If someone uses these 12 phrases, they’re probably really smart

You can often tell how smart someone is just by listening to them talk.

No need for fancy tests or checking out their grades. Just hear the words they use, and you’ll go, “Wow, this person is smart!”

I’m about to show you 12 phrases that super-smart people often say.

If you want to sound smart yourself, consider adopting these phrases in your daily life.

1. “Correlation does not imply causation.”

Ever hear someone say this and think, “Wow, they must be a smarty pants”? Well, you’re probably right!

This phrase means just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean one caused the other. Smart people use it to remind us not to jump to conclusions.

For example, let’s say sales of ice cream and the number of people swimming both go up in the summer. Someone might say, “Hey, eating ice cream makes people want to swim!” But hold up—that’s where our smart phrase comes in. Just because both things are happening doesn’t mean one is causing the other. Maybe it’s just hot, so people want to swim and eat ice cream!

So the next time you’re chatting and want to sound smart, or you hear someone drop this line, give yourself a little nod. You’re either dealing with a genius, or you’re on your way to becoming one.

2. “Let’s unpack that.”

Ever heard someone say this during a discussion? Chances are, you’re dealing with a sharp thinker.

This phrase is all about digging deeper into what someone just said. Instead of taking things at face value, smart people use this line to say, “Hey, let’s understand this better.”

For example, if someone says, “I don’t like going to the beach because it’s stressful,” a smart person might say, “Let’s unpack that.” They want to know what specifically makes it stressful. Is it the sun? The crowds? The fear of sharks? By “unpacking” the statement, you get a clearer picture of the situation.

Using this phrase not only shows you’re a deep thinker but also encourages better conversations.

3. “I don’t know.”

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, saying ‘I don’t know’ makes someone smart?” Yep, you bet it does.

See, it takes guts to admit you don’t have all the answers. Anyone can pretend to know something, but smart people? They’re not afraid to say, “Hey, I don’t know this, but I can find out.”

For instance, if someone asks a complex question about, let’s say, quantum physics or why cats hate water, instead of bluffing or spouting nonsense, a smart person will just admit they don’t know. And you know what? That’s totally cool. It shows they value truth over ego.

If you ever hear someone freely admit they don’t know something, give ’em a mental high-five. That’s a sign of intelligence right there. And if you say it yourself, you’re one step closer to being that genius we all aspire to be.

4. “That’s interesting, but have you considered…?”

Now, this might seem like a polite way of saying, “I don’t agree with you,” but it’s way more than that.

Smart people use this phrase to introduce a different angle without shutting the other person down. They’re saying, “Hey, I heard you, but let’s look at it this other way.”

For example, if someone says, “Electric cars are 100% eco-friendly,” a smart person might reply, “That’s interesting, but have you considered the environmental impact of mining for the lithium used in their batteries?”

This phrase is a smooth move for two reasons: First, you acknowledge what the other person said, so they don’t feel ignored. Second, you introduce new information that could make the whole discussion richer.

It’s a smart way to keep the conversation balanced and insightful. 

5. “From my experience…”

Now, this one’s a gem because it brings something unique to the table: your own life story. Smart people often use “From my experience” to share what they’ve learned in a way that’s not preachy.

You see, when someone hears “from my experience,” they’re more likely to listen. Why? Because it’s real. It’s not some abstract idea or theory; it’s coming from a place of lived experience, making the information way more relatable.

I remember once saying to a friend worried about starting a new job, “From my experience, the first week is about figuring things out; no one expects you to know everything right away.” This simple line helped ease his anxiety because it came from a real, personal place.

So, if you want to come across as not just smart but also genuine, drop a “From my experience” now and then. It’ll make you relatable and credible, all in one go.

6. “I see where you’re coming from, but…”

Smart people use this phrase to show they’ve been listening, but they’ve got another point to make.

The cool thing about this line is that it’s polite but powerful. You’re basically saying, “I hear you, but let’s add some more info to the mix.”

For example, if someone says, “I think all video games are a waste of time,” you could reply, “I see where you’re coming from, but studies have shown that some video games can improve cognitive skills.” See what you did there? You acknowledged their view but gently nudged them to consider a different perspective.

This phrase is great because it helps you steer conversations without burning bridges. It’s like saying, “Let’s agree to consider more than one side of the story.”

7. “It’s not a failure; it’s a learning opportunity.”

