10 signs someone is intimidated by your intelligence 

Why is it that it’s so impossible to have a good conversation without someone’s feelings getting hurt? Is your intelligence getting in the way of your relationships?

Let’s face the facts. You’re smart, witty, and full of ideas.

Unfortunately, that makes you the odd person out when it comes to most people you meet. Let’s talk about signs that show other people really are intimidated by your intelligence.

1) The lack of eye contact

There’s one very common sign that people think you are intimidating because of your intelligence.

They just will not make eye contact with you. They talk to you and act like they are paying attention to something happening behind you. They see you speaking to them and carry on without looking at you.

One of my favorite situations is this.

You’re communicating something important, interesting, or factually accurate, and they just nod their head in agreement. They don’t really know what you’re talking about, and they’re afraid you’ll see it in their eyes.

So, they just don’t look at you. Sounds like it will work, right?

2) Why don’t they just ask you the question?

Hours spent trying to figure out a problem on their own.

Google must know the answer because no one in the world would know it. They can’t possibly have a solution to their problem because they can’t think of one.

If they just asked you, they would know the answer to their problem and have a solution in a moment.

What’s really a sign of this happening?

When you know they know you can solve their problem in moments. Asking you for help, though, is too painful. It may mean admitting they know you’re smarter than they are. That’s not going to happen.

3) Fear of being wrong sets in

Some people have a legitimate fear of being wrong. It’s a condition that makes communicating effectively with others nearly impossible to do. Studies indicate that this is a real concern because of how limiting it can be to those around this person.

Here’s an example.

A person believes they can travel across the border without a passport. You warn them that that’s not safe to do and that it’s illegal. They don’t want to be wrong, so they find every excuse (and even some websites) to back them up.

The result? They can get in trouble when trying to get back into the country.

For some people, the thought of being wrong is an ego-breaker. It can’t be done. They even go to long lengths to convince you that they are right. The topic doesn’t matter. Just being right does.

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4) The worst – fidgety behavior in a serious convo

It’s time to have a serious conversation and this is what happens to me with someone with intimidation.

They watch out the window. They fidget with the paper napkin. Or even the worst, they check the pretend emails or notifications on their phone in the middle of it.

Is the conversation too hard or complex? Perhaps they are unable to focus because they don’t understand? Even if they do have a solid understanding of what you’re saying, they may still feel the need to minimize it.

By fidgeting or simply acting like they are not paying attention, they are clearly demonstrating that they are intimidated by what you are saying. Perhaps they really don’t get it.

Other times, they don’t want to try to learn and just act distracted until you are finished with your statement.

Most often, I find, this leads to a change in the conversation. Perhaps it is an abrupt need to end the conversation because they have to leave or have something to do. Generally, it’s because they didn’t know what to say next.

5) The lack of actual conversation – why can’t they debate?

To carry on from that last point, many people that are intimidated just cannot have a full conversation.

Some topics are out of bounds when you want to ensure a meaningful and respectful conversation. Things like politics and religion just don’t mix.

Other times, having a real conversation is invigorating and it really helps you to get to know the person you’re chatting with.

The problem is, some people don’t know how to carry on a conversation. And, they often just don’t talk to you as a result.

Now, it’s a sign of intimidation when they just won’t try. But, let’s face it – everything you know is something someone else taught you.

So in an intelligent conversation, if a person really doesn’t know something, they should ask, learn, and get more depth of information. The smart thing to do is gather insight.

Someone that’s intimidated may agree, shake their head a few times, and just listen. However, they don’t embrace dialogue with you.

That hurts, especially when you really do want to know their thoughts and opinions. They just may not be able to communicate with you through conversation because they are afraid to embarrass themselves.

6) The competitive person

As studies indicate, competitiveness is a really good thing. It drives innovation and helps people to really get to know each other. Pushing the other person helps everyone improve.

In fact, the saying “iron sharpens iron” really plays a role here.

Now, when a person is competitive with you, they are trying to demonstrate their knowledge and, perhaps, superiority, at least in this manner.

In some situations, such as when designing buildings or building the cure for cancer, competitiveness is a really good thing. In situations where it is just one person going after the other, that competitiveness may be a sign of intimidation.

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If they back down or fail in some way, that shows you’re smarter than they are. That’s going to push them to try to compete with you.

I find this happens a lot in conversations when a person is trying to one-up what you’ve accomplished.

