People who are extremely intelligent but not self-aware often display these 8 subtle behaviors

Intelligence isn’t as simple as having a high IQ.

In fact, it comprises many different factors, from practical intelligence to musical intelligence to emotional intelligence.

The latter is what we’ll discuss today. EQ generally consists of five different aspects, all of which are very important: social skills, emotional self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and…

Yep, you guessed it.


Some people can be extremely intelligent in the realm of academia or logic, but that doesn’t automatically mean they are also highly self-aware.

And if someone has a high IQ but lacks in the self-awareness department, they often display these 8 subtle behaviors.

1) They find it difficult to filter themselves

While it’s very important for all of us to show up as our authentic selves, there’s a limit on how much authenticity is appropriate.

After all, you won’t act the same when you’re around your friends and when you’re at work because you automatically understand that different behaviors are expected of you in different contexts.

Someone who isn’t self-aware doesn’t really get that, though.

Just think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He has absolutely no filter, which is why he often says things that are considered hurtful or rude – he simply can’t gauge where honesty meets bluntness.

If the person in question is highly intelligent, they may accidentally look down upon others, make harsh remarks, or display behavior that feels harmless to them yet hurtful to others.

“How come you don’t know who person X is? Everyone knows that!”

“What do you mean, you don’t understand how this works? It’s easy.”

“You really mean to tell me you’ve never heard of this philosophical concept.”

*Stares at you in bewilderment without saying anything.*

Yep, this is what it could look like when you’re talking to someone who has high IQ and low self-awareness.

Bear in mind many people aren’t intentionally malicious. They just can’t filter themselves properly.

2) They speak in complicated lingo

Throughout my years at university, I’ve met a couple of people who got so submerged in the academic language that they struggled to speak “normally” when were around friends who led unacademic lives.

They would throw around academic lingo like nobody’s business while our friends stared at them, confused, and I would always sigh internally, thinking, “Why can’t they just speak in common terms when it’s obvious our friends won’t understand them?”

When I eventually had a conversation with them about it, they said they hadn’t even realized they’d been doing it.

This is because self-awareness isn’t only about “being aware of oneself” – it’s also about positioning yourself in relation to others.

It’s about having a good understanding of the world around you and approaching various situations differently based on the context.

Including the language you use to communicate with other people.

3) They ramble on and on

If you are extremely intelligent and self-aware, you might often find yourself in intriguing discussions.

With yourself.

This isn’t a diss – I actually find this behavior quite wholesome – but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.

If someone tends to go on long monologues about specific topics and doesn’t really ask you any questions or doesn’t get the hint that you’re no longer interested…

It’s a sign they may lack self-awareness.

They are simply so deeply fascinated by what their saying, their thoughts spinning around like hamster wheels, that they can’t stop themselves – they just have to get to the bottom of this!

4) They are intrigued by topics rather than people

Another reason why the person you’re talking to might be ranting on about something for twenty minutes straight is that they could find topics and objects more interesting than people.

Prehistory, neuroscience, capitalism, astronomy, you name it, they’ll be intrigued by it.

If you talk about that annoying person you had to deal with last Wednesday, though, chances are that they’ll tune you out and won’t pay much attention.

High intelligence is usually connected to deep curiosity in intellectually stimulating topics. It makes sense that people with an extraordinarily high IQ don’t much care for the party you went to yesterday when there are so many more fascinating things to talk about.

Unfortunately, this poses a bit of an obstacle to their social interactions because they may come across as insensitive or rude.

In reality, they could just function a bit differently. And that’s completely okay.

(It’s also okay to be upset by it, though.)

5) They are oblivious to social cues

people with high emotional intelligence never say these phrases during an argument People who are extremely intelligent but not self-aware often display these 8 subtle behaviors

So, there you are, listening to this person rant on and on about something that’s of absolutely no interest to you.

You’d like to exit the conversation but you also don’t want to seem rude, so you slowly begin to distance yourself, turning your feet away from them, and trying to edge in a quick “I’m so sorry, but I’ve got something I need to do”.

When you display body language signs like that, most people would catch on pretty quickly and say something like, “Oh, of course! Sorry to keep you!”

Not someone who lacks self-awareness, though.

They’re probably so deep down in their monologue that they barely notice anything you do. Unless you cut them off or become more assertive, they’ll just keep going, oblivious to the fact the conversation is clearly one-sided.

6) They don’t take well to criticism

The number one perk of self-awareness is the ability to accept negative feedback and learn from it – no matter how uncomfortable it is.

Therefore, people who lack self-awareness might find it incredibly difficult to respond positively to criticism because they might view it as something that’s completely inaccurate, unfair, or offensive.

If you bring up that they don’t seem to be paying much attention when you’re talking, they may completely deny it, bewildered that you would even think that.

If you tell them that you find it disrespectful that they cancel plans at the last minute 80% of the time, they could shut down and run away from the conflict, unsure of what to do.

For someone like that, criticism isn’t something that can help them become a better friend and person.

It’s an attack on who they are.

Luckily, psychologists offer a lot of advice when it comes to handling criticism. Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, for instance, recommends that we:

  • Don’t get defensive
  • Mine the criticism for valuable advice
  • Remember that if the criticism in question isn’t constructive, it says more about the critic than us

7) They struggle to sort through their feelings

Every day, dozens of feelings come up deep within us – contentment, envy, grudge, joy, satisfaction, there are so many it’s impossible to count them on two hands.

And the more self-aware you are, the better you are able to recognize your emotions for what they are, put a name on them, process them effectively, and get to know yourself.

If you lack self-awareness, however, it doesn’t matter how high your IQ is – you will still find it an incredibly daunting task to sort through your feelings and make sense of them.

This is why people who are extremely intelligent but not self-aware may have difficulties opening up and expressing their feelings and desires.

How can they come clean about how they feel when they’re confused themselves?


8) They seem to exist in their own world

When you combine all the seven behaviors on this list, you will get the general sense that highly intelligent people who aren’t self-aware kind of live in their own bubbles, separated from the rest of the world.

They spend their time puzzling over intellectual issues, asking themselves deep questions about the cosmos, and feeling confused about their own emotional states.

If this sounds like you, know that your experience is completely valid and that you’re not alone.

And if you’d like to learn more about self-awareness and social skills, it is entirely possible for you to do so. All the knowledge you need is right at your fingertips.

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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