12 signs you’re actually a more intelligent person than you realize

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Sometimes in life, we become so focused on our shortcomings that we lose sight of what we’re actually good at. 

It’s easy to forget about the positive qualities we have developed over time and instead focus on everything we haven’t become.

But it’s time to take pride in who you are and what you’ve achieved in life.

While intelligence is different for everyone, there are a few traits we can all agree on that show you’re more intelligent than you think.

In fact, you could actually be smarter than you give yourself credit for – you just haven’t realized it yet.

To help you out, below are 12 signs that tell you’re more intelligent than you think you are. 

1. You’ve Unlearned Something

Some people go through life without changing their minds.

They might even make it a point of pride that they are decisive and committed to their beliefs.

But, as the author and psychologist Adam Grant writes in his book Think Again, this behavior might make someone not as intelligent as they may think.

In the book, Grant mentions the head of Blackberry, the wildly popular phone in the early 2000s.

It was a breakthrough technology at the time – until the iPhone showed up.

The creator of the Blackberry could have capitalized on the appearance of an aggressive competitor, but he chose to stick to what he knew – and that cost him.

iPhones revolutionized smartphones while the Blackberry quickly became obsolete.

When you’ve doubted yourself or realized that your old ways of thinking might not actually be applicable anymore, you’re learning more than those that refuse to change their minds on things.

You unlearned your wrong ideas and learned something better and new.

2. You’re Always Asking Questions

One may think someone who’s smart is someone who understands things instantly. But that might not always be the case.

It might be smarter – and safer – to ask clarification questions after your boss tells you to do something, rather than come back to them with something they did not ask for.

Asking questions shows you’re curious.

The greatest minds have always been that way, from Einstein to Hawking.

Ironically, it’s those that refuse to ask questions and increase risk that may be less intelligent than you might think.

“Thinking can be viewed as an endless process of asking questions and seeking answers to such questions.” – Isaac You, Question Intelligence: The Questions to Maximize Your Potential and Accelerate Your Innovation

3. You Can Understand Opposing Arguments

When two people are passionately fighting about the right way to go about something, they may close themselves off to finding some common middle ground.

Say there are two people fighting over whether it would be a good idea to introduce a child to video games.

One may think that it would only cause them to be more violent, while the other believes it’s going to make them more creative.

If you can understand where both sides are coming from, and come to a compromise, you might be smarter than you think.

In fact, this shows that you don’t simply believe every argument in come across.

Psychology professor Adam Grant in his book, Think Again, says it’s a sign of wisdom not to believe every thought you come across:

“It’s a sign of wisdom to avoid believing every thought that enters your mind. It’s a mark of emotional intelligence to avoid internalizing every feeling that enters your heart.”

4. Others Have Mentioned How Creative You Are

Being creative is about thinking about the box of conventional wisdom. It’s about doing things that others didn’t think about doing.

Though you feel like you’ve always done something a certain way just because that’s how you felt about it, other people might not have thought it as obvious.

You might have found a loophole in an argument you thought was glaring, or how unnecessary a few steps were in a standard operating protocol.

It might have gone completely over other people’s heads, but not you.

5. You Don’t Mind Being Alone

This doesn’t mean that smart people hate socializing, nor does it mean only the less intelligent go out. It’s that those that are more intelligent tend to want to spend more time alone.

It’s no surprise then that science says the more we socialize, the happier we tend to be.

That means for the majority of folk, deep connection, relationships, friendships, etc. bring joy and satisfaction.

But one study has suggested that for very intelligent people, this isn’t the case.

It analyzed survey responses from over 15 thousand people between the ages of 18 and 28.

Most people followed the expected pattern. The more they socialized the happier they were.

But when it came to the highly intelligent people amongst the group, the opposite seemed true. In fact, the more they socialized, the more unhappy they were.

One of the interesting theories suggested by researchers for why the smartest people may prefer to be alone is an evolutionary one.

As we’ve said, working in groups helps us to tackle challenges and solve problems. This is the reason for our success. The ability to come together to share skills and knowledge greatly aided our advancement on the planet.

But the smartest people in the group could have less of a reliance on others.

It’s thought that intelligence developed in humans as a way of dealing with unique challenges. So the more intelligent you are, the less you would rely on the group for support.

So if you’re a bit of an introvert and a loner, don’t worry. You might just be more intelligent

6. You’re Sensitive to Other People’s Emotions

Say someone at work messed up and it affected your own work.

Before lashing out, you notice their bloodshot eyes and overall deflated demeanor.

While others might not have picked up on this and let themselves get carried away with their anger, you might have held yourself back.

You quickly connected the dots in your head that this person might be dealing with personal struggles you don’t know about that’s affecting the quality of their work.