You may have your degree, but they have something more valuable, such as job experience. They may make it obvious they are being competitive. Other times, it is the subtle hints they throw your way that makes it clear they just want to best you in this argument.

7) Signs of nervousness around you

Some people have true anxiety disorders. They feel restless, fatigue easily, struggle with sleep, and have trouble concentrating. However, being nervous is not necessarily a panic disorder.

In other words, if a person is always nervous around you, it’s not because they have anxiety. It’s not because they are worried about a panic attack starting.

It may be because they are intimidated by you and what you have to offer. Sometimes you’ll see it in their sweating brow or their nervous twitch. Some people would rather not engage with you because they don’t know if they can keep up with your witty banter.

Others may just not feel as though they should put themselves through a conversation that, inevitably, makes them look bad.

Other people display signs of nervousness because they really do want you to like them. Yet, they are afraid you may not if you have a long conversation with them. That creates shuttering and fear of making eye contact.

8) They stand back, fearing your physical presence

A person’s physical presence can sometimes hint at intimidation. Now there are outward signs of bullying that clearly should never happen. That includes hurting someone, threatening another person, hate-filled ranks, and blame.

However, when it comes to determining dominance in a conversation, some people may demonstrate physical signs of intimidation.

Let’s assume you’re standing in a busy retail store with someone you just happened to bump into you. They want to show they are more dominant (a sign of intimidation). They:

  • Stand up tall, suddenly with good posture
  • They broaden their shoulders, making themselves look bigger
  • They cross their arms – a sign that they are often less willing to open up or may not being truthful.
  • They stand with their feet shoulder-width apart as if making a wall.
  • Their chin is tilted just slightly to the sky.

Yes, these are signs of intimidation that you may be dealing with right now.

9) Insulting you seems to make them smarter

Some people are bullies. It doesn’t matter what you do to make yourself look smarter or be more successful.

No matter how accomplished you are, they typically will do or say something that hurts you or that they hope will hurt you. People who bully tend to be people who have experienced it themselves or are intimidated by the person they are bullying.

Think about that if you’ve ever been the kid on the playground that had rocks thrown at you or you were never picked on to play baseball.

Yea, it hurt then, but in reality, it was because the bullies just didn’t know how to otherwise engage with you. It’s a sad realization in many cases. It just means people have hurt them, and this is what they’ve learned from that experience.

Still, it’s a sign they are intimidated by you and who you are. That’s one of the most problematic experiences for you if you really do want to reach this person. It may be as simple as reaching out with a handshake, though, to let them know you get it, you forgive it, and you want to make it better.

10) Questioning everything – the worst questions I always get

Jealous runs deep. I firmly believe that some people are intimidated by my intelligence when they ask seemingly endless questions with no real purpose. Need some examples?

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  • Where did you go to school? The answer really isn’t about the location, though. They ask it because they think you’re not special. Instead, the school must have worked some magic to make you extra intelligent!
  • Why don’t you just take a joke? Some people believe those who are smart can’t really let loose and have some fun. I beg to differ.
  • Did you study all of the time as a kid? What they are really asking is whether or not you spent all of your time as a kid buried in a book instead of playing baseball, swimming, and goofing around. Again, one thing doesn’t mean you can’t do the other!

What questions do you get asked? Do you feel people ask you these things but never ask them to anyone else? It’s a sign they are intimidated by you. Simple – they want to know what made it so easy for you to be so smart.

The snide remarks

“Sorry, I forgot you have a Ph.D. and already know this.”

“I know you know this, but I still need to say it.”

Some people like to make sure you know they know you are smart. Get that?

They throw in nice little comments here and there during conversations that make them feel important.

“I know as smart as you are, you probably get this…”

It is not always wrong. Most often, you already know what they are going to say. What’s different here is that they want to throw a few barbs at you from time to time just to make it sting.

Are they trying to make fun of your intelligence? Perhaps they are acting inferior to you so that you feel sorry for them?

Whatever the case is, it’s frustrating to be on the other side of this. That’s especially true when you find yourself the least likely person to feel the need to brag about your degree, grades, or other intelligence.

Why do they have to bring it up, then?

If you’re feeling any of these signs someone is intimidated by your intelligence, pat yourself on the back.

The chances are good that someone out there really feels as though you are smarter or better than them in some way.

On the other hand, it may be a sign that you need to stand down on the quotes from your favorite scientist and instead focus a bit on the latest TikTok that is coming out. (That’s really not going to help though!)

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