If someone displays these 11 traits, they’re a really smart person

Intelligence may seem like something that’s hiding underneath the surface, but in reality, it always translates into our behavior in ways that are more and less obvious.

If you’re really smart, it impacts how you think, how you approach problems, and how you act as a result – all of which can be recognized and explained.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing today! We’re looking at intelligence through a magnifying glass, unpacking the 11 traits of people who are really smart.

So put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and let’s get to it!

1) They question everything

Smart people are inherently skeptical. They approach every situation with a bit of doubt because they understand there is always more to the story.

This is why crime novels by Agatha Christie or the Sherlock Holmes saga are usually regarded as clever fiction – they revolve around characters who don’t naively believe what they’re told and decide to figure things out for themselves.

Of course, you don’t need to be a crime detective to be a really smart person. This trait can manifest in the small things you do – you might question the way they teach you history or someone’s true intentions toward you, for instance.

Skepticism is the hallmark of intelligence because it’s the opposite of gullibility. It means you go beyond what your eyes can see.

2) They see patterns and connections

And what’s beyond your immediate reality?

Patterns. Behavioral, societal, psychological… there are patterns everywhere around you, and smart people almost never fail to notice them.

They connect the dots. They draw lines between seemingly unrelated things and create a complete picture that makes logical sense.

This is called inductive reasoning, and it’s what Sherlock Holmes does so very often – he looks at several details and forms a general conclusion out of those facts.

The opposite is deductive reasoning, which revolves around looking at a general idea and breaking it down into specific conclusions.

Smart people are great at both. It’s all about pattern recognition.

3) They tend to go down the rabbit hole of research

Once you see all the dots lighting up, you can’t unsee it. And then you want to know more.

High intelligence goes hand in hand with the drive for acquiring new information, and it’s not uncommon for this tendency to get a little… out of control.

My partner is very smart. Do you know what he spends most of his time doing?

Reading Wikipedia and academic journals. One time, I saw him eating a piece of bread while reading a Wikipedia page about bread. I’m not even joking.

What you research doesn’t have to be academic in nature, either. You might be obsessed with the Game of Thrones universe, finance, or the way chopped tomato cans are made in the factory. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is the strong desire to know more.

4) They want to learn on their own terms

High intelligence doesn’t automatically mean excellent academic results. Smart people might have an innate drive for learning, but they also thrive on creative freedom.

No wonder so many intelligent people drop out or struggle to get good grades. Traditional education structures limit them, and some smart people revolt against that by displaying non-compliance.

They want to learn, yes. But not when learning feels like the opposite of curiosity and passion.

5) They come up with creative solutions

One of the main reasons lots of smart people don’t do well at school is that education often runs on black-and-white measurement systems.

Rules, grades, clear expectations, quotas, pre-defined teaching material.

When I was at school, most of my education relied on memorization. My grades were directly linked to how well I could remember a ton of information and put it down on paper.

There was very little space for unrestricted creativity. We didn’t do much critical thinking at all, and most of it was just about going through the motions and following the rules.

But smart people thrive on creativity. They love to look at an idea from new angles and explore what these new avenues of thinking have to offer.

I’ve seen many smart friends go through the system and lose their passion for learning because this side of them wasn’t allowed to flourish.

6) They have great self-control

Another trait of smart people is that they can keep themselves in line when it counts. According to research, better self-control is associated with higher intelligence.

If you offer an intelligent person a small reward now or a bigger reward later, they’ll take the latter.

They don’t mind the wait. They’re thinking long-term. They don’t easily succumb to emotional impulsivity.

7) They enjoy spending time alone

Interestingly, a study from 2006 shows that more intelligent people experience lower life satisfaction when there’s a lot of socializing going on.

This begins to make sense once we realize that 70% of gifted people are introverted, according to CNBC.

While this doesn’t disqualify extroverts from the game – there are still plenty of extroverted people who are really smart – thriving in solitude is yet another frequent sign of high intelligence.

And do you know what else is?


8) They have a strong sense of intuition

Smart people can’t be fooled easily. Remember when we talked about patterns?

That comes in handy now. When you see patterns, it also means you’re very aware of the context of each situation and phenomenon.

You don’t just operate on first impressions. There’s a whole lot of background information that goes into analyzing what’s going on and making up your mind about it.

When you’re really smart, your inner voice is strong and clear. It tells you when something just… doesn’t feel right, prompting you to take a closer look.

9) They love deep conversations

Since intelligence is all about digging below the surface and searching for new ideas, smart people aren’t big on small talk.

They want to discuss truly fascinating things. They want to share their passion with you, asking you for your opinion and taking your advice into consideration. They’re also interested in your own hobbies and work, coming up with questions that really get you thinking.

For them, the world is just way too interesting to talk about the weather. Unless you’re a meteorologist and you’re explaining how the weather works in scientific terms, that is. Then they’ll listen to you talk all day long.

10) They’re very adaptable

A creative mind is the perfect breeding ground for adaptability.

A smart person won’t let obstacles stop them. They’ll look at the issue, analyze the hell out of it, and figure out a way to adjust their approach so that they can keep on going.

Unless they’re in an environment that completely stifles them (such as an education system that offers no alternatives), they usually manage to tip the circumstances in their favor or change their own way of doing things to fit the new situation.

11) They doubt themselves

This last one sounds a bit strange – why would you doubt yourself if you’re really smart?

I’ll tell you why.

Smart people know how much they don’t know. They have an inherent understanding of the vastness that lies beyond their grip, and it can drive them crazy knowing they’ll never be able to comprehend it all.

What’s more, they’re also aware of their own limitations and weak spots, so it’s easy to feel like an impostor at times.

But if this sounds like you, remember that it’s normal to have doubts. It doesn’t mean you’re any less amazing than anyone else.

It is those who overestimate their abilities that are often not as clever. They think this is it; they think they’ve reached the top.

But you know better. You know there is no top – there is only the constant strive to get there. And if you doubt yourself along the way… it might mean you’re very smart

It might mean you’ll reach farther than you thought possible.

Denisa Cerna

Hi! I’m a fiction author and a non-fiction freelance writer with a passion for personal development, mental health, and all things psychology. I have a graduate degree in Comparative Literature MA and I spend most of my time reading, travelling, and – shocker – writing. I’m always on a quest to better understand the inner workings of the human mind and I love sharing my insights with the world. If any of my articles change your life for the better… mission accomplished.
Get in touch at denisacerna.writing@gmail.com or find me on LinkedIn.

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