People who are highly intelligent but socially awkward usually display these 7 behaviors

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The reason so many people love Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory is that his incredibly high IQ goes hand in hand with a complete lack of social skills.

While his social inaptness frustrates his fellow friends, it makes for a fun and adorable watch – after all, you don’t see a person like that every day.

However, there are, in fact, plenty of Sheldons out there in the world. And they usually display these 7 behaviors.

1) They can be a bit too blunt

Whilst IQ – intelligence quotient – measures one’s reasoning ability, it doesn’t take EQ – emotional intelligence – into consideration.

And since social skills are a vital part of the latter, it is possible for someone to be a mathematical genius without necessarily excelling at conversations or emotional self-regulation.

When higher IQ meets lower EQ, the results vary. One result that’s easily observable is bluntness, aka, displaying way too much honesty.

People who are highly intelligent but socially awkward might be so wholly authentic that they don’t filter themselves, which means they could say exactly what they think without any nice words wrapped around it.

“That skirt looks terrible.”

“I thought you were trying to get better at Spanish, why are you still a beginner?”

“I don’t like how your boyfriend talks to you, something’s off about him.”

These are all valid opinions or questions, but most people would view them as rude simply because they’re not veiled behind linguistic subtleties.

What’s more, statements of this kind can come unexpectedly, leaving everyone in shock and giving rise to a feeling of awkwardness.

2) They may use terms other people aren’t familiar with

I recently spoke to a super clever friend of mine who is now completing her PhD in psychology and I noticed that she kept mentioning high-level psychology-related terms throughout our conversation.  

While I know what “cognitive flexibility” means due to my own interest in the field, many people who haven’t really read up on the topic would struggle to keep up with her.

The thing is, my friend doesn’t speak in academic lingo because she wants to brag or impress others. She speaks in it because she has spent so long studying psychology that she doesn’t realize other people may not be familiar with the concepts.

I find this is often the case with people who are highly intelligent but socially awkward – they are so invested in their field of interest that they struggle to keep themselves in check when they’re around others.

This easily leads to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, questions, and awkward silences.

3) They focus on topics rather than people

If there’s one thing intelligent people love, it’s to dig deep into various fascinating topics. 

However, this could be at the expense of their relationships with others as they might show more interest in the topic at hand than the person they are discussing it with.

They might go on a thirty-minute rant about the history of the Roman Empire and not ask you a single question.

They might hyperfocus on a specific question about molecular biology and insist on unpacking the topic further even though you’ve already lost interest.

They might completely forget to ask you how you are and what you’ve been up to because their focus is solely on the project you’re working on together.

This lack of curiosity about people’s lives and feelings may come across as insensitive or cruel, but the truth is that many people with extremely high IQs just function a little differently. They don’t mean anything by it.

(That doesn’t mean you can’t feel hurt or upset, of course. Your feelings are valid.)

4) They don’t catch onto social cues

 You know those little gestures or movements you make in order to signal that you’re about to exit the conversation?

Maybe you begin to take a few steps back, perhaps your feet are turned away from the person you’re talking to, or maybe you’re politely trying to wedge in a quick “I’m in a bit of a rush”.

Well, if you’re dealing with a highly intelligent yet socially awkward person, there’s a high chance they won’t catch onto any of that.

This may be because they are so lost in their own thoughts that they simply don’t recognize social cues for what they really are.

If you want to leave the conversation or shift it in a new direction, you might have to try a little bit harder.

Polite hints probably won’t be of much help here.

5) They are overly self-conscious

So far, it sounds almost as if people with high IQs were so unabashedly themselves that they don’t give a damn about other people’s opinions.

However, this isn’t always true. In fact, high intelligence has been linked to increased anxiety.

Yes, that’s right. The smarter you are, the more you worry.

This means that there are plenty of people with high IQs who are not only socially awkward but are acutely aware of their social awkwardness, which naturally makes them feel self-conscious and nervous, decreasing their confidence and increasing the likelihood of even more socially awkward behavior.

It’s a vicious circle.

It’s also why it’s incredibly important to give people the benefit of the doubt.

The person you’re talking to may blurt out something insensitive, forget to smile, or ramble on about astrophysics for thirty minutes straight, but it’s possible that the cause of this behavior isn’t social ineptitude or a lack of conversational skills – it’s anxiety.

First impressions aren’t always the best, so it’s generally a good idea to give people a second chance and get to know them better.

6) Small talk is their worst nightmare

Who would have guessed, right?

Some of us view small talk as the easiest thing in the world – you just get to chat about surface-level things and laugh, after all – but it’s definitely not for everyone.

Especially those who love to dig deep into complex topics and unpack everything there is to know.

No, plenty of highly intelligent people simply won’t stand for small talk. Instead of asking you about the weather or praising your house, they will try to get at the core of things.

Their questions may come across as a bit too blunt, but they also tend to be very refreshing because they are challenging and intellectually stimulating.

I once read an anonymous post that said, “I hate small talk. I want to talk about death, atoms, magic, intellect, the meaning of life, faraway galaxies, your flaws, what keeps you up at night, your fears and anxieties… I like people with depth. I don’t want to know ‘what’s up.’”

And if that doesn’t perfectly describe highly intelligent people, I don’t know what does.

7) They value quality over quantity

All of the points above boil down to this: highly intelligent yet socially awkward people would much rather have a small circle of friends with whom they have a deep sense of understanding than twenty different acquaintances.

Since they don’t care much for small talk, struggle to read social cues, and are very particular when it comes to their interests, it makes sense that they prioritize two or three high-quality friendships over many surface-level connections.

Sheldon Cooper has his own tight-knit circle of friends who love him for who he is, and while he may often find it difficult to navigate the world at large, he knows he can count on his chosen family to offer a helping hand.

And that’s really what matters most – that each and every one of us gets the chance to find a few people with whom we don’t feel socially awkward. 

Because they accept us in our entirety.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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