If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re secretly judging your intelligence

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Judging intelligence isn’t easy in the slightest.

There’s a reason why there are thousands of IQ tests and testing organizations out there. And that’s only for IQ, while there are other kinds of intelligence that are equally challenging to figure out.

We all feel like we have a decent gut feeling for deciding how intelligent another person is, but when we have to actually explain how we arrive at our conclusions, we almost all fall short.

The fact is, we judge other people’s intelligence all the time.

For some reason, though, we don’t usually consider that other people are doing the exact same thing to us.

So, how can you tell if a person is actually in the process of judging you or has already made their ruling?

Here’s something that can help you.

If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re secretly judging your intelligence and may have already given you a score.

1) “Hmm, that’s interesting…”

Yikes, it’s kind of hard to write these phrases without emojis!

If you saw that as a text, I’m sure you’d have a hard time deciding if it was a genuine statement or something sarcastic.

However, I guess it can work both ways.

If someone says this to you authentically, it’s a clear sign that they’re assessing your intelligence and probably in a positive way.

We don’t normally say something is interesting unless we really think so or if we didn’t expect it.

So this could be a sign that the other person is surprised that you could have thoughts that might interest them!

On the other hand, if it’s said sarcastically, this is a sure sign that they don’t think you’re all that intelligent. 

It’s only their judgment, however.

You may actually have said something that was too intelligent, and it went over their head.

2) “So you mean…?”

When someone starts a question with a phrase like this, they’re going to follow by paraphrasing what they understood that you just said.

One reason they’ll do this is just to check if they’ve understood correctly in case they’re confused.

That’s pretty normal.

But there’s another reason.

People often repeat after others in order to summarize their ideas and challenge them.

So, in this case, it sounds like they’re judging what you said and aren’t too impressed by it. It sounds like they think you’re making an outrageous or inappropriate claim or too bold a statement.

Not only are they judging your opinion, they’re judging your intelligence right along with it.

3) “Right, OK. Whatever…”

Add some sarcastic intonation when you read this, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

I mean the flippant reaction to something you’ve said that either rubs them the wrong way or they think doesn’t really merit a response.

The judgment here is clear.

When someone brushes you off with this statement, you can tell that they think you’re not very intelligent and don’t have a lot to contribute.

Either that, or they’re really put off by something you’ve said, and they think you’re rude, ignorant, or both.

I don’t think there’s any way this kind of phrase is going to make you feel good.

4) “You’re smarter than you look…”

If someone says this to you as a joke, it’s perfectly alright.

But if you hear this phrase spoken authentically, I don’t know how you could do anything but cringe.

Let’s unpack it here.

First off, they’re suggesting that you don’t look very intelligent. Maybe they’re judging your age, style, or personal quirks, and they make you look naïve or foolish.

Then there’s the purpose of saying it.

Is this a compliment?

It’s not a pure one anyway because the whole reason a person would feel the need to say this to you is that they’re surprised to find that you’re intelligent.

They obviously think a lot of themselves, right?

5) “Tell me about yourself…”

According to research, accurate judges of people have the ability to ask good questions and get enough detail to make a reasonable judgment.

And one of the phrases that usually elicits a response that gives a lot of information is “Tell me about yourself.”

Certainly, the person might simply want to know more about you, but then why don’t they ask you specific questions? Why aren’t they trying to gather the target information they’re interested in?

Because they’re judging your intelligence, that’s why!

There’s also no coincidence that this is such a common request in job interviews.

The person is trying to assess how smart you are by the type of answer you’ll give. Will you tell them something interesting and valuable about yourself and your skills?

Will you ramble on about things that are irrelevant?

Are you going to reveal something that makes you look smart or dumb as a sack of hair?

In the case of this phrase, it’s not so much the answer as the way you choose to answer that people are judging you on.

6) “Where did you go to school?”

This question may sound innocent, and in truth, it certainly can be.

People ask each other where they studied all the time, usually to find out if they know people and places in common.

But in another context, this is a really judgmental question.

Again, you might get this one in a job interview, though it’s probably in your resume already.

If you hear this at a social event like a party or a mixer from a person who doesn’t seem to be trying to connect with you and see if you know the same people, the meaning borders on snobbish.

Asking where you went to school can be tantamount to asking you how smart you are. However, since that’s just way too direct, it’s often hidden under the veil of this question.

But you can certainly see through it.

A smart way out of this trap, though, is simply to answer with the city or state where you went to school rather than the institution. If you’re worried about being judged unfairly, that is.

By doing this, you have a chance to see if the question is really there to judge you or if they genuinely want to know.

7) “You’re going to….? Really?”

If this isn’t a judgmental phrase, I don’t know what is.

Just think about these examples:

“You’re going to have another piece of cake? Really?”

“You’re going out in that? Seriously?”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see any way that saying something like this is going to make anyone feel good.

It’s obvious that you’re judging the person’s choice and their intelligence in making it. It’s the “really?” at the end that really does the trick.

That, of course, expresses disbelief and total disagreement with your choice. What could be more judgmental than that? It’s like judge, jury, and executioner all in one simple question!

8) “It sounds like you didn’t try…”

Have you ever told anyone a story about a problem you’ve encountered or a situation when you failed, and you’ve heard a reply like this?

I have.

When I was a kid, I actually had a newspaper route. Yes, just like in the movies, only mine wasn’t as fun as the fictional ones I’ve seen.

I had to drag two heavy bags of papers through the snow, freezing my butt off to make some pittance like two bucks an hour.

And no, I’m not old enough that this amount of money is enough to rent an apartment or something like that. It was nothing back then, too.

After about five months of working my tail off, I wanted to quit, and I told my father it really wasn’t worth it. He told me it seemed like I didn’t even give it a chance or try to make it more efficient.

How did I feel?

Oh, I’m sure you can imagine.

I felt really unfairly judged and really misunderstood.

My father later apologized and listened to my woes more closely. In the end, he couldn’t find any way to do things more efficiently either, so he let me quit.

I guess I wasn’t all that unintelligent after all!

9) “What would you do, then?”

Doesn’t this phrase make you want to add “…if you’re so smart”?

Whether that’s said or not, this phrase is almost always used as a challenge to prove your intelligence.

You may have asked why they did what they did or said something else that makes the person feel like you’re judging their intelligence.

That’s normally the reason why they try to judge you right back!

Last words

If someone uses these nine phrases, they could be secretly (or often not so secretly) judging your intelligence.

Many of them sound fine or even friendly in some situations but are extremely judgmental in others. It’s crucial to pay attention to the context here and not just the words.

Put together, though, some of these phrases can be really critical and hurtful, too.

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