 packs.

    • Interesting observation, however many famous comedians and actors that are highly intelligent have also admitted to being very shy in person. What you often see in public or on stage is a character; the real person can be quite different.

    • Yes, as Jay pointed out, social situations are very different from acting and performing comedy. Social situations are usually unprepared for, while comedy and acting are trained for over a long period of time (even improv comedy is greatly prepared for using certain techniques). Comedy and acting have a direct financial and reputational incentive, while everyday small talk seemingly does not (although, especially in business situations, it does).

  2. I can relate to point 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 9, I think that’s mean I’m highly intelligent.. I joke :p but that was interesting reading, good job

    • I can relate to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and I envy you.

      I am a top engineer without any format education after my school. (don’t ask me how) BUT, My life is a train-wreck
      – anon

  3. I just…dont know what to say, I make a link between all these points. The fact is, I did an IQ test with a psychologist and in many categories, i got “Superior intellectual ability” like 99.7 percentile (compared to the average population) and i understood that only 0.3% of the population was better than me in this specific domain. I don’t want to be pretentious, not at all. But I can say i am proud of me (cuz’ I also have a adhd). When I read this text, I find that everything makes sense for me…it’s kinda satisfying. Yeah, for me, it’s a curse…When you always feel like you’ll always be alone because nobody can understand you, it is hard. When you try to talk to others but you don’t have the same interests, even if you try to be a nice guy (or girl) with them, you feel like you’re apart and you think, and think, again and again, if you don’t know how to control this, it’s a bit depressive, but the life is easier to understand, experience is easier to learn too. I only hope to find somebody that will match me, the only thing I ask is respect and fidelity haha. I think dialogue is the key. It’s just harder to express about what we are really thinking…. Anyway, have a nice day! (Writing is easier than talking for me ^^’)

    • I really liked your answer. I’m not highly intelligent but my boyfriend is (also with adhd). It’s causing me to rethink my relationship with him. For me, I feel inadequate, stupid even, when around him. I would like to make it work and that’s why I’m on here doing a little research. I would love to talk to you more as I don’t feel I can talk to him. I haven’t told him my concerns as I KNOW he wants more out of this relationship and he’s a great man but I’m having a hard time connecting with him. He is a very successful engineer, a gentleman in every aspect but, at the same time, displays little things that tell me something is different. The reason I feel I can’t talk to him is basicly, I don’t want to hurt him by making it sound like I almost think he’s autistic, or pointing out his adhd. This would be like pointing out a disability. I don’t think it’s a disability nor do I look at him in any way as disabled but rather highly intelligent and blessed. I guess the problem is, he seems to want to be with me but there is a lack of connection which maybe throws my own perception off. I take it as he doesn’t really likeme…or maybe more acuretly, doesnt find me attractive. Does that make sense? How do I perceive him correctly. Maybe, what signs do a highly intelligent person put out when attracted to someone? How can I tell he’s really wanting me for a relationship and not as a project that he needs to fix? Ugg…i know I’m rambling but This article was him! And you seem to maybe be the link to help us?? Someone neutral if you will? Hope you can help. Tasha.

    • Then what am I? I would rather never meet another person in my life than have to deal with social interactions. Why? Because talking to people is not what I do. The few that have been introduced by force into my life drain me unimaginably. Ive realized i dont need meds, I just dont need people. Lol.

  4. I have to agree with this article 100%. I have the IQ of a genius, and everything in this article is exactly what I feel like and act like. Having all of these social deficiencies is really hard and I would trade in my intelligence for good social skills any day. Another thing this website forgot to add is that we have trouble with friendships because we can say or do things that we aren’t aware of that can be offensive to the other person. In short, we are extremely insensitive, we say what we think. Other than that though I think this article got it spot on. I send my thanks to the author.

  5. This article used the comments and opinions of a writer who lists her experience as writing about Justin beiber! This is a pathetic fake article with NO real science behind it. Lazt garbage. her

    • This isn’t science, it is sociology. Definitely not the same thing. If you related to the article, you would know enough to not call it fake. (now that i think about it, you aren’t smart enough to understand that I called you unintelligent)

  6. I’ve been told that I have a high intelligence by numerous people, being able to grasp complex concepts faster than other people, regarded as a genius of some sort. I definitely relate to all the points stated in this article (and god I’m just glad that I’m not some retarded freak of nature).
    Although I may seem like someone who does very well in social situations, I’m actually somewhat socially inept, I get nervous when it comes to social situations. I can think of about a thousand ways things can go terribly wrong in every situation. At university, I made a lot of friends (mostly males due to me doing a science degree and my tomboy tendencies) but I never closely bond with them. I almost never initiate conversations even with my closest friends. One of my friends I made at university asked me out twice, paid for my lunch when I was starving, he even invited me to his house. Soon I started developing feelings for him and I become self conscious when he is around. Despite having feelings for him, I can never find myself opening up to him rarely initiating conversations with him and never have the courage to ask him out. I might be unintentionally giving off a signal that I don’t give a damn about him and it’s killing me (still haven’t done anything about it). I guess this is what it means to be smart huh… Forever alone…

  7. This article is very generally written and doesn’t mention that in fact we all have multiple types of intelligence. My “IQ” sits somewhere around 155. The average IQ is about 100. The IQ of a retarded person is 70-75 so the distance between me and the average person is about double than the distance between the average person and a retarded person. Retarded not being used as an insult but as a scientific nomination of an intellectually delayed person. When an average person has one thought I have 10. When a new average person speaks three sentences to me I know the outcome of the conversation, what type of person this is and 9 out of 10 times I know if I will be bored with this person, have to be careful or can use it professionally . I have no family left as I broke with them (read: I supported the entire family financially for years only to be stabbed in the back by the lot when it counted) and my only friends are the ones I grew up with in the ghetto in Holland in the 80ies. In other words: in my case the way my brain works (hyper brain) has given me financial comfort (successful business) but completely isolated me from the rest of humanity. I have accepted this now.

  8. I never considered my IQ a large portion of my self-identity. In second grade, I was tested at 129; it isn’t genius-level or anything. I’m just a little above the average. Severe ADHD, as we found out later, was actually the reason I was acting “weird” in school. The IQ test took me over two hours, and I had a meltdown during it. I’ve wondered before if that affected the test at all, but when I got older and realized that all of my social inhibitions were caused by ADHD, I stopped thinking about IQ at all. Now, my mother reasons that a lot of my social problems were caused by my IQ. I don’t really see how that makes sense, though. She has studied child behavior and intelligence in relation to education for years at prestigious universities, so it seems like she’d be more qualified to say that this because of her education. I can’t seem to get it, though. ADHD surely plays a much larger part in social (dis)function, and my IQ really isn’t as high as she’s making it out to be. I’m in a university now, and all I can see is my ADHD when compared to students at similar levels. I don’t understand why she is so obsessive about IQ when looking back on my social problems. She really underestimates how much the ADHD affects me. It isn’t like I had trouble paying attention in school so she took me to a doctor. We had no idea what the hell was up with me, and that’s just the diagnosis that came out. What bias does she have that makes her so insistent that IQ was a bigger reason?

  9. I think the writer made a mistake not to have differentiated between Intelligence and Geniuses.

    For example: with regards to students A and B.
    Student A passes all his courses with high grades,
    Student B struggle far below average.
    But on the outer world, student B was able to create a platform that is of benefit to humanity.
    For intelligence is more of a “within knowledge”
    While Genius is thinks out of the box.


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