People who are highly intelligent often display these 10 behaviors (without realizing it)

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Highly intelligent people may appear ordinary (at least, at first).

But then they’d display behaviors that give away how they’re different from the rest of us.

Wondering if someone you know is truly intelligent even if they don’t broadcast their IQ level?

Here are 10 of these behaviors highly intelligent show without realizing it.

1) They slap disclaimers on themselves

Intelligent people are very cautious about things they’re not sure about. 

Ask them about something and they’ll probably drop a disclaimer like “I’m fairly confident, but I can still be wrong” or “I only know the basics, ok?” before they start speaking.

That’s not to say that smart people can’t be confidently incorrect—just like the rest of us, many of them start out speaking boldly about things they aren’t even that informed about.

What sets highly intelligent people apart is that they quickly learn why this isn’t a good thing. They’ll then quickly admit that it’s possible for them to be wrong.

Conversely, you can tell that someone is not quite the sharpest tool in the shed if they double down on being confidently incorrect.

2) They try to point at people who know better

Another thing that intelligent people do is to point to a better source and give credit where it’s due instead of taking all the credit.

That is to say, they’re the kind of people who will always cite their sources instead of just going “trust me, I know.”

Highly intelligent people trust that people aren’t so stupid they will just take their word at face value, or that they can get away with taking credit for someone else’s ideas.

This all sounds like serious business, and it can be!

But they do this even with silly stuff like memes and jokes. If they repeat a joke that made them laugh, they’ll happily tell who they got it from in the first place.

3) They use analogies to make themselves understood

Analogies make things easier and more fun to explain.

And one way you can tell that someone is highly intelligent is to pay attention to how they use them.

A highly intelligent person will pay attention to the people they’re talking to and try to understand what they might find relatable.

This way, they know how to make analogies that their audience can understand.

For example, when they’re trying to explain the importance of carnivores in ecosystems to someone who has only done electrical engineering, they might say something like “Carnivores are like resistors. Without them, herbivores would go out of control and destroy everything.”

Their analogies don’t have to be perfect. What matters is that they get the idea across in a way that their audience can relate to.

4) They’re reclusive

Highly intelligent people are hyper-aware of how much they don’t know. That’s probably one of the reasons many of them struggle with low self-esteem.

But they’re also aware of how much they know.

They often learn about things that other people don’t think about. And they know that people will likely dismiss them or even get mad at them if they tried talking about it.

This makes them feel different and misunderstood.

So they withdraw and stay quiet because nobody else can “get” them.

5) They prefer to avoid wasting their time

Really smart people hate to spend their time doing things they don’t want to be doing.

This goes not just for projects and work and homework, but in day-to-day life, too.

Where most people would happily go along when someone invites them to go swimming in the beach, they would instead say no and just do what they want to do.

People might think that they must be available because they have spare time.

But that’s usually not the case, and they’d appreciate it if people stopped making that assumption. 

They could just be sitting under a tree but they’re thinking—and thinking, at least to a highly intelligent person, is work.

6) They avoid worshiping people they don’t know

You see it all the time—people idolizing other people simply because they starred in some big movie, sang a song everyone loved, or is so rich they could throw 40 billion dollars down the trash and they won’t even feel it.

Highly intelligent people find this all foolish. 

Why worship and idolize someone you don’t even know?

Someone can be known for always playing sweet characters on screen, but be a massive a*hole in person.

Or maybe someone might be known for being a nice rich guy who likes donating to charities, while at the same time hiding the fact that they’re an abusive boss and a predator.

There’s a saying that goes “do not meet your heroes”, and smart people understand why. 

It’s for that reason why they choose not to have heroes at all.

7) They avoid making generalizations

It’s part of human nature to base your impressions based on your first interaction with them.

For example, if the first artist you met in person was someone stuck-up about always following the “right” way to do art, then you’ll likely have the idea that “artists are naturally stuck up.”

Highly intelligent people know better than to fall for this!

They acknowledge that people are simply people and that every single person is different.

So they avoid saying things like “All homeless people are lazy” or “Asians are workaholics.”

They instead try to know people on an individual level instead of making assumptions and judgments before they even utter a single word.

8) They try to be considerate to others

Being intelligent does not always come with being emotionally sensitive or sociable, but highly intelligent people nonetheless are often quite considerate.

Their intelligence and tendency to think a lot leads to them coming to the (admittedly simple) conclusion that other people are just like them—they have loved ones, dreams, aspirations, strengths, and flaws.

They are, of course, knowledgeable about humanity, culture, and the ills of society.

A lot of people are dimly aware of this, but haven’t actually done enough deep thinking for it to really sink in.

Intelligent people have, and this knowledge compels even the most unsociable among them to be mindful and compassionate.

9) They argue well

Intelligent people don’t always avoid arguments, even though there is a common trope about them thinking that they’re “above” it for some reason.

Where smart people differ from the rest of us is that they avoid getting into personal attacks whenever possible.

When they argue, they focus on the argument, and not the person. 

They don’t say things like “You just think this way because you didn’t finish college!” because they simply don’t see the point in throwing personal attacks. It doesn’t lead to more knowledge.

Most people see arguments as a way to put the other person down, while highly intelligent people see them as a way to see whose ideas hold the most water.

Many of them don’t even notice that they approach arguments with a very different goal from most.

10) They’re often exhausted

Highly intelligent people often end up getting called things like “lazy” and “uninspired” because they don’t like being out and about as much as everyone else.

Instead they think, they worry, they mull about the things they’ve seen and heard—all of this tires them out.

All of this happens unseen and unappreciated by others because humans, unfortunately, are not mind readers.

This is also the reason why they prefer to relax a lot. When they’re not thinking, they’re recovering from mental exhaustion.

They do not necessarily realize that others don’t think as much or as deeply as they do, and actually end up wondering how everyone else could be so energetic.

Last words

Do you notice these traits in someone?

Then, even if they’re not achievers, they’re probably highly intelligent.

And the ones wearing academic medals who display the opposite behaviors are probably not as intelligent as you think.

Intelligence isn’t synonymous to success or wit or talent, after all. It’s the ability to grasp, discuss, and process truths. 

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

10 things to stop worrying about in life (because they’re out of your control)

If you display these 10 behaviors, you’re starting to master emotional intelligence