It is hardly ever talked about, yet intellectual intimidation is very insidious. These are situations in which a certain moral authority is used, since one perceives oneself as more cultured than the majority; following this, the person does not hesitate to adopt behaviors that are as disrespectful as they are mean.
This arrogance often hides a clear superiority complex that leads, sooner or later, to clearly aggressive behavior. Often, the profile in question exhibits toxic behaviors from childhood.
Although there are different types of psychological abuse, intellectual intimidation causes a more singular and even bewildering abyss.
Sometimes in society we find great figures that we admire for a particular facet (a great writer, a scientist or an exceptional businessman). On an emotional level, however, sometimes intelligence does not go hand in hand with human respect, understanding and even less empathy.
Intellectual bullies are just as dangerous as physical bullies
When we talk about “bully”, we usually think of the classic child who hits, humiliates and corner one or more school friends. However, we forget that in addition to physical bullying, we can also find intellectual bullying. The latter configures a rather widespread, albeit more hidden, reality.
The University of Sheffield conducted a famous study in the 1990s in which it warned that abuse manifests itself in many ways. If it is true that we almost always identify it as that aggressive behavior in which there is no lack of beating or insults, there are also psychological abuse and intellectual intimidation.
A person gradually becomes an intellectual bully. So while classic bullies are sometimes the result of social maladjustment, anxiety, or dysfunctional family, the intellectual bully is at the top of this hierarchy.
Research work conducted in Finland, Ireland and the United States tells us that some children often have a very positive self-concept (Kaukianien et al 2002; Collins and Bell 1996; Pollastri et al 2010). An example of this are intellectual bullies.
How to recognize those who use intellectual intimidation?
Intellectual bullies are children or adults with an above average IQ. They master many areas in general or may be absolute experts in a certain discipline. This advantage, or knowing more than others, makes them feel superior, therefore:
- They generally behave disrespectfully and mean to others.
- They hurt emotionally.
- They love to ridicule, make jokes, underestimate and embarrass others.
- Their behavior is always over the top. They use petulant and high-sounding language to demonstrate their sophisticated knowledge in order to belittle those around them.
- They have great “verbal artillery”, meaning they are very good at harassing through words. They don’t need to resort to insults to hurt.
- They need to be the center of attention.
- They are very sensitive and highly reactive. They are easily offended and react aggressively to the slightest reaction.
- They are not very empathetic.
How to deal with intellectual intimidation?
A child who engages in violent behavior can be educated in school. Over time, conduct usually breaks down with appropriate intervention programs.
However, the intellectual bullies that emerge in childhood continue to emerge in adulthood. In some ways, it is assumed that intellectual intimidation does not amount to abuse.
Yet it is just as harmful as physical violence. What can we do in these circumstances? How can we address this profile?
Strategies for dealing with intellectual bullies
This profile shows a marked superiority syndrome to which a narcissistic pattern is usually added.
So instead of using his intellectual advantage humbly to promote the welfare of others, he misrepresents this gift. To defend ourselves we can:
- A first strategy is to do something intellectual bullies hate: ignore them. After all, if there’s one thing they need, it’s to be the center of attention and show others what they know. Not listening to them or paying attention to them is a very effective strategy.
- It is important not to play along or respond defensively. If we want / have to respond, we have to do it by keeping calm, because they want the exact opposite, to make us nervous.
- Make people understand what they are not willing to tolerate and what they are doing with their behavior: mistreating, criticizing, denigrating.
Last but not least, you should have the support of other people to report these behaviors.
Intimidation sometimes occurs in the workplace, creating a stressful work climate. Involving all concerned to take action against the bully is necessary in most cases.