8 genuine signs of intelligence you can’t fake

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There are some things in life you just can’t fake, right? And intelligence is one of them.

There’s no doubt you’ll meet people who are trying to make it seem like they’re intelligent when they’re not. They’ll use big words and brag about their job or their qualifications in a desperate attempt to look clever. 

The thing is: you can’t fake intelligence, you’ve either got it or you don’t. 

Today we’re exploring 8 genuine signs of intelligence that’ll help you to spot the difference between the fakers and people who are truly smart.

And who knows, maybe you’ll realize that you’re one of the smart ones. 

Let’s get started. 

1) You’ve got endless curiosity

Are you always eager to explore and learn new things?

It’s like you’ve got this insatiable appetite to learn, understand, and discover. And it’s not limited to one or two of your favorite topics, you’re curious about everything, all the time. 

Does this resonate with you?

Research shows that curious people are usually more intelligent and have higher IQs. One study that focused on children between the ages of three and eleven found that more curious kids had higher IQs than their less curious counterparts.

If you’ve got an appetite for learning and discovering that can’t be satisfied then it’s a sure sign you’re genuinely intelligent. 

2) You can make complicated things simple 

One of the biggest indicators of genuine intelligence is when you can make something complex seem simple.

Steve Jobs said “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because when you get there you can move mountains.” 

People who try to fake intelligence fall into this trap a lot. Instead of focusing on simplicity, they think they’ll sound smarter by making things complicated. In reality, the opposite is true.

Anyone can repeat a complex explanation of something but to break it down and explain it simply requires a deeper level of understanding that only intelligent people have.

3) You’ve got sharp wit

Have you ever noticed that the best comedians don’t just tell funny jokes? 

They use sharp wit, good timing, and clever humor to deliver their message and entertain people at the same time. 

Ricky Gervais is one of the best comedians when it comes to using witty humor. One of my favorite examples of this is when he says “Remember, when you are dead, you do not know you are dead. It is only painful for others. The same applies when you are stupid.”

If you’re known for your quick wit and clever comebacks, it’s a telltale sign you’ve got true intelligence that you just can’t fake. 

4) You’re a quick learner

Trying new things doesn’t phase you, you’ve got this knack for picking things up quickly. Whether it’s a new job, a new sport, or something totally different, you only need to be shown something once to be able to do it yourself.

Sound familiar?

People who can pick things up quickly and don’t have difficulty learning new skills typically have genuine intelligence. 

My little brother is a quick learner. He can pick things up very quickly and has been able to do this his whole life. I’m a few years older than him and I remember when he was only two or three he was able to pick up new things so quickly. 

I remember one time, I read him a bedtime story about dinosaurs. It included all of their complex names and details about what they looked like and what they ate.

I’d forgotten the details I’d read the very next day but after only hearing the information once, he remembered all of their names and characteristics for months afterward. 

Being a quick learner like this is not something you can fake and it’s a sure sign of natural intelligence. 

5) You’re self-aware 

When we think about intelligence most people automatically think of IQ, right? It’s a traditional view of intelligence or what some people might describe as ‘book smart’.

But there are also other types of intelligence and one of them is emotional intelligence or EQ. Whether we’re talking about EQ or IQ there are indicators of both that you just can’t fake. 

Self-awareness is the hallmark of emotional intelligence and one of those signs of genuine intelligence that can’t be feigned. It’s where you know who you are and understand your own beliefs, thoughts, and values. You also understand the impact you have on others. 

You can tell when someone is highly self-aware because they’ll ask for feedback, acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and show concern for how they impact others. 

Being in tune with your own thoughts and feelings is a clear sign of intelligence, and you can’t just make that up.

6) You see failure as a learning opportunity 

Some folks think that if they fail, it means they just don’t have what it takes to make it, and that’s that, no changing it. But that’s not the case for everyone.

Naturally bright people, see failure as a learning opportunity. They know that failure is not the end but only the beginning. With resilience and perseverance, they believe they can improve their skills and achieve success. 

Does this sound like you? 

If so, you’ve got a growth mindset which means you “view intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort”. Failure doesn’t make you feel like you should quit, it spurs you on to try again and do better next time. 

Research confirms that adopting a growth mindset improves performance. Of course, anyone can develop a growth mindset but if you’re born with the belief that failure is the gateway to learning, it suggests you’ve got genuine intelligence that can’t be faked. 

7) You’re a natural problem solver 

Are you the kind of person who loves a good challenge? 

Escape rooms, puzzles, and strategy board games are right up your alley because they give you a chance to figure things out and find solutions. 

Embracing challenges like this shows you’re a natural problem solver and it’s a sign of genuine intelligence. When it comes to problem-solving, you’ve either got it or you don’t. There’s no way to pretend because if you’re faking, you’ll be found out immediately. 

That’s one of the reasons Elon Musk asks interviewees to describe challenges they’ve faced and how they solved them. 

According to Musk, anyone can lie and say they’re a great problem solver but ​​“the people who really solved the problem know exactly how they solved it,” he said. “They know and can describe the little details.”

8) You don’t get bored easily

Back in high school, our computer science teacher always reminded me of some kind of crazy scientist. He had snow-white hair and a thick white beard. He always wore thick lens glasses that he peered over when he talked to you.

If I’m being honest he probably provided more entertainment than education for my school pals  and me but there was one thing he said that has always stuck with me and that was;

“Clever people never get bored. Even if they’re doing something boring, they find ways to engage their brain and make it worthwhile.” I agree with this and I’ve seen it in action. 

You know how these days for most people the worst thing that can happen is for the Wi-Fi to crash. It basically means all sources of entertainment are inaccessible. You can’t binge-watch your favorite TV show on Netflix, play online gaming with your friends, or scroll social media. 

My friend Sandra is one of those genuinely intelligent people who doesn’t get bored easily. She doesn’t need WiFi or anything else to be entertained. She doesn’t have to rely on external sources to stay engaged. She always finds a way to engage her mind no matter what.  

If you’re like Sandra and no matter what situation you’re in you can find a way to be engaged without getting bored, it’s a sign you’re one of the clever ones unlike most people who struggle to sit quietly, distraction-free for more than a few minutes.   

Final thoughts

People go to all kinds of lengths to give off the impression that they’re highly intelligent. But the truth is there are a few tell-tale signs of intelligence that you can’t fake, no matter how hard you try. 

Next time you see someone trying to look clever, look a little closer and see if you can spot any of the things we’ve shared today in them. If not, then there’s a good chance they’re probably just faking it and hoping no one notices. 

How many of these signs do you recognize in yourself? 

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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