14 things you don’t realize you do that indicate a high level of intelligence

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We often think of intelligence as having a high IQ. But that’s only one small aspect of how clever we really are.

The truth is that there is a wide range of ways to be smart, and all bring different positive qualities along with them.

Chances are, there are things that you do without even thinking about it that indicate a high level of intelligence.

So let’s explore the behaviors that go unnoticed and why they’re actually a sign of being smart.

Here are 14 things you don’t realize you do that show intelligence.

1) Daydream

You may have been chastised for this one as a kid. Perhaps your teacher accused you of having your head in the clouds.

But it turns out a little bit of daydreaming is a good sign. So say researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Because they found there’s a positive link between a tendency to daydream and how well your brain works.

Co-author Eric Schumacher says it turns an old stereotype on its head.

“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad. You try to pay attention and you can’t. Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains.”

2) Enjoy alone time

Being able to appreciate some solitude is often a good sign of healthy self-esteem.

It means you like yourself enough to be alone with your thoughts and appreciate your own company.

But beyond that, it may be a sign of intelligence too.

It’s been argued that the smartest people not only prefer alone time but thrive from it.

3) Joke around

We’re drawn to funny people.

It’s why many of us rate a good sense of humor as the number one thing we look for in a partner.

But it’s probably not just the light relief that we find alluring.

Because according to multiple studies, there is a link between being funny and having above-average intelligence.

The bottom line is that being able to crack people up takes mental prowess.

Being witty shows plenty of verbal intelligence and cognitive ability.

4) Talk to yourself

I’m so glad this one is on the list. It makes me feel slightly less cuckoo about the fact I chat to myself all day long.

Seriously, it’s like my life is set to a running commentary. I can’t seem to help myself. But luckily, it’s not necessarily a sign I’m losing it.

Researchers at the University of Bangor found that talking out loud to yourself may well be a sign of higher intelligence.

But why?

Co-author of the study, Dr. Paloma Mari-Beffa suspects, “the benefits of talking to yourself may come from simply hearing oneself, as auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behavior than written ones”.

When we talk ourselves through things out loud, it turns out our performance improves.

5) Worry

With intelligence usually comes depths.

An intelligent mind is a complex one, and that can bring some less-than-desirable side effects.

Worrying doesn’t feel good, but to the brain, it can have a purpose.

When you are conscientious it’s natural to try to second-guess.

It’s your brain’s way of trying to anticipate, prepare, and problem-solve.

Whilst being happy-go-lucky sounds ideal, anxiety has been linked to greater intelligence.

6) Roll with the punches

It’s easy to look up to the people who are never fazed.

For sure, it’s admirable.

But none of us are immune to life, and some struggle is an unavoidable part of it.

Rather than measure ourselves on some steely ability to remain constantly calm and unaffected, it’s perhaps better to judge ourselves on an ability to bounce back.

If life knocks you down, and you get back up again, it says a lot.

This means you are resilient and adaptable, both of which are signs of intelligence.

7) Concentrate

As a natural introvert this isn’t something I always find easy.

My nervous system is sensitive to every little sight, sound, and stimulus around me. So I need to really block it out to knuckle down on a task.

If you can tune out distractions and focus for long stretches of time, congrats. It’s a sign of your brain power.

According to a 2013 study, your ability to do so is linked to having a higher IQ.

That’s because better focus ultimately helps your brain to process more of the information it’s taking in.

8) Avoid temptation

Impulsiveness can land us in hot water.

It also tempts us off track and leads us to indulge in behaviors we know aren’t in our best interests.

If you can show restraint, it’s not just willpower at play, it’s intelligence.

This link between self-restraint and intelligence was highlighted in an experiment to test whether people were able to delay gratification for a bigger reward.

Those that could generally scored better on intelligence tests.

9) Care about people

I started this article highlighting how intelligence isn’t so clear-cut and appears in many forms.

But when we speak about clever people, we so often mean “book-smart”.

We think of those people who are great at solving puzzles, are good at math, and read Tolstoy for fun.

Yet emotional intelligence is just as much of a valuable gift.

Empathy, compassion, and self-awareness are all strong signs of this.

If you care deeply about others and can understand your fellow man, don’t ever underestimate that.

It’s not only a sign of kindness, it’s an evolutionary skill that highlights intelligence.

10) Procrastinate

Despite appearing tenth on the list, I’m writing this point last. Perhaps that’s rather fitting.

I, like many people I suspect, have always struggled with procrastination.

At first, I thought it meant I was just lazy. Then the more I learned about it, the more I suspected it was down to my perfectionist tendencies.

Whilst it’s not something I relish, it may not be quite as bad as I feared.

It turns out procrastination is something that’s often shared amongst intelligent people.

There is a caveat though, that only goes for those unchallenging or mundane tasks like unloading the dishwasher or filing your taxes.

It turns out clever people simply have better things to think about, which is why they put it off.

11) Curse

Swearing isn’t something you would automatically associate with high intelligence.

It’s not only seen as pretty rude in polite society, we often assume that people with limited vocab resort to this form of expression.

But we’re wrong.

Being potty-mouthed may not impress your mom but it may be a sign of how smart you are.

A friend of mine posted on social media the other day about how her 4-year-old told the cashier in the supermarket to f**k off.

She was mortified, but perhaps her kid is just a genius. 

Rather than being a sign of poor vocabulary, a study found using taboo words is a sign of higher verbal fluency, which is an all-important factor in intelligence.

12) Doubt yourself

Unbreakable confidence may be something we all want, but it’s not necessarily a sign you’re smarter than the rest.

In fact, it can be quite the opposite.

There is certainly a lot to be said for humility. The more we feel we have to learn, the more open we stay to progressing.

That’s probably why the people who recognize just how much they don’t know tend to be more intelligent.

One famous study notes that people who overestimate their abilities and skills tend to be less knowledgeable.

So if you’re the type of person who leaves an exam feeling like you’ve done badly it could be a far better sign than you think.

13) Doodle

It happens so mindlessly that we don’t really give it any thought.

And if we did, we may label it as burning off excess nervous energy or perhaps a sign of lapsed concentration.

But it turns out the humble doodle might be grander than we give it credit.

I’ve often seen it as a sign of a creative person. It turns out, I’m not far off.

Because research says these little scribbles light up the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

That’s the part involved in problem-solving, reasoning, using logic, and remembering things.

So there’s more going on behind the scenes than we realize.

14) Read the room

Picking up on people’s energy and fitting in with that is a real skill. And it’s one that shows plenty of social intelligence.

Yet chances are you do it involuntarily.

When you mix with others you are constantly reading countless subconscious cues they give off:

  • Body language
  • Micro facial expressions
  • Tone and pace of voice

Your brain quickly puts this together to form an overall picture of other people and their mood.

You then mirror this to make sure you behave appropriately and act in keeping with the rest of the group.

Now think about the people who aren’t so good at this.

They are the ones who often put their foot in their mouths or seem to make a fool of themselves.

That’s because they remain oblivious to the vibe around them.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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