When you think of intelligent people, it’s likely that a certain type comes to mind. Yes, there are characteristics of intelligent people that can be seen from their attitude in living everyday life.
People who are able to solve math equations at lightning speed or know random facts about anything are not exactly intelligent. You also don’t need to have a high IQ to be considered a smart person.
In fact, experts say, there’s more to it than that, and many highly intelligent people don’t even realize how smart they really are.
“Highly intelligent people are people who are flexible in their thinking and can adapt to change, they think before they speak or act, and they are able to manage their emotions effectively,” said Dr. Catherine Jackson, licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified neurologist, told Bustle.
“In short, they have several types of intelligence, but not limited to intellectual, social, and emotional intelligence,” he added.
Researchers have investigated the many different traits that intelligent people have. For example, a 2016 study published in the British Journal of Psychology found that highly intelligent people actually prefer to be alone. It found that smarter people tended to experience lower life satisfaction the more often they socialized with friends.
According to evolutionary psychology, people evolve to be intelligent in order to solve problems. So those who are happier alone are seen as highly intelligent, because they have the ability to face challenges on their own without needing any help.
Rest assured, if you are a social butterfly, it does not mean you are not smart. You may have other qualities that show off your intelligence, such as having the ability to connect easily with other people. According to Jackson, highly intelligent people don’t often think of themselves that way.
So here are some characteristics of intelligent people according to experts:
1.Empathic and compassionate
“There is a correlation between high emotional intelligence and high IQ in psychological assessments,” Christine Scott-Hudson, licensed psychotherapist and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. “We know that the higher a person scores on the trait of empathy, the higher that person scores on the trait of effective verbal comprehension.”
In other words, empathy which is part of emotional intelligence and understanding which is part of cognitive intelligence are directly related. So if you lead with your heart, says Scott-Hudson, there’s a good chance you’re also leading with your mind.
Intelligent people not only focus on intellectual intelligence, but also have good social understanding. They are able to understand and appreciate other people’s perspectives, as well as adapt in different social situations.
2. Curious about the World
It’s easy to assume that intelligent people love to read. But being smart isn’t about having the ability to read a few books a day. It’s about having curiosity about anything and everything.
“Intelligent people engage their passions and ask questions like who, what, when, where, how, why, and what if,” says Scott-Hudson.
They love learning about other people, culture, animals, history and the world in general. While having a love of reading isn’t necessarily a sign of intelligence, it shows that you love to learn and are curious.
The smartest person in the room isn’t always the loudest. “In a world where people talk to prove who they are, highly intelligent people are the opposite,” says Jackson.
Instead of bragging about their accomplishments or telling people how right their opinions are, they are usually quiet and observant. When you have the ability to make sense of it all, you can see things that others miss, such as subtle patterns.
4. Have Self-Control
Having self-control means you are mature. You know how to control your emotions and impulses so that they do no harm. According to Jackson, having self-control is a sign of intelligence because it means you are more likely to think before you speak or act.
“When [these people] experience discomfort in their lives, they also work to address those issues and reduce those discomforts quickly,” he says.
5. Good Working Memory
“Good working memory and general intelligence are highly correlated,” says Jackson. When you have good working memory, it means you have executive function skills, good short term memory, ability to focus and pay attention. It also means you have cognitive flexibility, and can easily switch from one thing to another.
6. Know Boundaries
Highly intelligent people don’t try to act like they know everything. In fact, the sign of intelligence is recognizing the fact that you don’t know everything.
“They know their limits and can admit them. This allows them to be open to learning more from other people and/or situations,” says Jackson.
7. Likes to Go With the Flow
The smartest people don’t waste time worrying about things they can’t control. If you know how to be flexible and go with the flow, there’s a good chance you’re smart.
“Instead of being rigid about what has to happen, they remain mentally flexible, open-minded, and able to easily adjust to life no matter what,” says Jackson. It basically shows that you can solve problems and find solutions quickly.
8. Passionate about Interesting Things
Curiosity, passion and a desire to learn are hallmarks of highly intelligent individuals. When something really interests them, they will invest a lot of time and energy into learning what they can. According to licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., highly intelligent people follow their curiosity.
“They can admit when they’re not familiar with a certain concept, or if something is beyond their knowledge, and are willing to learn what they don’t know,” says Schiff.
“Their intellectual curiosity will drive a desire to educate themselves and read whatever they can get their hands on.” he added.
9. Ask Thoughtful Questions And Start Conversations
Highly intelligent people do things with a purpose. According to Andi Simon, Ph.D., corporate anthropologist and author of Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business, they don’t just ask lots of questions for asking questions. They do it for insights that can help better understand what they are doing, thinking, feeling, and anticipating.
“Someone must have said this oft-quoted line: ‘Knowledge is having the right answers. Intelligence is asking the right questions,'” says Simon.
“We forget that all life is conversation. Intelligent people realize that others have information and insights that through shared conversations will help both grow, broaden their wisdom, and increase their intelligence,” he added.
10. People Trust and Follow You
If people seem to trust your judgment and view you as a leader, it’s a sign that you may be very intelligent. People are more willing to follow and trust those who are smart and know how to lead a group of people effectively.
According to Simon, “People like to follow intelligent people who have developed the necessary skills to break work down into understandable components, motivate them to work towards a common goal, and celebrate results so they maintain team momentum.”
Simon cites a 2014 study published by the University of Oxford, which found that belief is an important part of culture and society that is not only associated with positive individual outcomes, but is also highly correlated with intelligence. “In studies across multiple countries, the results show that trust is strongly associated with intelligent individuals and serves as a valuable social resource that influences the way people follow others,” he said.