People who have high intelligence but lack empathy usually display these 10 subtle behaviors

Some people have a lot of IQ to spare, but not enough EQ to balance it out. 

They’re the reason why there’s the “smart but socially awkward” stereotype. And while they’re annoying to deal with, they’re not really bad people.

It’s not their intention to be too harsh and straightforward and intimidating.

In fact, most of them truly care a lot about others…well, except their feelings.

Want to know if someone has high intelligence but lacks empathy?

Pay attention if they display these 10 behaviors.

1) They’re overly critical

Criticism is actually a good thing, so long as it’s within reason. It’s what helps us improve our work and grow as people.

But what is “within reason?”

How far is “too far”?

How do we tell the line between genuine criticism and senseless nitpicking?


Empathy is what helps us understand the effect that our words have on others, as well as what the people around us can bear to hear.

Without empathy, people end up taking their criticism too far.

They can’t tell when they’ve spoken a bit too much, and they couldn’t care less if their choice of words hurt people’s feelings.

They might even blame others for being “too sensitive” and should probably try to take things a bit less seriously.

2) They don’t bother to read the room

Don’t get me wrong. Most of them could read the room, but they simply don’t care.

Unless they can actually feel that they’re in danger and should leave before something bad happens, they’ll do as they please.

So they don’t care if two people are clearly in the middle of a serious and emotional discussion. 

They’re more than happy to step in and talk about what THEY want to talk about instead. They’re sure that they won’t mind!

And even if it’s clear that no one else wants to listen to what they have to say, they’ll go stand on their pulpit and talk about their interests anyway.

3) They always “cut to the chase”

They don’t want to waste their breath on “pointless chatter.”

If they want to talk to you about something at work, they’re not going to go “hey, how’s your weekend?” 


They simply aren’t interested in your weekend—at all.

They’ll probably just go straight to whatever they want to talk about.

And they’ll also excuse themselves as soon as they’ve got what they wanted instead of sticking around for idle chatter.

This doesn’t mean that they’re not nice people, per se. They simply don’t care about wasting their energies on something that they think isn’t worth their time.

4) They sometimes don’t “get” social cues

When looking out for this behavior, keep in mind that this isn’t just about having no empathy.

Many neurodivergent people struggle with social cues, for example, and find it hard to navigate their way around social interactions even if they tried—and neurodivergent people are often more empathetic than they look!

But people with little to no empathy often end up looking like they don’t “get” social cues.

And in their case, it’s because they simply couldn’t be bothered to learn.

They’re not interested in other people…so why would they care about trying to read things like body language and understanding group dynamics? 

It’s often the case that they could “get” social cues if they wanted to, but they simply don’t feel like it’s as important as the things they like to geek about.

5) They go straight to solutions

We all want our problems solved. 

And you can generally count on highly intelligent people to come up with solutions.

The problem is that sometimes, people simply want to vent about their problems. They want someone to make them feel heard, rather than have that person “solve” their problems for them.

And people who lack empathy don’t really care about any of that.

If they hear you vent about how your last partner was horrible and neglectful, they would tell you how to avoid bad partners instead of giving you a hug and asking if you need a glass of wine.

They believe that feelings don’t solve problems. 

So what if your house burned down? So what if your partner is cheating on you? As far as they’re concerned, you should try finding a solution instead of crying about it.

6) They complain often but rarely give praise

People who lack empathy are stingy with praise.

They are quick to point out when their subordinates are performing poorly, but remain quiet when they’re doing well.

In their mind, there’s no point in praising people for doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.

It’s far from pointless, of course. Being rewarded with praise for a job well done is amazing for motivation and morale.

But people who lack empathy simply don’t understand this, and if they’re highly intelligent, they’ll probably convince themselves that everyone else runs on pure logic like they do.

7) They think talking about emotions is a waste of time

They love talking about things like science, history, and mathematics. Politics, too, so long as you keep to cold statistics and theoreticals.

But the moment you try talking about your feelings, or bring up emotions and the “human factor” in politics, they immediately lose interest.

They simply don’t want to talk about it, and they probably don’t think emotions are worth wasting too much energy worrying about anyways.

It doesn’t matter even if you’re trying to be vulnerable by sharing your suffering.

They’ll probably change the topic or laugh at you for bringing emotions into a “serious” discussion.

8) They’d rather be right than be kind

My mother used to tell me that it’s better to be kind than to be right.

Sometimes we need to just give up on an argument—even if we know we’re right—simply so that we can get along with the people around us.

Empathetic people understand this all too well. They bide their time, trusting that their friends and family will understand them in time anyways.

But those who are intelligent and lack empathy don’t do this. As far as they’re concerned, they’re right, the other person is wrong. So it’s their DUTY to enlighten them.

They don’t care even if the words leaving their mouth are hurting the people around them, or that they might lose half their friends by making a stand.

What’s important is that they’re right, and that other people recognize that fact.

9) They don’t factor in people’s well-being when making decisions

They don’t consider the feelings or well-being of the people around them when they make decisions— be they big or small.

They might encourage their subordinates to work overtime for the Christmas season because…why not? It can help their project move forward.

Or they might suddenly decide to move to the other side of the world because they think it’s a practical decision. They won’t consider how their friends and family will feel about being left behind.

This doesn’t always work out. 

Sure, their business would run smoother if their employees worked overtime, but their employees will be unhappy with that decision and might end up resigning instead. 

And they might earn ten times more if they move, but they might end up losing their family.

10) They’re not very good leaders

You might think that being intelligent, focused, and driven would make them good leaders.

But intelligence isn’t everything.

They need to be smart enough to figure out their problems, and they need to be empathetic enough to figure out how to figure out solutions that are acceptable to the people they’re leading.

And most of all, they need empathy in order to connect with their subordinates and earn their respect.

You see, it simply doesn’t matter how smart they are. 

If they lack empathy, people aren’t going to want to follow their commands.

Final thoughts

People who have high intelligence but little else are largely responsible for the stereotypes of smart people as antisocial losers.

And on a certain level, they know that too.

Could they learn to be more empathetic? Sure. 

But they’ll need to start learning how to care about others first, and that’s easier said than done.

If you know someone who’s like this, be a little more patient with them.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and this just so happens to be one of the things they’re not good at.

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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