Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


2 Ways to Keep Your Intelligence From Making You Lonely

2. Build others up instead of tearing them down.

Key points

  • Instead of belittling people with sarcasm, we can utilize our wit positively to lighten the mood.
  • A cycle of helping others succeed creates a ripple effect, inspiring beneficiaries to pay it forward.
  • We can shift our focus from self-serving pursuits to helping others.
Source: Stockfour/Shutterstock

We’re all too familiar with the archetype of the solitary genius, which appears time and again in our cultural imagination. But there might be some truth to this stock character, as suggested by a 2016 study published in the British Journal of Psychology that highlights how highly intelligent people experience lower life satisfaction when they have to socialize frequently with their friends.

However, does this mean that people of high intelligence are happier when they are alone? Not necessarily.

Being highly intelligent can sometimes lead to overthinking and anxiety, and the pursuit of perfection can also become a double-edged sword, driving one to achieve remarkable feats while also making them excessively self-critical and prone to disappointment. Moreover, their unique intellect may hinder genuine connections owing to their inability to relate to people with different interests or thought processes, leading to feelings of isolation.

To navigate these challenges and find balance and happiness, it is crucial for these individuals to recognize and understand the potential pitfalls of their intelligence. Here are two places to start.

1. Share Your Knowledge Generously

One way intelligent individuals can harness happiness is by sharing their knowledge and ideas with others. Many successful individuals in various fields are generous in their philanthropy but hesitate to divulge the secrets behind their success. However, freely utilizing your expertise to help others succeed can make a substantial positive difference.

Adrien Olichon / Unsplash
Adrien Olichon / Unsplash

A practical and rewarding approach to this notion involves recognizing opportunities to assist colleagues or peers in their endeavors. Your intelligence might allow you to brainstorm potential solutions or strategies that others may not readily perceive. Sharing these valuable ideas can lead to collective success.

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology reveals that when employees maintain a positive mindset and willingly share their expertise, they pave the way for a culture of innovation within the company, leading to more breakthroughs. This study demonstrates that a collaborative and open approach to knowledge sharing can elevate the overall performance of teams and organizations.

Additionally, sharing knowledge can lead to a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Witnessing the tangible impact of your ideas on the lives of others may bring deep gratification, reinforcing your own sense of happiness. Also, this virtuous cycle of helping others succeed creates a ripple effect, inspiring beneficiaries to pay it forward by sharing their knowledge with others, thereby cultivating a culture of continuous learning and growth.

2. Build Others Up, Don’t Tear Them Down

Using intelligence to make hurtful or sarcastic remarks may get you some attention and approval in the short term, but it also brings misery to others and yourself. Our culture often rewards such behavior, as seen in the form of insult comedy and snarky remarks in entertainment and media. However, fleeting laughter or social media likes cannot make up for the harm caused by such insults to both the person being targeted and the one making them.

In contrast to the widely held notion that ironic or sarcastic criticism expresses less condemnation compared to direct criticism, recent research demonstrates that, in many cases, ironic criticism such as saying “great job!” or “perfect!” intensifies condemnation rather than softening it. When people use snarky remarks, they may actually be conveying stronger disapproval or criticism than if they were to use straightforward and direct criticism.

Instead of belittling people with sarcasm, you can utilize your wit positively to lighten the mood and create a more amicable atmosphere. For instance, instead of saying anything hurtful, you might use a well-timed joke to break the ice and ease tension during a stressful meeting. Sharing amusing anecdotes can bring laughter and promote camaraderie, building connections with others and making interactions more enjoyable for everyone involved.


Though happiness and intelligence are not directly linked, intellectuals can ensure their happiness by shifting their focus from self-serving pursuits to helping others. Embracing happiness is not a matter of diminishing one’s intelligence but rather of understanding how to channel it effectively for personal and collective well-being.

Facebook image: PeopleImages com - Yuri A/Shutterstock

More from Mark Travers Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today