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Why Are Some Very Smart People So Quiet?

by Riley Cook

“A smart individual is a student first and a teacher last. While alive, life is an institution you do not graduate from; understanding this will get you far.” - Lisa K. Stephenson.

If you’ve ever read the book ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene, then you’re already ten steps ahead of the game. Law #4 tells us to always say less than necessary. Interestingly enough, this works for mortgage holders, law enforcement, relationships, and more. Prime areas of our lives where you may think that overexplaining yourself is the best solution, oftentimes it is not.


When you’re in the market for a new home, it’s best to share as little as possible about your finances with banks. Yes, that sounds counterintuitive, but the best thing you can do for yourself is send the appropriate documents, only answer questions you’re asked, and pay attention to small details on your contract and/or application.


The more you share, the more that could be used against you during their decision-making process. Questions like, "What are your expenses?" "Is your debt-to-income ratio good?" "How much can you put down?" and "What is your salary before taxes?" should be addressed without straying and divulging unnecessary information.


Law enforcement operates in a similar fashion. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law” is not just something officers regurgitate because it sounds cool; it’s a fact, and you can be held liable for the information you provide without an attorney present. Always ask for an attorney if apprehended and wait. Always ask to know what your offense is and wait.


This can apply to relationships as well. Women can tell almost immediately when their partner is lying or being deceptive simply because they’ve chosen to overexplain themselves. Men already speak fewer words than women, so when they’re asked a question and feel the need to go into deep detail, it’s almost always evident that something is amiss.

A smart and confident person has nothing to prove, so when they speak, it is usually vague, ambiguous, leaving meaning for others to interpret. This is not a bad thing unless you’re asking someone for advice and they take this approach; then they’re probably not interested in helping you.


Smart people are not mean, and while many of them can be socially awkward, they are always excited to share good news or information about their success with others. They do not withhold vital information because having a high IQ is lonely, in reality.


Not many people share or understand your views or perspective, so when given the chance to combine ideas and be present among like-minded people, it's easy to lose control from excitement. So, all in all, if you’re in a room with someone you consider to be very smart and they’re not talkative, it’s safe to say that you’re not their audience. They don’t view you as a peer, moreover, someone they have to share a space with for the moment.


Do not be offended, although I’m sure that was your first feeling. If anything, feel empathy for that person; something internal drove them to a point where education and knowledge were a safe haven for them. Maybe you had a healthy social life, a fun household, and family who you’d laugh and spend the holidays with. A person with a high IQ is usually withdrawn from social gatherings or grew up destitute; their only form of entertainment was reading a book and getting lost in the characters or their imagination. This helped to keep them motivated, and that escapism kept them on their toes—knowing that one day it could all be theirs, it’s attainable.


We all have different motivators, and while law #4 plays a key part in our day-to-day activities, it’s how you use it that matters. When you’re silent, you make other people uncomfortable. Is that something you want to achieve? Is that something you think the smartest person in the room is trying to achieve?


We’re all driven by something, an outcome that we favor over others. When you dislike uncertainty, you want to know what others are thinking or feeling; this gives the other person the upper hand. If you want to be the person that feels equal to your peer, then you should adapt some of their views and put them into practice.

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Also, it could just be that the person in the room isn’t smart at all. Perhaps they’re just applying these principles to get the respect and notoriety they otherwise wouldn’t receive. In many instances, when you say less, the more profound your words seem. In other words, people who do not say much are mysterious, which means they must possess a wealth of knowledge.


Therefore, when they do choose to speak, others are eager to hear what they have to say; they perk up, they listen, and they take note. It’s a strategy that people implement, especially bosses in a workplace. A subordinate could be smarter, wiser, more hardworking, but because the boss is quiet, stealthy, and isn’t well-received by everyone, they’re usually respected.


In conclusion, a person could have a high IQ but refrain from speaking too much because they don’t view the people around them as peers, rather people they have to tolerate. Next, if a high IQ individual does view you as a peer, then their silence is simply a tactic used to soak up as much information from that room or conversation as they can.


Smart people are infinite learners—life is their teacher, and they want to learn. On the other hand, this is simply a ploy to garner respect from those around them. They want to be perceived as smart so that their role is justified. Don’t allow yourself to feel intimidated by anyone around you. We are all capable of many great things; we need only to apply ourselves.

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