People who are intellectually gifted but have low EQ usually display these 9 behaviors

Ask anyone what they want most in life and they’ll probably say intelligence. You know, smart, talented, and gifted – the whole kit and caboodle.

But here’s the thing…

Being the most intelligent person in the room isn’t always an easy ride.

It can be rough.

In fact, neuroscientists claim that intellectually gifted individuals may have difficulty processing and regulating their emotions (along with that of others). 

For this reason, precocious kids often exhibit behavioral problems growing up. 

They may even have trouble performing basic tasks, such as tying their shoelaces correctly or remembering to brush their teeth due to (what psychologists call) asynchronous development.

And that’s because they lack emotional intelligence (EQ or EI). 

One of nine different types of intelligence, EQ (Emotional Quotient) is often overlooked when compared to IQ (Intelligence Quotient). 

But it shouldn’t be. It’s just as important, if not more so.

With that in mind, how can you tell if someone who’s intellectually gifted actually has a low EQ?

Well, here are nine behaviors to look out for…

1) Social gatherings make them clam up

Not all of us are destined to become outgoing social butterflies.

That said… 

Most of us, social or not, can usually muddle together an anecdote or joke (in a pinch) to appear like we’re having a good time. 

The reason is, to make the people around us feel at ease. Because, instinctively, we can sense when someone is uncomfortable.

But not if you have a low EQ.  Instead, these individuals prefer to stay tucked firmly away in their cocoon (isolated). 

That’s because they often find it challenging to navigate social interactions. What’s more, they have trouble reading or relating to others. 

And can you blame them? 

There are so many nuanced social cues (and rules) to observe when interacting with others, it’s overwhelming and enough to trip up even the most experienced of socialites. 

For example, facial expressions, body language, tone, and rhythm. 

It’s like learning a whole new vocabulary!

The thing is, these important social cues can tell us a lot about how someone is feeling. When you can’t recognize these signs, it may lead to awkward or inappropriate responses.

And because they have trouble regulating their own emotions, they also struggle to keep their feelings of discomfort (or disdain) to themselves. 

2) Expressing themselves is hard work

Having high emotional intelligence isn’t just about identifying and understanding your (or others’) emotions. 

It’s also knowing how to articulate these feelings to others calmly and clearly. 

But for those who lack EQ, this is easier said than done. 

And while intellectually gifted individuals can easily solve quadratic equations or recite the entire periodic table without skipping a beat. 

When it comes to their emotions, it’s like pulling teeth.  For them, there’s no easy solution or logic behind it. There’s not even a right or wrong answer – it’s just pure intuition. 

Something that confuses them to no end.

As a result, this lack of clarity may result in misunderstandings, conflict, frustration, or sudden (and volatile) emotional outbursts. 

3) They lose their temper at the drop of a hat

Being able to effectively manage emotions is a key factor when deciding how emotionally intelligent someone is

After all, self-regulation (or management) is an important interpersonal skill. 

Not only does it help people keep their cool under pressure, but knowing how to respond appropriately, allows them to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Get this wrong, and it can easily blow up in their face. 

However, research shows that this doesn’t always come easy to the intellectually gifted. 

In fact, when gifted students were tested, they scored lower on stress management and impulse control compared to the non-gifted participants.

Think of it this way…

It’s like tying their hands behind their back and then asking them to catch a ball – near impossible and frustrating!

In turn, this may cause them to lash out or get upset without explanation (perhaps, not knowing why themselves). Often leaving them feeling misunderstood or mentally defeated.

It’s intense.

And in some cases, internalizing their feelings can lead to depression or anxiety disorders

Unfortunately, this can also lead to self-isolation.

habits of emotionally intelligent people that foster better relationships 1 People who are intellectually gifted but have low EQ usually display these 9 behaviors

4) Solitude is their safe space

It’s no secret that intelligent people prefer spending time alone. 

Of course, the reason can vary from person to person. Be it, ambition, focus, introspection, and so on. Apparently, it’s a learned behavior

However, according to psychologists, socializing can actually decrease the life satisfaction of the intellectually gifted.

That sounds like a good reason to be less social, to me. 

But this doesn’t mean that they’re anti-social. In fact, the study found that intelligent people were happiest hanging out with pre-existing friends.

It’s just the superficial chit-chat and small talk that they disliked. 

In other words, they prefer quality over quantity. 

