Intelligence isn’t only about being able to get your point across.
In fact, plenty of clever people don’t have a way with words.
Their brain can get jumbled, conveying complex thoughts doesn’t come naturally, and they’re prone to miscommunication.
Instead of dwelling on these shortcomings, they make the most of their other abilities.
Here are 11 signs that someone is highly intelligent, even if they’re not articulate.
It’s time to stop judging people solely based on how they express themselves.
1) They have problem-solving skills
Intelligent people tend to be good at analyzing problems and identifying patterns.
They can find effective solutions to challenging problems, even if they struggle to communicate their thought process clearly.
You can tell that someone is a great problem-solver if they:
- Can break down a complex issue into manageable chunks
- Don’t give up if they can’t see a solution right away
- Find alternative ways to deal with the issue that others couldn’t see before
Maybe you have a co-worker who gives poor presentations and doesn’t do small talk.
Yet, when it comes to handling an overwhelming project, they prioritize tasks based on urgency, and they delegate as needed.
This allows them to meet a seemingly impossible deadline.
Or, you have a friend who doesn’t seem too bright based on your verbal interactions alone but comes up with ingenious solutions to mundane issues.
You don’t have the right ingredients for that fancy recipe? They scour your fridge and pantry until they find suitable replacements.
You’re late for an event? They suggest ditching the taxi and hopping on the subway to save time.
You get the idea.
2) They understand emotions well
Perhaps you have a friend who always knows how the people around are feeling.
But when you ask them how they’ve figured it out, they can’t explain it coherently.
People can have high emotional intelligence even if they don’t seem articulate.
This type of intelligence plays a vital role in many areas of life, including relationships and overall well-being.
If a person can stay calm under pressure, empathize with others, and accept themselves just how they are, they are smarter than they appear based on their communication style alone.
3) They’re creative
Remember when I mentioned that highly intelligent people have a way of coming up with ingenious solutions to problems?
That’s also a sign of creativity.
Many people can be creative but not express themselves well verbally.
Perhaps they paint dazzling pieces of art. Yet, when asked to talk about what inspired them, they lose their train of thought.
This might mean they think abstractly and don’t know how to explain their process to someone else.
4) They’re proficient in one field
Some people may be highly intelligent in specific domains, even if they struggle to articulate their expertise.
Think mathematics, music, or technical skills.
Even so, having deep knowledge in a certain area – technical or otherwise – conveys smarts.
5) They don’t follow the crowd
Independent thinkers are highly intelligent, even if they’re not articulate.
They think critically and make decisions based on their own analysis instead of conforming to the opinions and beliefs of others.
They might not be able to adequately elaborate on why they go against the crowd, but they’ll have good reasons for it.
However, they’re easy to identify, especially after you spend a little time together.
They question information and challenge norms, which means they can lead a nonconformist lifestyle:
- They pursue “weird” hobbies just because they bring them joy
- They dress to feel good instead of following trends
- They have an unconventional living or romantic situation
- They are often labeled as “eccentric”
6) They have amazing intuition
Did anyone tell you that they made a dubious decision because their gut told them to, without any logical arguments?
Even more impressive: did they eventually pat themselves on the back for trusting their instinct?
Then that person has amazing intuition, which can be a sign of intelligence.
Just because they can’t explain the reason behind their choices doesn’t mean that said choices are pure chaos.
Intuitive people may subconsciously perceive things that others don’t, enabling them to forge their own path in life.
7) They have a strong sense of self
If someone doesn’t follow the crowd and trusts their intuition, they probably have a strong sense of self too.
Highly intelligent people are self-aware enough to recognize their strengths and limitations, even when they can’t communicate well.
They may bow out of a situation without explanation because they know it’s not right for them.
On the same note, they’re not afraid to take charge when they know they can handle the pressure, even when others question their abilities.
8) They’re interested in learning
Highly intelligent people keep an open mind.
Not only that, but they’re eager to learn new things.
They can engage in courses long after they’ve left school, read voraciously, and actively listen to people with different options.
In short, they are curious about the world, which may not be evident in their communication abilities.
9) They have a good sense of humor
Humor is a sign of high intelligence – and has been considered so throughout history.
People who aren’t particularly articulate probably don’t excel at puns, wordplay, humorous storytelling, or sarcasm.
But there are other types of humor they can become proficient in, like slapstick.
If you know someone who makes you laugh without telling jokes, there’s a good chance that person is highly intelligent.
10) They can see the bigger picture
Some people can objectively assess information and make connections without being able to translate this process into fluent speech.
This helps them see the bigger picture instead of getting lost in the details.
Let’s say you’re planning a group trip and being as thorough as possible.
You have your accommodation booked, a budget, and a list of attractions to visit.
But when you get there, the weather is awful.
You have to buy warmer clothes and skip some of the attractions you were excited about.
The entire group is bummed out, except for that one friend who immediately suggests you all hit a local watering hole, gorge on the local cuisine, and focus on having fun.
After all, isn’t being together what the trip is all about?
That person sees the bigger picture.
If they’re not articulate, they probably didn’t speak up during the planning process.
But now that things have fallen through, they’re happy to remind you of what really matters.
11) They’re adaptable
Intelligence frequently manifests in the ability to adapt to new situations.
This doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s communication style.
Take the example above: instead of sulking in a corner and complaining about the bad weather, the big-picture person accepted the situation and adapted to new circumstances.
You can assess someone’s adaptability by considering how they cope with significant lifestyle changes.
What do they do if they lose a job? Are forced to relocate? Need to find a new apartment?
Do they take proactive steps to navigate the new situation in a positive and productive way?
If so, they’re probably highly intelligent, even if you couldn’t have guessed so just by hearing them talk.
Elon Musk isn’t a terrific public speaker, to put it mildly.
Einstein and Musk? Undoubtedly brilliant.
Intelligence is a multifaceted concept.
Just because someone is a bad conversationalist or public speaker doesn’t mean they fall short on that front.