We’ve all had those kinds of conversations that are boring as sin.
They are shallow, repetitive, devoid of meaning and ultimately disappointing and frustrating.
I’ve had conversations that felt like I was watching paint dry.
But there are people out there who are engaging, fascinating and passionate: here are the top ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation.
1) They use critical thinking
The first of the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is to look for somebody who uses critical thinking.
Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to challenge beliefs, assumptions and perspectives.
It’s going beyond “correct” and “incorrect” and instead looking at issues and ideas in new ways.
It’s seeing an experience from somebody else’s point of view, or considering how outer forces may have conditioned you to be a certain way or to hold certain views.
Critical thinking is a definite mark of a deep thinker.
2) They express original views
Next up in the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is that they express original views.
To be fair, we all repeat what we’ve heard from time to time or paraphrase somebody else’s arguments, ideas and views.
But at the very least, a deep thinker will have their own spin on these ideas or be able to explain why they specifically find these ideas meaningful.
For example, instead of just discussing the potential ethical dangers of artificial intelligence, they will explain that it’s also an important subject for them because it could eliminate their profession in the future.
3) They abhor small talk
Next up in the best ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is that they don’t like small talk.
In a group of people at a club or restaurant, they’re the ones not chiming in with meaningless platitudes and long commentary on the weather or a new reality show.
They don’t care.
In fact, apart from social niceties and the basic pleasantries of meeting up with people, deep thinkers find too much small talk positively dreadful.
3) They have a sense of humor
Not everybody is a brilliant comedian, but deep thinkers like to tell jokes and have them told.
The straight fact is that funnier people have higher IQs.
Deep thinkers have their serious side, but they also tend to be full of wit and laughter.
If you see people who are dull and never tell jokes I’m sorry to tell you but they’re unlikely to be very deep thinkers, or if so then they are deep thinkers who might well be in a deep depression.
4) They aren’t arrogant
Deep thinkers are interested in talking about profound subjects and almost anything meaningful.
They want to know more and share ideas, not just impose their own narrative.
For this reason, they are not arrogant.
Even if they are sure they are right and are highly confident, deep thinkers don’t think they are superior to others.
That’s because their ability to think critically means they know there is still plenty they don’t know and plenty to learn.
5) They admit mistakes
Next up in the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is that they admit mistakes.
Deep thinkers aren’t in it for their ego.
Being wrong is no shame to them.
Being wrong is often the great start to finding out things you didn’t know or rethinking a subject in a completely new way.
Deep thinkers admit their mistakes or corrections to wrong information they provide because the truth of what’s being discussed in a conversation is far more important to them than their own ego.
6) They ask questions
Next up in the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is to look for folks who ask questions.
Those who just smile and nod tend to be either trying to get out of a conversation or have nothing to contribute in the first place.
Deep thinkers who want to engage will ask questions.
Even if they ultimately find the discussion stupid, they will have questions about what people are saying and why, to find out if they want to get deeper into the conversation.
The truth is that questions are the only way for the conversation to be interesting and profound, rather than just a bunch of generalities.
7) They don’t jump to conclusions
Next up in the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is that they don’t jump to conclusions.
Conversations can start in a very promising way but then end when one of those involved jumps to a conclusion.
“Listen, monarchy is just a bad idea. It’s ridiculous. Everybody knows that.”
First of all, this statement is full of emotional, absolute claims. Then it appeals to authority and claims “everybody” understands monarchy is “bad.” This means if you don’t agree you are, by insinuation, bad.
Jumping to a conclusion like this ruins a conversation that could be deep and nuanced.
Deep thinkers don’t do this.
Even a deep thinker who hates monarchy, for example, would be more likely to be interested where this idea of a king or queen arose from, and why there is such support and opposition to the idea in modern times and ancient.
8) They want to learn
Another of the effective ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is to watch out for people who actually want to learn.
This goes back to asking questions and asking for elaboration.
Deep thinkers actually want to know, they’re not just going through the motions.
If they don’t know much about an era of history and you do, they’re going to ask.
This is an important point:
A deep thinker isn’t always somebody who knows more than other people. Rather, it’s somebody who wants to know more than other people and who has above-average curiosity and desire to engage in critical thought.
9) They’re OK with disagreeing!
Last up in the ways to spot a deep thinker in any conversation is to look for people who can agree to disagree.
Deep thinkers practice critical thinking, as I said, which means that they can also think critically about their reaction to disagreement.
If a conversation leads to any kind of deep disagreement that isn’t going to be bridged, the deep thinker is OK with that.
He or she may have preferred a more harmonious outcome, but sometimes disagreements really do exist and don’t always have to be resolved.
The sign of an adult and a deep thinker is the willingness, at times, to agree to disagree.
Going off the deep end
Not every conversation needs to be a deep Platonic dialog.
There is clearly a time and place for just joking around, talking about the weather and remarking on a great beach you went to or a funny TV show you saw.
But sooner or later, deep thinkers are going to seek out other deep thinkers: it’s a law as old as time.
And when deep thinkers meet, great conversations ensue!