You realize you don’t want to add on to this person’s stress, so you instead keep it together and try to really understand them.

This sensitivity, as well as having an eye for detail, is something that most people don’t have.

It can be quite an advantage too. f you’re a perceptive person, you have a deep understanding of the people you are with.

You tend to spot liars easily. It’s not difficult for you to tell when people are putting on a facade and lying about their true selves.

You’re probably also good at reading body language, facial expressions, and verbal cues to interpret what others may be feeling and thinking. You are used to inferring a lot of information from minor and subtle clues.

7. You Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

I’m guessing that if you believe you’re not an intelligent person, then that means you’re also quite humble. 

There are many benefits to being humble, but one of them is accepting that you don’t know everything. You realize that you do have weaknesses, as well as strengths. 

You understand that no one has got it all figured out. There’s always space for growth and improvement.

Life has a way of making sure that you know that you have yet to perfect your craft because there’s always going to be a challenge every day.

Humble people have learned to accept their weaknesses — but they aren’t hindered by it.

Instead, what they do is work on strengthening them.

They aren’t ashamed of failing in front of others. They ask you for comments and criticisms on how to improve themselves.

With the help of all the feedback that they look for, they’re more likely to improve their performance much faster than those who shun any criticism or comments.

In fact, according to Shane Snow, bestselling author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success successful people tend to prefer negative feedback than positive feedback:

“The research showed that experts—people who were masters at a trade—vastly preferred negative feedback to positive. It spurred the most improvement. That was because criticism is generally more actionable than compliments.”

8. Your Desk is a Mess

A study found that participants who had messier desks tended to be more creative than those with tidier ones.

This could hold true for you because you might have had your best ideas while you’re scrambling through piles of paper at your desk, reaching for just anything to write your sudden insight on.

The study suggests that having a messy desk helps break conventional thinking:

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights…Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

Some of the greatest minds to have lived had messy desks and offices. After Einstein’s death, a photographer visited his office.

What he found were piles of paper and scribbles all over the place.

While this isn’t a direct indicator of intelligence (it could also mean one might just be lazy), it could definitely mean you aren’t like everyone else.

9. You Often Worry About Your Surroundings

When someone is intelligent, they tend to be more aware of their surroundings than most people.

Can you sense tension building up before anyone even says anything? Do you easily notice when people aren’t comfortable in the same room?

Maybe you’re also aware of which social situations drain you and which ones bring you endless energy. You are able to do this by fully being present in the moment and not letting yourself get distracted by unnecessary things.

Given the general aura of the room, you are able to get more context about how you can act more appropriately. You may also find yourself using this awareness to facilitate group discussions better or to avoid group conflict just as it is about to start.

10. You’re Aware Of Your Own Biases

Our personal experiences color our worldview. Whether we admit to them or not, we each have our own internalized biases.

Our minds have built subconscious preferences for ideas, objects, and even people.

If a stranger did something wrong, we’d be quick to label them as bad.

But if our closest friends did something equally wrong, we’re more likely to forgive them.

Our personal biases skew the perception of situations, stopping us from seeing situations clearly.

If you recognize this, then you’re probably smarter than most. 

This self-awareness makes way for fairer and more balanced judgments.

11. You Read Often

The wisdom and lessons you get from classic works of literature are irreplaceable.

While others spend more time scrolling through social media and consuming shallow content, you find you’d rather immerse yourself in a good book.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett mentioned that reading has been one of his most important habits; he spends 5-6 hours every day simply reading and learning.

“Read 500 pages like this every day,” Buffett said to a group of students, while pointing toward a stack of manuals and papers. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

It’s what’s helped him become one of the most successful investors out there.

So if you’ve often got a book in hand, learning new things, then you might be much smarter than you think.

12. You Can Remember Small Details

You might agree that you’d make for a good eye witness if ever a crime occured.

That’s because you find you can remember tiny details of events, from the color of the clouds to the clothes people were wearing.

You can remember small scenes from movies you saw 10 years ago with great fidelity.

Other people might have even complimented you on your memory.

You might have surprised someone with a gift about something they remember mentioning only ever in passing.

They might not have even thought someone would remember what they said – but you did.

A study suggested that having good working memory could be associated with one’s intelligence.

Staying a Student

Being intelligent is more of a lifestyle than a static state to be in.

What you know today could be wrong tomorrow.

Since the world is unpredictable and new discoveries are being made every day, it’s important to keep updating what you know.

Those that choose to stick to old ideas that no longer apply to the current world might only be holding themselves back.

If you’re able to adapt to new ideas, and understand different concepts from different people, you’re already putting yourself ahead of others.

The smartest thing you can always do is learn something new.

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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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