Think about it…

When you’re meeting someone for the first time, it can take a while to get to know someone. 

And the same goes for them getting to know you. 

If you have low EQ, though, you likely struggle reading people or engaging in conversations that make you feel uncomfortable (and bored).

This can make it difficult for them to connect with others on an emotional level. It may also come across as rude or dismissive. 

That’s why…

5) They have trouble building (and maintaining) relationships

Kindness and understanding play a big part in forming and maintaining friendships – new and old. 

But when you don’t possess the necessary expertise (or EQ) it can be difficult to establish genuine connections with others.

I’m talking about skills such as empathy, active listening, and conflict resolution.

These are all things that intellectually gifted and low EQ people may find strenuous. 

Especially if they have problems identifying and understanding their own emotions. 

For instance, they may misinterpret someone’s frustration for anger. Or maybe, they over-simplify emotions by categorizing them as happy, mad, or sad (and that’s it). 

As a result, it can lead to misunderstandings or arguments that could have, otherwise, been avoided. 

6) Empathy is a mystery to them

When you’re clever, people often look to you for all the answers. 

It’s like you’re a walking encyclopedia. And this becomes their default – the problem solver. 

But ask an intellectually gifted person to help an upset (and teary) friend, and they’re lost. 

Of course, they’ll do their best to offer assistance, maybe even give them a tissue (although, it’ll probably make them incredibly uncomfortable). 

But intentional or not, they may come across as indifferent or unfeeling. 

And like any problem in life, they’ll usually try to use logic to find a solution or give you a reasonable explanation. 

That’s because their analytical mindset prioritizes problem-solving over emotional understanding.

The thing is… 

What someone wants and what they need can be two completely different things. 

And that’s where empathy (and high EQ) comes into play. 

Yes, it’s considerate to try and “fix the problem.” 

But sometimes, all that person wants is for someone to listen, be patient, and show some level of understanding. 

All without casting judgment. 

warning signs a colleague is subtly sabotaging you at work People who are intellectually gifted but have low EQ usually display these 9 behaviors

7) Criticism hits them hard

Constructive criticism is an essential aspect of personal development and professional growth.

But for low EQ individuals, it can be devastating. 

The truth is, that their inability to read people’s emotions makes it difficult for them to identify the true intent behind someone’s feedback. 

Instead, they take it the wrong way. Interpreting it as a personal attack and acting anything but graceful. 

As a result, they may become defensive or avoid future feedback altogether.

Perhaps even deflecting by doubling down and acting arrogant or dismissive in the process. 

In the end, this reluctance to learn from others only hurts them.

8) They can be arrogant

When you’re highly intelligent, it can be difficult not to feel confident in your abilities. 

However, when you have a high IQ and a low EQ, this “confidence” may present itself as superiority.

In other words, it comes as across as arrogant (or condescending). 

The funny thing is, they probably don’t even realize it. That’s because they have trouble reading the room and communicating their thoughts empathetically. 

As a result, they may dismiss other people’s perspectives (or feelings). And perhaps unknowingly, rub their intellect in your face. 

Instead, believing that their intellectual superiority grants them some kind of elevated status. Something that isn’t very kind or sportsman-like. 

Ultimately, this intellectual arrogance can alienate others. 

9) They make dumb decisions

Did you know that we make up to 35,000 conscious decisions per day?

Over 200 of those are about food alone

It’s true.

At least, that’s what the research says. It’s enough to make anyone’s palms get sweaty. Especially if you’re indecisive like me.

However, according to experts, decision-making is much easier when you have a high EQ. In contrast, highly intelligent people are often bad decision-makers

What’s more, low EQ individuals may blame you to avoid accountability. 

So, why do some “smart people” make some “not-so-smart” decisions?

For example, getting into debt

The simple fact is, that when you lack emotional intelligence, you’re only getting a partial piece of the puzzle. 

The missing piece? 

Well, that’s easy. It’s emotion and with it, self-awareness.

In other words, the ability to connect (and understand) how that decision makes them (and others) feel – and why.

And when you lack EQ, you’re less attuned to your emotions. As a consequence, it can be difficult to use proper reasoning when making the best decision for you – along with anyone else involved. 

But it’s not all bad news. 

Experts claim there are ways to improve your overall EQ over time. So, if you recognize any of the above nine behaviors in yourself (or someone you know), there’s hope for you yet. 

Picture of Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.