What makes someone smart?
The answer isn’t that simple.
Intellect comes down to far more than your IQ. It’s a combination of qualities and skills that make us truly bright.
Rather than recite mathematical equations or quotes from Tolstoy, the phrases that reflect real intellect are more humble than you might imagine.
In fact, if you commonly use these 15 phrases, you’re more intelligent than you realize.
1) “Tell me more”
Sure, some of our intelligence is down to genetics.
But experts think around 50% of it though is down to environmental factors. Meaning we’re not just born smart, we become smart.
And the only way that happens is by learning.
What’s the best way to learn something?
This phrase shows an interest in discovering more.
And that signals you are willing and open to gaining greater knowledge, which is fundamental to growth.
2) “I find that fascinating”
Smart people get excited by the world around them.
Rather than have a lukewarm response to the wonders all around them, they get enthusiastic.
This phrase is a sign of that curiosity and passion inside.
Albert Einstein once said that: “Curiosity is more important than knowledge.”
Because it is this fascination that motivates us on to make great discoveries and uncover new creativity.
3) “I’d like to hear your side of things”
Closed-minded people aren’t really interested in the thoughts and perspectives of others.
They have already made up their mind.
They also usually assume they are right. So they don’t see the point in seeking anyone else’s take on things.
But people who feel like they have nothing to learn are usually the most ignorant among us.
Those on the other hand who always believe that others have things to teach them continue to expand their minds and their intellect.
4) “I’d be grateful if you would offer me some feedback”
The only way to improve is to hone in on our weaknesses.
The tricky part is that is usually an uncomfortable process for most of us.
One of my favorite memes says:
“Oh sorry, when I said “I’m open to feedback” I meant you could give me a compliment…”
It’s funny because it highlights just how much inner strength it takes in order to ask to be critiqued.
Otherwise, we find it too threatening to our self-esteem to be confronted with areas where we could have done better.
But intelligent people also realize that is how you learn.
Perfectionism has no place if we want to grow.
5) “It’s a great start, but I think we can improve on it”
Whilst perfectionism is never good, high standards are.
This phrase shows that you won’t just accept any old slapdash attempt.
Not only does it take a level of awareness to notice where things can be done better, it points to a desire to strive for more.
Intelligent people can recognize what they’re doing right but still see room for improvement.
Not because they are hard on themselves, but because they believe in themselves.
6) “I don’t understand”
Admitting that you don’t get something is the sign of good character. After all, what’s the alternative?
Fake it and pretend, just to protect your ego?
But it’s also a sign of intellect because being honest with ourselves and others is how we learn.
Fessing up when you don’t understand gives an opportunity for clarity.
Rather than go away scratching your head and wondering what that was all about, you make sure you go away learning something instead.
7) “I don’t know the answer”
Much like the phrase above, conceding limits to your intellect doesn’t make you look dumb.
It makes you look humble, honest, and realistic — all of which only strengthen your intellectual credibility.
Maybe you’ve heard it said:
“It’s only easy when you know the answer”.
Well, it’s true.
Even the smartest person on the planet doesn’t know everything.
8) “What are your thoughts?”
I’ll admit that all too often in conversations I seem to like the sound of my own voice a bit too much.
As a natural-born communicator, I know that I speak on occasions when I would be much better off listening.
When discussing ideas or opinions I like it when I sound knowledgeable, or say something that I think sounds insightful. Yet that’s just my ego in play.
But the smartest people want to hear what others think.
They’re busy taking information rather than constantly dishing it out.
It’s not that they don’t share their expertise or points of view, it’s just that they don’t feel the need to ram that down other people’s throats.
Which leads me nicely to our next phrase on the list…
9) “I’m not sure if I agree, but I respect your opinion”
Agreeing to disagree is sometimes more of a sign of intellect than arguing until you are blue in the face.
Too many of us get deeply attached to our opinions.
We feel like they are part of us, and cannot always separate who we are from what we think about a topic.
But the truth is that opinions not only change, but they are also highly dependent on our own limited experiences.
So we’re not always going to change other people’s minds, nor do we necessarily need to.
Intelligent people are able to express themselves without feeling the need to impose themselves on others.
They can debate in a healthy way that still shows fundamental respect.
10) “I’m going to think about it”
Taking the time to think things over rather than jumping to choices is a biggie.
It shows a considered response rather than a rash one.
It may be a decision that you feel needs deeper thought. And that shows a level of responsibility.
It could be that you need to give a situation greater deliberation before making a judgment either way.
When you use this phrase in response to some sort of request being made of you, it’s also a good sign of having healthy boundaries.
You are prepared to create space to consider your own needs.
You know what they say, only fools rush in!
11) “I’m sorry that happened, that must have been really tough for you”
Here’s what way too many people forget:
Emotional intelligence is still a sign of intelligence.
How we respond to others is a skill that highlights our EQ.
Your IQ may make you a brain box, but having a high EQ will take you just as far in life.
Phrases like this one show sympathy and empathy.
They help us to connect with others so that they can feel seen, heard, and understood.
Never underestimate the power of acknowledging other people’s feelings.
12) “I really appreciate…”
Whether it’s a quality in someone or some effort that they’ve made for you. Perhaps it’s one of your blessings or bits of good fortune.
Regardless of what it is that you appreciate, the most significant point is that you feel gratitude and you express it.
Gratitude is more than just an emotion. It may even reflect your intelligence levels.
That’s because it has been linked to neural activity in the brain that’s associated with moral cognition, perspective-taking, and fairness.
Feeling appreciative is another sign of (and a way we strengthen) our emotional intelligence.
13) “That’s not really my area of expertise”
We’ve already established that smart people aren’t know-it-alls.
The most intelligent people are aware of their strengths and their weaknesses.
Significantly, they also understand there is no shame in admitting what isn’t one of their strong points.
Rather than pretend or try to fudge it, you’re happy to recommend that someone seek advice elsewhere.
This self-awareness and self-esteem probably also means you’re not afraid to go in search of support when you’re in need of some assistance too.
14) “I could do with some help”
A fool struggles on their own. A wise person asks for help.
You can still be independent and self-sufficient AND lean on others.
Some of the best leaders in the world delegate and outsource as much as possible.
Because it frees them up to do what they do best.
Do you think it’s better to stick to what you enjoy and what you are good at, and let someone else take care of the rest?
That’s a clever choice.
15) I’m sorry that was totally my fault
Smarter people are pro-social.
Meaning they know how to co-operate in groups. That makes them more likable in the process.
They’re less likely to rub people up the wrong way because they have stronger communication skills and greater social awareness.
Being able to hold your hands up and accept blame is a great social skill that highlights social intelligence.
…and for obvious reasons.
We quickly grow tired of people who always try to shirk responsibility.