7 signs you have more intellect than the average person, according to psychology

If you’re reading this, you, like me, probably aspire to be a better, smarter person. But what does having high intellect actually mean? Although there isn’t a formally defined term I propose that it is a mixture of:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Navigating the complexities of human life and emotions,
  • Resilience and Optimism: To keep going even when life is tough
  • Growth Mindset: Seeing failures as an essential part of our learning and success 
  • Autonomy: Realising and believing in our ability to self-determine our lives
  • Connection: Understanding that connection to others is key to our happiness

So read on to see what people who have above-average intellect tend to say and do, according to psychology.

1) You’re curious and open to new ideas

Have you ever felt challenged by a friend or colleague who had a different opinion to you? Sometimes my first instinct might be to get defensive or defend my point of view. 

But since I already know what I think, instead of making assumptions about others, it makes more sense to get curious and rather than seeing this as some kind of attack, see it as an opportunity to learn something and open my worldview.

A person with higher than average intellect knows that no matter how intelligent they are, they don’t know everything.

They also realize that in order to have a growth mindset (a concept that originally comes from the work of psychologist Carol Dweck), they have to be open to continuous learning.

Curiosity is one of the important traits that are a part of ‘Openness to Experience’, as discovered by McCrae and Costa’s work on the Big Five personality model.

2) You seek feedback and others’ thoughts

This sign is similar except that it’s more likely to come as a result of you wanting feedback on your opinions or work. Again, it shows humility, curiosity, and high emotional intelligence – recognizing that others have valuable insights to give you.

And, if you’ve read much of my work, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of the psychologist Carl Rogers. And he was a big advocate for active listening and empathy, which is what we need to really hear the feedback others have to give.

Why do I love Carl Rogers so much? 

Because his work was instrumental in the therapeutic method known as person-centered counseling, where, (unlike older Freudian schools of psychoanalysis,) the patient and therapist work together in a much more interactive way, and seek to find ways forward rather than only analyzing the past.

(And because Carl Rogers and Eugene Gendlin devised the somatic practice of Focusing – an easy but profound way to connect with your body’s wisdom and emotional experience)

Carl Rogers’ showed that active listening and empathy can be vital in changing your personality.

So if you have above-average intellect, start asking ‘What are your thoughts on this?’ and then listen carefully and attentively to what the other has to say.

I’d love to know YOUR thoughts on this, so please feel invited to comment below!

3) You express gratitude

Imagine you hear “I appreciate your effort/time” from someone you’ve been helping. Feels good right?

No one likes a user or a taker. So when someone has really helped you, it’s great to acknowledge it. I know that I feel really valued if someone says this simple sentence to me.

From a psychological perspective, this comes from the work of psychologist Martin Seligman who is a key contributor to the field of positive psychology. This links back to the traits I mentioned at the start of reliance and optimism.

Martin Seligman found that when people are grateful their wellbeing increases significantly.

How great is that? 

Not only will people perceive you as having high intellect (and being nice!), you will also feel happier and healthier, and build stronger connections with others! Win-win-win!

4) You take responsibility for your actions

Remember how at the start of the article I discussed the idea of autonomy and feeling that you are in control of your life?

Well, it starts with realizing “I’m responsible for…” 

Taking on responsibility for things and letting others know that. This comes from the work of Julian Rotter and his concept of ‘locus of control’.

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s not my fault” or “I had no choice”? While it’s true that we can’t control everything in life, taking responsibility for our actions and decisions is a key trait of people with high intellect.

People with an internal locus of control believe that their actions and decisions largely determine their life. They tend to own their successes and failures, and they pursue their goals with self-belief.

Those without this quality may feel less motivated to go after what they want, believing that their efforts have little impact.

So, which one do you think leads to better outcomes?

You guessed it – taking responsibility and having an ‘internal locus of control’ is connected to better results in school, better mental and physical health, more job satisfaction, and improved stress control.

5) You seek out collaboration and connection

Have you ever had a co-worker who just wanted to solve things all on their own, or insisted that their way was the best or only way?

Frustrating, right?

Now imagine there’s a problem to solve and one of you says, “Let’s find a solution together”. Suddenly the problem doesn’t seem so big. 

And it gets better! Why? Because you’ve also built a bridge of connection with another person. 

And connection to others is one of the key components of self-respect and believing you are a happy, high intellect person.

This idea is inspired by the work of Morton Deutsch’s theory of cooperation and competition.

6) You welcome challenges with enthusiasm

It can be scary to do something new.

I bet you can think of a time when you were asked to step outside your comfort zone!

Maybe, like me, you feared being inadequate or started thinking of all the things that could go wrong. But there is another way, and saying “I’m excited about the challenge” sums it up.

It comes back to Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck’s research on growth mindsets, particularly, embracing challenges with openness and enthusiasm.

Even if you feel nervous or unsure, saying this sentence aloud can help convince yourself (as well as those around you) that you really can do this, knowing that you are going to learn and grow along the way!

7) You apologize and learn from your mistakes

It can be hard to admit that we’ve done something wrong. Apologizing can seem like an admission of being ‘less than’ or not good enough.

But the reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth. When we acknowledge our mistakes and take responsibility for our actions, we’re showing a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) and personal growth.

This idea is backed up by the work of psychologist Harriet Lerner, who’s written tons about the power of apologies in her book “Why Won’t You Apologize?”

Lerner explains that a genuine apology is a sign of strength, not weakness. She tells us how it is essential for healthy relationships and personal integrity.

So when we say “I’m sorry”, we’re showing that we value the other person’s feelings and are willing to take steps to repair the relationship. As Lerner says, apologizing can help to heal hurts and betrayals, and this is a quality I consider to be really important in a person with high intellect.

And guess what? This links to the quality “Connection” that I mentioned at the start of the article – understanding that our connections with others are crucial for our happiness. This is a concept that is central to the psychological tool and practice of existential well-being.

So the next time you need to apologize, remember that it’s not a sign of weakness. 

Saying ‘I’m sorry’, is a great way to show your emotional intelligence, commitment to personal growth, and your understanding of the importance of strong, healthy relationships. 

And the chances are that people will like you more for it.

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

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