Intelligent people with low social skills often say these 12 things without realizing their impact

You’d think that being smart would overlap with having a clear understanding of other people. 

But that’s not always the case. 

In fact, some of the brightest people I’ve met also have the strongest difficulties with social situations and basic conversations. 

They’re so lost in their own mind and projects they’re focused on that they may fall into saying impatient or short-tempered things which rub other people the wrong way or make them feel discouraged. 

Drawing on insights from psychology, let’s take a look at the top things that socially unintelligent intelligent people say that hurt people. 

1) “Wrong.”

This may be true. 

But telling somebody they’re wrong in such a curt and final way can hurt their confidence and self-esteem. 

It’s a trap that very smart people can fall into without realizing it, because things that seem easy and simple to them may be more complex to others. 

As Professor Emerita Susan Krauss Whitbourne PhD., notes:

“The raw emotions that become triggered narrow your focus and make it difficult for you to think of anything else other than the horribleness of the situation.”

2) “It’s simple, why don’t you get it?”

This relates to the previous point, because it can be hard for very smart people to be patient with those who don’t get it. 

It’s simple to them. But they find it hard to internalize that it’s not necessarily simple for somebody else. 

But saying this can reinforce the other person’s idea that they’re not smart or deficient, further weakening their ability to learn and understand something. 

3) “Is there somebody else I can work with instead?”

When it comes to academics and group work at a job, this is the kind of question that’s best asked behind closed doors. 

When a smart person finds somebody not at their “level” and asks this they may do it in front of that other person without realizing how hurtful it can be. 

Intended or not, it makes the “traded” individual feel low value and rejected. 

As psychology writer Polly Campbell explains:

“Research shows that most people have experienced a level of incivility at work that has changed how they feel about their jobs.”

4) “Like I told you…”

It can be tiring to tell somebody the same thing multiple times. 

But this relates back to highly smart people assuming (or not caring) that things which they find simple or easy may not be that way for others. 

Speaking in such a way can come across as insulting and a put-down. 

Psychologist Marcia Reynolds PsyD. puts it well:

“If their ideas aren’t accepted, they repeatedly express the same point using different words as if you didn’t understand what they said the first time.”

5) “I think the topic is a bit outside your domain…”

This is another upsetting phrase that highly intelligent people may use, especially if somebody dares to disagree with them or contradict them. 

It can have various versions which all amount to telling somebody they’re not informed or smart enough to understand something. 

That may be true, but it’s a hurtful thing to say and can cause them to feel hostile towards the smart person who’s saying it. 

“If you don’t support their ideas or actions, arrogant people react competitively,” points out Reynolds.

“Their responses will be laced with condescension, or they will dismiss you completely by not listening and averting their attention elsewhere as a power play.”

6) “Please tell me you’re joking.”

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. This is a rude thing to say in a sarcastic way. 

When a smart person talks like this they are making it clear that they feel another person’s comments are below their serious consideration. 

They’re calling the other person a clown, essentially. Definitely not a good way to win friends and influence people. 

7) “That’s not how you do it.”

pic2605 Intelligent people with low social skills often say these 12 things without realizing their impact

This is another phrase which may be true. 

But it can be verbalized in more helpful forms that are much more likely to make others feel as if they’re heard and valued

This, by contrast, makes them feel a sense of shame and doubt their own abilities even further. 

“Although humans naturally tend to compare themselves to others, confident people don’t get caught up in the “less than-better than” loop of judgment,” notes Reynolds. 

8) “You really think that?”

This is another thing that some very socially unintelligent smart people say. 

When said in a sarcastic tone of voice it can be especially cutting. 

That’s because it’s clear that the question isn’t really asked but that, instead, it’s being used as a putdown. 

9) “There’s no way that’s correct.”

This may indeed be true, and people can certainly be wildly wrong or misinformed. 

But by overemphasizing their zeal for the truth, highly intelligent people can end up making the less well-IQ-endowed feel like trash. 

They may not mean to do so, but it’s best to go easy on fact-checking in a highly assertive manner like this. 

One darker side of this is that in some cases this arrogance has brought them career success and been rewarded, which reinforces it and makes it become a habit for them. 

As Psychology Professor Glenn Geher, PhD. notes:

“Arrogant others, thus, might well snap at anyone. Including you. And this can be intimidating. And intimidation is, unfortunately, a dark approach to success.”

10) “You’re not one of ‘those people’ are you?”

This may be meant in a humorous way, but it’s not a socially intelligent thing to say. 

High IQ individuals sometimes forget that their intelligence and high vocabulary can be intimidating to others around them

By joking around about somebody’s identity or beliefs they can sometimes cause more of a hit to that person’s self-esteem than they realize. 

11) “That’s the wrong question” / “That’s the wrong way to look at it.”

This can rapidly become a matter of intellectual bullying, even if it’s not intended that way. 

When a person is approaching a topic or challenge in what the smart person believes is an inadvisable way they will sometimes say this. 

It may be meant well, but at heart it’s a way of steering a conversation and demanding it proceed in the way the smart person wishes or believes is best. 

As Geher notes, this kind of arrogance is often born of a feeling of superiority that exists deep within the high IQ individual and (in some cases) has been rewarded by society.

“While arrogance is not exactly the same as narcissism, these traits do share some features,” Geher writes, adding that “arrogant people score higher on measures of feeling superior to others.”

12) “Move, I’ll do it.”

This is something that’s often said when a person isn’t getting it and is becoming frustrating to the smart individual. 

However by being so aggressive about it, this makes the person feel like they are just in the way and are a failure. 

They’re much more likely to switch off and stop trying as a result since their sense of self value is further lowered and is now in the dirt. 

“Nothing positive happens when we interrupt, talk over, or even shout at each other,” points out Campbell. 

High IQ, low social skills

There are smart people who also have high emotional intelligence (EQ) and know how to speak with tact and respect. 

But those high IQ individuals who end up rubbing people the wrong way say many of the phrases above. 

They may be competent, smart or even brilliant:

But speaking to people in such a way is disrespectful and abrasive whether or not they realize it. 

Becoming aware is the first step to changing their approach and learning different ways to interact with people, especially those who may not be as capable or knowledgeable as them. 

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on and visit his website at

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