You’re probably smarter than you think you are, if you seldom assume you’re smart at all. Back in 2012, Jonah Lehrer wrote for The New Yorker that the traits that encompass what we consider to be “smartness” more often than not indicate a lack of intelligence.
Essentially, genuinely intelligent people (or, for the sake of example, the people who were able to get the questions correct in the article above) were not those who were most quick-witted, confident or certain. Smartness, it seems, is more about the ability to rationally think through a problem rather than assume you can arrive at the answer immediately (the latter is to just take a “mental shortcut.”)
So the less intelligent you assume yourself to be, the smarter you probably are. Here are a few other counterintuitive traits brainy people tend to have:
1. They’re never completely certain of what they think, or whether or not their ideas are valid. Uncertainty breeds possibility. It is because of uncertainty that smart people seek further proof, better answers, more ideas, and ultimately evolve themselves in the process. (They are also conscious of not knowing what they don’t know.)
2. They don’t correct people, they just offer different perspectives. Intelligent people do not assume that their answer is necessarily the “right” one, rather, they offer their ideas as an interesting option to consider.
3. They add to the conversation, not end it. What they say is not the “end all be all.” They are not threatened by the idea that someone else could have something of interest to offer… they want to hear, and maybe learn.
4. They usually take a moment before responding to a question. They aren’t quick to respond to anything because they are thinking about their answer, rather than just allowing their first thought to guide them through a reasonable response.
5. They do not engage with people who are trying to win, not communicate. They don’t argue with people who are being irrational because they’re aware that the point of irrationality is usually when someone cares more about being “right” than actually getting something from an interaction.
6. They don’t let their impulses override their instincts. They may be guided by passion, but they aren’t driven by it. They are able to disregard the desire for immediate gratification for the sake of a greater goal. They can differentiate between short-term wants and long-term desires and needs.
7. They don’t add to a conversation unless they have something meaningful to say. They usually don’t speak for the sake of it (especially publicly, i.e. on Facebook). They are masters of listening, and believe that when it comes to dialogue, well-informed and thought-through ideas are the only things that break through the noise when unchecked “opinions” become arguments.
8. They don’t let other people’s ideas create their way of life. They do not believe blindly. They reject dogma that doesn’t make rational sense, or at least resonate within them. They do not assume that the majority knows best.
9. They are masters of problem-solving, sometimes to a fault. They’re often the ones people go to most with their problems, and they can sometimes get so carried away by their love of “making things better” (finding new ideas, coming up with better solutions) that they lose their ability to simply enjoy the moment.
10. They are always open to being wrong. Their internal monologue always ends with: “or, maybe not.”
11. They are rarely aggressive. They do not “fight” with others. This is because they know that as soon as you start losing your cool, you’ve lost the argument (or the point you were trying to make). Simply, the other party involved will raise their defenses and minds are closed off rather than opened.
12. They pursue their interests without judgment. They like Justin Bieber and aren’t afraid of that fact. They do not think they have to maintain a self-concept of “wise and sophisticated” to be smart. They realize that the smartest thing of all is to know how to figure out what you love, and let yourself love it.