Smart people often flip the script when it comes to setbacks.

The truth is, nobody likes to fail. But the really clever folks out there? They don’t see failure as the end of the world. Instead, they see it as a chance to learn something new, to grow, and to get better.

So, let’s say you flunk a test. Instead of thinking, “I’m a failure,” a smart person would say, “What can I learn from this to do better next time?” This mindset helps you bounce back faster and smarter.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had my share of “learning opportunities,” and each one has made me better in the long run.

So, if you hear this phrase or find yourself using it, know that you’re embracing a seriously smart way to live life.

8. “Let’s agree to disagree.”

This is a phrase that often gets thrown around, but when used correctly, it’s a hallmark of emotional intelligence.

Smart people know that not every argument has a clear winner or loser. Sometimes, the best you can do is acknowledge that both sides have valid points, but you’re not going to change each other’s minds.

For instance, if you’re arguing about whether pineapple belongs on pizza (a debate as old as time), and you realize you’re not getting anywhere, a smart person might say, “Let’s agree to disagree.” It’s a way to keep the peace and move on to other topics.

Using this phrase shows that you can be open-minded and tolerant, even when you’re passionate about your own viewpoint. It’s a diplomatic way to handle disagreements and keep relationships intact.

9. “I’ve changed my mind.”

Saying you’ve changed your mind can actually be a really smart move.

In a world that often sees changing one’s mind as flaky or indecisive, smart people know that it’s a strength. It means you’re open to new information, that you’re not stubbornly sticking to your guns when there’s evidence you should think differently.

Have you ever stuck with a bad decision just because you didn’t want to look weak? We’ve all been there. But here’s the thing: Admitting you were wrong and pivoting? That takes guts. It’s raw, it’s honest, and it’s smart.

I’ve had moments where I’ve had to swallow my pride and say, “You know what? I’ve changed my mind.” And let me tell you, the freedom that comes with that honesty is refreshing.

So the next time you change your mind, don’t see it as a setback. See it as a sign of growth and intelligence.

And if someone else admits to changing their mind, give them some respect. They’re displaying a rare and valuable trait.

10. “Can you help me understand…?”

The instinct might be to think that smart people have all the answers.

But the truth is, they know the value of asking questions—especially when they don’t understand something. They’re not afraid to show vulnerability, which actually makes them smarter in the long run.

Imagine you’re in a meeting, and someone’s presenting a new strategy filled with jargon and buzzwords.

Instead of nodding along and pretending to get it, a smart person would raise their hand and say, “Can you help me understand how this would work in a real-world scenario?”

This phrase does two things: It clears up any confusion for everyone, and it often leads to a deeper, more productive discussion. Plus, believe it or not, people respect you more when you ask smart questions.

So, if you ever find yourself scratching your head, don’t be shy. Ask for clarification. It’s one of the smartest things you can do.

11. “I value your opinion.”

Now, this might sound like basic good manners, but there’s a deeper layer of intelligence here.

Smart people understand the importance of diverse perspectives. They know that their own viewpoint is just one angle, and they’re keen to explore others.

Saying “I value your opinion” is a direct and sincere way to invite more ideas into the conversation.

I remember when I was working on a group project and we hit a roadblock.

One team member had an idea that I wasn’t sure about, but instead of dismissing it, I said, “I value your opinion.

Can you tell me more about how this would solve our problem?” And guess what? After hearing him out, we all realized his approach was brilliant.

So, using this phrase doesn’t just make you sound smart; it actually makes you smarter by opening you up to new insights. Plus, it earns you brownie points for being a thoughtful and inclusive person.

12. “What’s the evidence for that?”

When you hear someone ask, “What’s the evidence for that?” you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a critical thinker.

Smart people don’t just accept things at face value. They want facts, data, or at least some solid reasoning before they make up their minds.

Think of this phrase as the ultimate BS detector. It cuts through the fluff and gets right to the heart of the matter. Whether you’re discussing politics, science, or even the best way to make a lasagna, asking for evidence sets a high standard for the conversation.

I’ve used this one myself, and let me tell you, it instantly raises the quality of the discussion. Sure, it might ruffle some feathers, but that’s often a sign you’re onto something important.

So there you have it, 12 phrases that smart people often use. If you hear any of these—or better yet, start using them yourself—you’re in pretty smart company.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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