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Scientists Find Socially Anxious People Are Highly Intelligent

Scientists Find Socially Anxious People Are Highly Intelligent
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While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most people of high intelligence are usually socially awkward in some respect, most people don’t realize it’s not because they’re “dorks” or whatever high school stereotype you care to use. Rather, it’s because highly intelligent people see the world on an entirely different level than the rest of us. Because of this, become incredibly anxious in seemingly normal situations. It’s not that they don’t know how to function at parties and social gatherings; it’s that their mind is constantly working on overdrive, which makes them incredibly anxious about any and everything around them. The following explains why being super-smart is both a blessing and a curse:

1. They have high sentinel intelligence

Highly intelligent people are much more in tune with the world around them than most other individuals. They are highly sensitive to threats of any kind, to the point that they have a hard time relaxing. Sudden loud noises can be enough to send them into a panic. They are so quick that while everyone else is processing the noise they just heard, the quick-thinker has already moved on to the “what if it was a gun or bomb or…” cycle of thought. Rethink this the next time you call your friend a “nervous Nellie.”

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2. They are highly self-aware

Intelligent people are constantly thinking about how they are being perceived, and will change their behavior when in a public place to attempt to blend in as much as possible. They’re constantly plagued with thoughts of “What if everyone saw me just sneeze all over my hand? They’re all gonna laugh at me.” While people may have seen it happen, chances are they didn’t care enough to make a big deal about it. Oddly enough, it’s tough for intelligent people to realize most of their thoughts are only in their head, and they’re being too self-aware.

3. They over-analyze events

Highly intelligent people constantly look for deeper meaning in conversations and regular life occurrences. This can lead to them getting lost in their own train of thought and losing their place in the conversation at hand. By over-analyzing things, intelligent people often distance themselves from mainstream conversations, finding it better to be an outside observer of goings-on than actively partaking in interactions with little face value.

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4. They over-analyze words

Intelligent people are constantly wondering “What did he mean by that?” This can cause social anxiety in the most innocuous of situations. A simple compliment from a boss could lead to a string of worries, such as “Was he being sarcastic? Did I really do a good job? Have I not been doing a good job, and he felt the need to tell me I was today?” and so forth. Of course, their boss most likely meant to give a quick compliment; but the over-thinker is left worrying about the simple interaction for the rest of the day.

5. They’re overly aware of other’s states of mind

Let’s go back to the last example, imagine the boss had said “Great job today” with anything less than enthusiasm and exuberance. You can be sure the socially anxious person would have picked up on his boss’ body language and lack of excitement. A boss could be having a bad day which has nothing to do with the highly intelligent person, but being aware of someone else’s state of mind makes you want to find the problem and fix it. A socially anxious person will spend the rest of the day wondering if he did something to offend the other party.

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6. They’re empathetic

Along with being overly sensitive to how other people present themselves, highly intelligent people are also highly empathetic. Unfortunately, this causes them to take on their friends’ burdens and problems as their own. Since they overanalyze every situation they encounter, highly intelligent people will stop at nothing until they’ve solved their friends issues; of course, this leads to even more anxiety, as they are dealing with not only their own problems, but the problems of a person they care for deeply.

7. They’re incredibly logical

Highly intelligent people are incredibly logical, which sounds like it should be a good thing. However, working with people who don’t think the same way can be incredibly frustrating. Many people operate off of emotions, so when a logical (and correct) conclusion is reached by a person with higher intelligence, there are usually some who will oppose the idea because it does not align with their train of thought. No matter how fool-proof a logical plan may be, it can be thwarted by those who fail to acknowledge the logical process behind it.

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8. They extrapolate past experiences

Being logical thinkers, highly intelligent people use past experiences to predict future outcomes. This can lead to high levels of social anxiety, as any possible negative outcome will certainly cross their mind along the way. Socially anxious people avoid getting themselves into situations in which they’ve embarrassed themselves or otherwise failed in the past. While weighing possible outcomes, it becomes difficult to avoid thinking of worst-case scenarios, and doing so can potentially derail an anxious person’s drive to complete a task.

9. They’re aware of ulterior motives

As mentioned before, intelligent people often overthink off-the-cuff, innocuous remarks made by others. So when someone acts generously, a socially anxious person may get caught up wondering if there was some reason the other person was being so nice. This leads to a mistrust of the general public, regardless of people’s actual intentions. Again, socially anxious people think of worst case scenarios, and often let these scenes blind them from reality.

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10. They get no rest

Since they tend to overthink every little situation they face, intelligent people’s minds are constantly working. This leads to burnout, insomnia, and undue stress that could have long-lasting negative effects on a person’s health and overall well-being. Although people with higher than average intelligence are overall grateful for the gift they’ve been given, I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to be able to take a few minutes each day and tune everything out.

Featured photo credit: Backlight of a teenager depressed sitting inside a dirty tunnel via shutterstock.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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