If someone uses these 9 phrases in a conversation, they’re insecure about their intelligence

We’re all a bit insecure about something.

But people who are insecure about their intelligence can be frustrating to deal with.

It’s hard to have deep and meaningful conversations with them, because they either hold themselves back from talking too much, or they so easily take offense to things.

Wondering which of the people you know are insecure about their intelligence?

Pay attention how often they use these phrases:

1) “Is that right, genius?!”

Insecure people hate it when they feel like other people are smarter than them.

They especially hate it when their ideas are questioned, or when they’re given advice or feedback by someone who’s usually intellectually superior. 

This just irks them to the core.

Insecurity includes uncertainty or anxiety about oneself. And the deeply insecure ones are usually too focused on themselves.

Instead of focusing on the actual discussion, they get caught up with what others think of them.

“Do they think I’m stupid?”

“Are they trying to shame me?”

“Are they disrespecting me?!”

When they can’t handle it anymore, they end up blurting out something passive-aggressive like “Thanks for that, genius” or “Oh wow. You’re smarter than Einstein!”

Though obviously flawed, they see this as their way of “advocating” for themselves.

2) “Ugh. They’re trying so hard to sound smart.”

People who are insecure about their intelligence just love to smart-shame others.

When they hear someone use words like “therefore” or “according to a study,” they instinctively roll their eyes, and whisper to their friends “They’re trying so hard to sound smart.”

But what’s wrong with using more formal language? 

Or citing studies? 

Or wanting to have intelligent conversations?

People who are truly confident of their intelligence enjoy hearing people talk about things that pique their interest and intellect. 

After all, these discussions are a way to learn from each other.

If someone’s so annoyed by intellectual people that they make snide remarks about it, it must be because these people trigger their insecurity, even if they’re unaware of it.

3) “So, you think I’m stupid?”

Ask them to simply elaborate their point, or question their ideas, and they’d turn red and say, “So you think I’m stupid?!”

You didn’t really attack them, did you? 

But they’d still make you feel like the meanest person on earth for simply asking for further explanation.

What they want is for someone to just agree with whatever they say—to nod and say “That’s so spot on,” or better yet: “You’re so smart!”

It’s because people who are insecure about their intelligence aren’t really concerned with truth and developing ideas. All they care about is appearing smart.

4) “You don’t believe me, then?”

As I’ve said, they’re easily triggered when you don’t agree with them. 

So, when you ask “Where did you read about that?” or “Did you test your hypothesis?”—they take it personally.

It’s as if you’ve stood on a platform, pointed an accusatory finger at them and yelled: “You’re a charlatan!”, even if all you were trying to do was have a healthy discussion.

Questioning them prompts a dramatic response that makes you feel like the bad guy. All because they’re insecure of their own intelligence.

5) “Sorry if I sound dumb, but…”

The ones I described above have big egos. But there are also those who are insecure because they’re actually lacking in ego.

They truly just believe they’re not smart enough. And most of these people are always worried that they’re bothering others.

When those around them start to talk about intellectual stuff like history and philosophy, they slowly retreat to their corner and get quiet, hoping not to draw attention to themselves. 

And if they open their mouths to speak, they often sound apologetic. 

They always start their piece with a disclaimer: “Sorry if this sounds dumb” or “I’m not an expert, but…”

If you know someone like this, you can make them feel comfortable by giving them your full attention. 

And try to be gentle with them, and be receptive to their ideas. Other people’s reactions to what they say have a tremendous effect on their self-esteem…so try with all your might to be gentle and kind.

6) “Ahhh, uhmm… I guess?”

People with high intelligence levels but low social skills often display these behaviors in public If someone uses these 9 phrases in a conversation, they're insecure about their intelligence

Bukowski said, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

While it’s healthy to question one’s own beliefs and leave room for counter-arguments, an insecure person does this to the extent that they’re never able to stand up for their own opinions. 

Even if they’re the smartest person in the room and they’re in the right, if they’re insecure, they’ll always be crippled by their own self-doubt.

That’s why you often see them look awkward and utter a lot of filler words when they try to explain something—even when it’s on a topic they’re super knowledgeable about!

7) “Look, I have a PhD. How about you?”

Someone insecure resolves to showing off “proof” of their intelligence, the moment they feel it’s “questioned” or “challenged.”

Perhaps, they’re losing an argument, and instead of just admitting that they’re wrong, they’d mention their degree (however irrelevant it is) to prove that they’re indeed, the smarter one!

You might mistake their cockiness as a sign of confidence, but oh, au contraire! It’s a sign of deep insecurity.

The truly confident (and classy) won’t slap other people’s faces with their credentials the moment they feel attacked…and they rarely feel attacked!

Their words, their ideas would speak for themselves. 

8) “Sheesh. Intellectual people are so pretentious.”

There’s something not right about people who judge others for being interested in becoming more knowledgeable.

Perhaps, they’re so deeply insecure about their own intellectual pursuits, so they attack others for simply being interested in things that they see as superior.

You’d hear them say nonsense such as “Intellectual people are pretentious,” or “Those in the academe are just so full of themselves.”

They might even roll their eyes when you read a book in front of them, instead of scrolling Instagram. 

To them, anything that seems “intellectual” is done for show. 

9) “If that’s what YOU think.”

You think you’re just having a healthy discussion, but you start to feel their mood change.

And you already know what’s gonna happen: a heated debate is coming. 

You express your points in the nicest way possible, but they throw up their arms and say, “Well, if that’s what YOU think.” 

Of course, this sentence could mean that the person is letting go of the argument.

But they say it in a b*tchy tone that they’re basically saying, “So what if you have a point? It doesn’t mean you’re right. Most of all, it doesn’t mean you’re better than me!”

It’s almost like talking with a child, and that’s really frustrating.

You can’t learn and grow with someone who has a big ego, and is insecure about their intelligence. 

They’ll disengage the moment they FEEL attacked, and focus on attacking you back.

Final thoughts:

There are those who are insecure about their intelligence but have healthy egos—and most of the time, they’re just nice to be around. And it’d be good to give them a bit of a boost. 

Encourage them to talk, tell them their ideas are not so bad, and make them feel heard.

But, on the other hand, those who are deeply insecure and have egos that are so inflated that they always get offended when you try to have a healthy discussion—they’re a pain in the arse.

Sure, you can try to be friendly with them (if they’re not horrible people in general), but chances are you’d find yourself always trying to be careful not to trigger them. 

So, it might be the best move to keep interactions with them brief or not to engage with them at all.

Save yourself from the awkward or tense discussions, and maybe just spend time with the people that you share a genuine intellectual connection with. 

Picture of Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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