How to Deal with an Intellectual Bully

Read this article to learn all about intellectual bullies!
How to Deal with an Intellectual Bully

Last update: 20 October, 2022

Be wary of the intellectual bully. People rarely mention this subject but it’s quite insidious. This type of person exercises a sort of moral authority over those they consider intellectually inferior. In fact, they often display a series of behaviors that are as disrespectful as they’re petty. Note that this kind of person usually begins to exhibit these traits since childhood.

This style of arrogance often hides a clear superiority complex that leads, sooner or later, to clearly aggressive behavior. Thus, this kind of psychological abuse borders on a somewhat more singular and even disconcerting abyss.

There are well-known figures in modern society and the masses admire them for one reason or another, being a great writer, a great scientist, or an outstanding entrepreneur. Then, you realize that intelligence doesn’t go hand in hand with human respect, understanding, and empathy.

“I’d rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.”

-Abraham Lincoln-

A man accusing a woman.

Intellectual bullies are as dangerous as physical bullies

Think of a “bully”. Are you envisioning a child who beats, humiliates, and corners one or more classmates at school? You might not realize that bullying has many facets, such as the intellectual, for example. It’s a type of reality that leaves many victims behind, even after it ends.

The University of Sheffield conducted a now-classic study in the 1990s. It revealed that harassment and bullying manifest in many ways. While it’s true that most people identify it as physically aggressive behavior (pushing, shoving, hitting, and insulting), there’s also psychological harassment. It usually takes place in social networks as intellectual bullying.

Intellectual bullies aren’t born but develop little by little from an early age. Thus, while part of the classic bullies is the result sometimes of social maladjustment, anxiety, or dysfunctional family, the intellectual bully is often privileged.

Research such as that conducted in the United States, Finland, and Ireland indicates that a significant number of children who bully have positive self-concepts (Kaukianien et al 2002; Collins and Bell 1996; Pollastri et al 2010). Intellectual bullies are an example of this.

What are intellectual bullies like?

Intellectual bullies are children or adults with a higher than average IQ. They either master many areas of knowledge in general or stand as specialists in a specific discipline. This advantage, that of knowing more than others, makes them perceive themselves as above others.

  • On average, they behave disrespectfully and meanly to those around them.
  • They’re emotionally abusive.
  • They like to ridicule, make jokes, underestimate and embarrass others.
  • Their behavior is always over the top. They use a petulant and grandiloquent language with which to demonstrate their sophisticated knowledge and, thus, belittle those in front of them.
  • Also, they have a great “verbal artillery”. That is, they’re good at verbal harassment and abuse and don’t even need to resort to insults to hurt someone.
  • They need to be the center of attention.
  • They’re sensitive, highly reactive, easily offended, and react aggressively at the slightest objection.
  • Finally, they have a poorly developed empathy.
Two people arguing.

Ways to deal with an intellectual bully

The child who engages in physical and violent bullying behavior at school can be re-educated. This behavior usually disappears with appropriate intervention programs. However, intellectual bullies who emerge in childhood continue to be so in adulthood. This is because, somehow, they assume that intellectual abuse isn’t abusive, like physical abuse. The truth is it’s just as damaging.

What can one do in these circumstances? How can one deal with this type of person?

Strategies for dealing with an intellectual bully

This type of person displays a marked superiority syndrome with narcissistic traits. Thus, instead of making use of their intellectual advantage to promote the welfare of others, they misrepresent their gift by using it to victimize others.

A first strategy is to do something intellectual bullies usually hate: ignore them. After all, they need to be the center of attention and demonstrate what they know. Not listening to them is a basic strategy that’s quite effective.

Keep in mind that these people are skilled in the use of words. Thus, it’s important to neither play along nor respond defensively. Be aware that they expect you to lose your temper. Thus, if you must respond, do so calmly.

Be clear that you won’t tolerate any disrespectful demeaning behavior.

Lastly, seek the support of others to report this behavior. Intellectual bullies sometimes inhabit work environments and can cause problems. As you can see, you must try to involve all those affected in order to take a stand against this person.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.