Can a person feel smarter around some people more than others?

Rationally we know our actual intelligence does not change from day to day, or from one conversation to the next. But we can feel smarter around some people than others for a few reasons:

Level of Comfort: A person may feel more comfortable around certain individuals than others. When people feel more comfortable, they are more likely to be themselves, express their ideas and opinions more freely, and participate in conversations more actively. In such situations, they may feel more confident and intelligent.

Knowledge and Interest: A person may feel more knowledgeable and confident in situations where the topic being discussed aligns with their interests and expertise. When the discussion revolves around a subject they are familiar with, they can contribute more to the conversation, leading to a sense of feeling smarter.

Communication style: The communication style of the people around us can affect how we perceive our own intelligence. If we are surrounded by individuals who are poor communicators, we may feel more confident and intelligent by comparison. Conversely, if we are surrounded by individuals who are very articulate and knowledgeable, we may feel less intelligent in comparison.

Social Comparison: People often engage in social comparison by comparing themselves to others in various domains, including intelligence. If a person perceives themselves to be smarter than the people around them, they may feel more intelligent.

In general, feeling smarter around certain people is a subjective experience and may depend on a range of factors, including one’s personality, experiences, and the nature of the social context.

Leaders Who Focus on Creating Comfort Unlock Energy

Our level of comfort with certain individuals can have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves and our intelligence in their presence. When we feel comfortable around someone, we are more likely to feel at ease, relaxed, and confident in expressing our ideas and opinions. This comfort can come from a variety of factors, such as shared interests, similar personalities, or a history of positive interactions.

In contrast, when we are around people who make us feel uncomfortable, such as those who are critical, judgmental, or dismissive of our ideas, we may feel less intelligent and less willing to express ourselves.

Feeling comfortable around others can facilitate more productive and engaging conversations, which in turn can lead to a greater sense of intelligence. When we are able to engage in discussions with others without feeling judged or belittled, we are more likely to participate actively and contribute meaningfully. This can lead to a sense of satisfaction and validation, which may contribute to feeling smarter in the moment.

Of course, feeling comfortable around others is not the only factor that contributes to our sense of intelligence, and there are many other factors that can influence how we perceive our own abilities. However, feeling at ease around others is a common factor that can contribute to a sense of intelligence and confidence in our own ideas and opinions.


The Five Drivers of Engagement

In this white paper, Juice identifies the five core drivers that determine employee engagement. Years of testing and scientific validation prove that these Five Drivers are emotion-based, and that what matters to employees more than anything else at work is how they feel.

What’s the Problem with Feeling Less Smart?

If some people on your team feel less smart around others, it can have several negative impacts on business results, including:

  • Decreased Collaboration: If team members feel less comfortable or less smart around others, they may be less likely to collaborate or share ideas openly, which can limit the team’s ability to innovate and solve complex problems.
  • Decreased Creativity: Feeling less intelligent or less confident can also limit a person’s ability to be creative or think outside the box. This can result in missed opportunities for growth, improvement, and innovation.
  • Decreased Engagement: If team members feel less smart or less valued, they may become disengaged, which can lead to decreased productivity, lower quality work, and increased turnover.
  • Decreased Morale: When some team members feel less smart or less valued, it can create a negative work environment that can decrease morale and team spirit. This can lead to a toxic work culture that is harmful to overall business results.
  • Decreased Diversity of Thought: When some team members feel less smart or less comfortable around others, it can limit the diversity of thought and ideas within the team. This can lead to a lack of perspective and insights, which can negatively impact the team’s ability to achieve its goals.

In contrast, when all team members feel valued, included, and comfortable to share their ideas and collaborate with others, it can lead to increased creativity, engagement, morale, and diversity of thought. This, in turn, can lead to better business results, including improved productivity, higher quality work, and greater innovation. Therefore, it is essential for leaders to create an environment where all team members feel valued and encouraged to contribute their ideas and insights.

What can I do as a leader?

As a leader of a team, there are several things you can do to help team members feel more comfortable, which can enable them to access and utilize their full intelligence and capabilities:

Foster an inclusive and welcoming environment

Ensure that all team members feel valued and respected, included, connected to the bigger picture and have the autonomy they need to deploy their strength.


Encourage open communication, acknowledge and appreciate diversity, and foster a culture of respect and appreciation for all individuals. Create opportunities for team members to get to know one another and build relationships.

Promote psychological safety

Encourage team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of negative consequences. Show empathy, actively listen, and demonstrate a willingness to consider different perspectives. Create an environment where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than sources of punishment or shame.

Provide regular feedback and recognition

Recognize and acknowledge team members’ contributions and achievements, and provide regular feedback on their progress and performance. Encourage open dialogue and encourage team members to ask questions and seek clarification as needed.

Develop clear expectations and goals

Clearly communicate expectations and goals for the team and individual members, and ensure that team members understand how their work contributes to overall success. Provide support and resources to help team members meet these expectations.

Encourage professional development

Offer opportunities for team members to develop their skills and abilities through training, mentoring, and other growth opportunities. Support their professional development goals and provide resources to help them achieve these goals.

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You can help your team members feel comfortable, confident, and motivated to use their full intelligence and capabilities to contribute to the success of the team.

Creating the conditions where your team members perform at their best is crucial for unlocking energy. And it’s energy that powers the passion, innovation and resilience that fuels the results leaders want, while delivering the work experience employees need.

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