If someone does these 15 things, they’re a highly intelligent person

How can you tell if someone is super smart?

As we’re about to see, intelligence doesn’t always show up in the ways we expect.

If someone does these 17 things, chances are they’re highly intelligent.

1) They ask lots of questions and are curious

A thirst for knowledge is always a sign of being clever. After all, that’s how you hone your intelligence in the first place.

Whilst a certain amount of our brain power is undeniably the luck of the genetic draw, other factors do play a part.

The more intrigued you are about the world around you, the more you are likely to learn.

Asking questions and showing curiosity indicates an engaged mind.

2) They adapt well to changes

The truth is that a lot of us get freaked out by change. We’re sort of designed that way.

It’s an evolutionary defense to want to stay safe — so new and different makes us uneasy.

But whether we like it or not, like usually throws plenty of things at us. How well we do often relies on our ability to adapt.

In fact, research has highlighted how intelligence is underpinned by how well we can change our behavior. 

Being adaptable ultimately comes from strong cognitive abilities such as perception, memory, problem-solving ability, reasoning, learning skills, and more.

3) They like to spend time alone

There may be various reasons why highly intelligent people prefer to be alone.

But one study noted that intelligent people get less out of socializing and experience lower levels of satisfaction from it.

Meanwhile, another fascinating piece of research put forward a complex evolutionary explanation as to why the very smartest people prefer to be alone.

It claims that highly intelligent people have adapted to the stressful modern-day urban environments that many of us inhabit by seeking solitude.

4) They stay up late

It pains me to say this as an early riser…

But apparently, it’s the night owls who have the higher IQs.

Research has noted that:

  • More intelligent children grow up to be more nocturnal as adults than less intelligent children
  • More intelligent people go to bed later on weeknights and on weekends

But how late are we talking?

Well, as pointed out by evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa in Psychology Today:

“Those with a childhood IQ of less than 75 (“very dull”) go to bed around 23:41 on weeknights in early adulthood, whereas those with a childhood IQ of over 125 (“very bright”) go to bed around 00:29.”

So there doesn’t seem to be too much in it.

But having said that, what does it say about me if I’m in bed by 10:30 most nights?!

5) They use cuss words

It turns out that society’s image of intelligent people being nerdy is way off. Or, to put it in more intelligent terms:

It’s total bullsh*t.

That’s because believe it or not, one study found that intelligent people actually use more swear words.

People who were able to name the most swear words within a minute scored higher on IQ tests.

The researchers concluded that having a rich vocabulary of swear words was a sign of rhetorical strength.

What do you know, you’re not a potty mouth after all — you’re a genius.

6) They can relate to others

Empathy isn’t something we automatically think of as a sign of intelligence.

But the smartest of people are well-rounded. And intelligence shows itself in many ways, not just your IQ.

In fact, your EQ (emotional intelligence) is just as significant.

Empathy is a strong indicator of how emotionally clever you are.

It’s this that helps us to understand one another and better cooperate.

7) They enjoy doing nothing

Finally, a sign that I can totally relate to!

This is less about what an intelligent person does and more about what they don’t do.

Because it turns out very clever people are perfectly happy doing not a lot.

Some may even call them lazy.

Rather than have a jam-packed schedule of activities, really smart people genuinely enjoy a quieter pace of life.

That’s because simply being in quiet contemplation with their thoughts is enough to keep them entertained so they don’t get bored.

One study, in particular, supports this theory, as it found that so-called thinkers are far less active than non-thinkers.

8) They’re quiet, seemingly shy or introverted

Given what we’ve just said, this next point probably comes as little surprise to you.

People whose energy and attention are more inward facing tend to be smarter.

In short: Introverts.

That’s not to say you cannot be incredibly intelligent and extroverted too. But the stats show it is less likely.

According to CNBC a whopping 70% of all gifted people are introverted.

Hence why we should never underestimate the quiet ones!

9) They make a mess and are generally less tidy

Yet again, as a neat freak, I don’t like the sound of this one.

But I can’t deny the logic of it. Because there are more important things to life than cleaning, that’s for sure.

And very intelligent people clearly appreciate this fact.

Research from the University of Minnesota discovered a link between having a messy work desk and being smart.

They even found that having a messy environment can help with creativity, as psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, who led the study, explains:

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

10) They worry a lot or a prone to stress

Being incredibly intelligent does have its downside it seems.

One of those is how it can impact your mental health.

As there’s plenty of evidence that a high IQ can be a risk factor for certain psychological and physiological conditions.

Having a high-functioning brain may lead to more overthinking or rumination, which can cause anxiety.

Scientists have also found a connection between verbal intelligence (how well you can understand and reason using words) and a tendency to worry.

11) They’re self-aware and search for their blindspots

Self-awareness is another skill set that comes down to someone’s emotional intelligence.

The ability to recognize and understand your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions is understandably vital to your growth and progress.

It’s also been linked to higher job and relationship satisfaction, personal and social control, and happiness.

When you can see yourself through honest eyes, you better know your flaws and failings.

That way, you can work on them.

12) They take a humble approach to what they know and don’t know

Of course, being prepared to do the work to improve your weaknesses demands humility.

That’s why highly intelligent people don’t have an arrogant approach to their skills, ability, or intellect.

This helps them to maintain a growth mindset.

Rather than assuming they know it all, the world’s brightest are surprisingly modest.

Meanwhile, studies have found that it is the dimmer ones amongst us who have a tendency to overestimate our ability.

So perhaps that attack of imposter syndrome isn’t such a bad sign after all. It could be a sign that you are far smarter than you give yourself credit for.

13) They’re prepared to take risks

Intelligent people may well be bolder. So calculated risk-taking is something they tend to do.

Rather than sit in their comfort zone, they are prepared to grab life with both hands.

Research has backed up this idea that people who are open to challenges are often smarter.

During one study, they noted that participants who took risks had more white brain matter. And that’s an area that is associated with cognitive function.

Perhaps their intellect gives them greater confidence in going for things, as they know that they will be alright.

14) They keep an open mind and embrace other perspectives

There’s evidence that your level of open-mindedness can also be a good indicator of intelligence.

The more conservative you tend to be, the lower your IQ compared to people who identify as liberal.

It may well be an important factor in how we learn.

That’s because one study noted that particularly in young adults openness is linked to an ability to retain general knowledge and store short-term information.

15) They break the mold

There are very few geniuses who “fit in”. Most are unique and quirky, to say the least. That means they tend to break the norms.

They often live on the fringes of society. And they may have habits that other’s find downright strange.

As the New York Post points out, some of history’s smartest people were also the weirdest:

“The mathematician Pythagorus was killed because he so despised beans he wouldn’t cut through a field of them — even though an angry mob was pursuing him. Thomas Edison unsuccessfully tried to invent a telephone to call the dead, and Benjamin Franklin zapped his unknowing dinner guests with electricity.”

It’s probably one of the strongest arguments for why fitting in is over-rated.

Who wants to be average when you can be extraordinary? And that often demands breaking the mold and letting your sheer oddball-ness shine.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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