A2A: Thank you so much for this question! :)
Virtually all of us have or will come in contact with somebody more intelligent than us, and our decision how to react to this exposure will either stifle our progress in life (if we allow ourselves to get intimidated) or will give us wings to reach our dreams (if we recognize it as an opportunity to learn).
It is really important to differentiate between deliberate intimidation by intelligence and unaware intimidation, by somebody clearly more intelligent. Then, there is the less intelligent receiving side, and the question of their perception of the more intelligent person’s behavior.
When both parties are of about equal intelligence, unaware intimidation is not really possible, and all that is left is just deliberate showing off. That is, if here is a dynamic of intimidation between them, because there does not have to be at all.
So, let’s take a scenario between two people A and B, where A is clearly more intelligent than B, and look at the possibilities from the point of view of each, B and A.
A is either:
Deliberately intimidating B. This would mean that either: a) A has high IQ and low EQ, meaning has little compassion, does not read people well, and does not care how intimidation makes them feel, and derives pleasure from dominance and self-aggrandizing. b) A is really upset with B, and does not find any other weapon except to humiliate them by picking at their weak points, weak in relation to A.
Is unaware of the intimidation effect A has on B. That generally means that the receiving party in the conversation B perceives it as intimidation, whereas it is not in the mind of A at all.
Which takes us to the point of view of B, when the inequality of intelligence is obvious. B’s reaction to the more intelligent A is really independent from whether A means or does not mean to intimidate B. The feeling of being intimidated is depends solely on the B’s mindset.
B is either:
Intimidated by the A’s intelligence. This reaction is really based on fear of being embarrassed in front of others, of failing, of hurting one’s ego. However, all those fears are an illusion, and it is much healthier to stand up for yourself and for what you know and do not yet know and own it. It just means so much more self-respect to have the guts and say what you do not know but want to learn. People respect that. Especially, intelligent people, because that is how they arrived at their intelligence— through admitting what they lack and reaching out to fill those gaps. Intelligence is hard work, and honesty, and courage. Putting up defense walls, shutting down, closing in is a self-destructive reaction, and someone else’s intelligence should only be seen as luck to be exposed to and an opportunity to learn from someone else something that B does not know. The exposure to intelligence is free learning, and the most exciting and natural way to learn in the world! I personally always seek out people smarter than me, this is what makes life beautiful and living fascinating! :)
Not intimidated by A’s intelligence. B has the courage to admit what they do not know or understand, so that they can clearly identify it and then develop a strategy of how to attain the intelligence they lack. This is how B will learn, will grow, develop, and can become more intelligent, even more than all those who were once more intelligent than B-- put together.
Knowledge is one of the few things in life that increase when shared. If you have an apple, and you share it with your friend, then each of you will have only a half. Share it will 3 friends, and you each will have a quarter. But with knowledge it is so amazing! You share it with a others, and you do not lose anything, but instead— there is so much more of it. What is really fascinating is that, when knowledge is shared, the whole of it is not a mere sum of its parts. Instead, it creates a complex adaptive system of minds, where each person receives information, builds a reaction to it, shares it back, then back again, and the many of them together can put the pieces of a puzzle together, a puzzle that now can come alive as a completely new concept. Whereas each of them, with an equal amount of knowledge, but in isolation, would not come up with this concept.
It is funny, but very few people with a relatively high level of intelligence will ever try to intimidate us with their intelligence. Intimidation will not even be part of their mental vocabulary of behavior: they will be focused on the subject and maybe even oblivious to other people’s being intimidated. They do not mean to intimidate or size up the “opponent”, and the whole concept of intimidation is foreign and irrelevant to them. They only care and focus on the issue. Often, the situation is the opposite: people who feel disadvantaged intellectually will try to intimidate others, to compensate for their self-perceived shortcomings.
We will always find somebody more intelligent than us, but we will also always find somebody less intelligent. So to say that we are in either one of the camps would not be accurate. We are all somewhere on a continuum, we all have neighbors on either side, and our positions on this continuum change, depending on our health, devotion to learning, drive, and also what aspect of our intelligence we are considering.
I really cannot think of anyone deliberately intimidating others with their intelligence, without any extraordinary reason. Somebody like that would be a walking oxymoron. I honestly do not have any specific examples, because I have never witnessed it in my life, ever. However, for a list of pseudo-intimidation by intelligence, please see my answer here: Vera Dragilyova's answer to How do I know if I'm more intelligent than others?
This answer contains a few examples of how people try to appear more intelligent than someone else by brute force or cunning antics, and through intimidation that is not scary but rather vulgar and even funny.