11 counterintuitive traits of genuinely smart people

Are you tired of feeling like you have to be the smartest person in the room to prove your worth? Do you find yourself surrounded by people who seem to know everything?

Well, let me tell you: true intelligence is not about proving a point or outsmarting others. In fact, genuinely smart people possess a set of counterintuitive traits that may surprise you. 

Forget what you thought you knew about intelligence and get ready to discover the unexpected habits of the truly smart. It’s time to explore 11 counterintuitive traits that define real intellect. Let’s get it! 

1) They’re comfortable with being wrong 

In my experience, truly intelligent individuals understand that being wrong is an opportunity for self-improvement. They don’t let their egos get in the way of progress. 

They recognize that making mistakes is a part of life and are fine with admitting their wrongs to themselves and others. This is a form of intellectual humility.

I remember being in a recent seminar where I made a statement that I was fairly confident in, only to realize later that I was completely wrong. In fact, embarrassingly wrong!

Instead of trying to save face or argue my point, I admitted my mistake and thanked the person who corrected me for helping me learn something new. 

2) They don’t conform easily 

You know what? Smart people don’t just accept things just because they were told to…

They aren’t content with accepting things at face value and tend to question established ideas and norms. 

Smart people require evidence and convincing proof before making judgments. And if they see something that doesn’t add up, then they have no issue voicing their opinion, even if it’s perceived as unpopular.   

3) They are curious 

Another hallmark of intelligence is curiosity. 

Smart people have an insatiable appetite for knowledge.  They seek to understand the underlying reasons and motivations behind things and aren’t completely satisfied until they have an understanding of a concept or idea. 

Curious people are able to think creatively and come up with new solutions to complex problems, which are essential traits for success in many fields.

4) They have emotional intelligence 

Fun fact: contrary to the stereotype of the cold and aloof genius, genuinely smart people are often deeply empathetic. 

They understand the importance of putting themselves in other people’s shoes and are able to build strong relationships based on mutual understanding and respect. 

As someone who values empathy and emotional intelligence, I once had to work with a team member who was dealing with a difficult personal issue. 

This person was usually a top performer, but his work had been slipping. I checked in with him privately and asked how I could support him. 

He confided in me that he was dealing with an unfortunate medical diagnosis of a close relative and was struggling to focus. I worked with him to adjust his workload and offered to help in any way I could. 

By prioritizing his feelings, we were able to ease his burden during a tough time while still maintaining our team’s productivity. The best of both worlds…

5) They never overlook self-care 

how to connect with someone spiritually 11 counterintuitive traits of genuinely smart people

From my observation, an intelligent person understands the importance of taking breaks and prioritizing self-care. They know that overwork and stress can be counterproductive!

So instead of perceiving it as slacking off or being lazy, they recognize that rest and relaxation are essential to being consistent. 

Being a longtime writer, I understand the importance of taking breaks. Instead of pushing myself to write for hours on end, I take frequent breaks to step away from work to give the mind a rest. 

During these breaks, I might go for a walk in the park, play with my dogs, catch up on a compelling Netflix series, or even take a nap.

By taking breaks, I’m able to return to my writing with fresh eyes and a clear mind, which helps me see flaws and refine ideas. 

This approach has improved the quality of my writing and helped me avoid burnout over the long term!

6) They are pretty comfortable with uncertainty 

Here’s the truth: smart people aren’t afraid of uncertainty. In fact, they often thrive in situations where there is no clear answer or outcome!

They understand that life is unpredictable and that there are many variables that are outside of their control. Their calm and collected demeanor reflects this. 

7) They are professional listeners  

Most smart people I’ve come across aren’t outspoken know-it-alls. In fact, they usually listen more than they speak. 

Bruce Lee was once quoted as saying “The most dangerous person in the world is the one who listens, thinks, and observes.” 

In other words, just because you’re the loudest, most talkative person in the room doesn’t make you the smartest. 

To reinforce Bruce’s point, let’s bring up another old adage: “Still waters run deep.” 

Smart people know that there’s always more to learn–and a lot of the time they can accomplish that by simply listening and getting to know people and their points of view.  

Speaking of which…

8) They like a wide range of perspectives

Since we’re on the topic, genuinely intelligent people understand that there is much to be gained from seeking out diverse perspectives.

They recognize that different people bring different experiences, knowledge, and insights to the table.

They aren’t closed off to new information or ways of thinking and are willing to adjust their beliefs and opinions when presented with evidence that contradicts them. 

Let’s say a beverage company is launching a new drink. An intelligent CEO will value perspectives from people of different backgrounds and experiences, not just internal feedback. 

They’ll consult with people from separate departments, external consultants, or advisors who have experience in other industries or markets. Maybe they’ll hand out free samples to passersby on the street and document their thoughts.

Remember, everyone from the president to the janitor to the homeless guy has something relevant to bring to the table!

9) They know how to grind 

No, not grind like on the dancefloor!

Wise people have a growth mindset, which means that they believe that their abilities can be significantly developed through hard work and dedication. 

As we’ve established, they aren’t content with the status quo, they look to continually grow. 

They know that the iconic geniuses, pioneers, and innovators of history didn’t get there by chance. They put in the work and took control. 

Smart people constantly have their eyes on the prize… and in their free time, they read, research, or attend courses that fine-tune their skills and knowledge. 

They know that the brain is like a muscle; the more they use it, the stronger it gets. 

10) They’re regularly funny 

things intelligent people do without even realizing 11 counterintuitive traits of genuinely smart people

You might find it surprising that many smart people are funny and quick-witted. And vice versa.

When you’re smart, you tend to have a pretty well-developed sense of humor as you have the capability to see the world just a little bit differently. 

I’m a big standup comedy fan. It’s my experience that the best, most effective comedians are the ones that not just make people laugh but make them think too. 

These comedians aren’t limited to corny toilet jokes. Instead, they excel at deconstructing socio-cultural norms as well as political and observational humor. 

They are essentially smart people taking in the world around them in their own unique and hilarious ways, and fans like myself are reaping the benefits.    

11) They are able to delay gratification 

When you make a bit of money, do you go on a shopping spree or save it? 

Smart people aren’t usually in it for a quick fix. In fact, they are able to delay gratification and resist the temptation of immediate rewards in order to achieve genuine success. 

They understand that success often requires time and are willing to wait to achieve a better outcome. Having self-discipline is essential for achieving long-term goals.

A rookie business owner might blow their first actual earnings on material things like clothes or a fancy trip abroad. 

The smart person, however, will invest that money back into the business to help it grow and expand. They know that most good things in life don’t come instantly and that having patience is vital to success. 

Final thoughts 

In conclusion, genuinely smart people have a rare set of counterintuitive traits that go beyond academic achievement or high IQ.  While these traits may not come naturally to everyone, they can be developed and strengthened over time with practice and dedication. 

By embracing new experiences, seeking out diverse perspectives, and being willing to listen to others, we can all strive to become intelligent individuals who are ready to tackle the many challenges and opportunities that will come our way! 

Did you like my article? Like me on Facebook to see more articles like this in your feed.

Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.