10 non-obvious signs that someone is highly intelligent

Intelligent people don’t often walk around flaunting how smart they are.

In fact, people who do this are often the opposite of smart.

When you meet someone with true intelligence, you probably won’t even realize how smart they are!

Why? Because intelligent people have a deeper sense of self-worth and confidence in themselves.

This fuels their everyday habits and makes them do certain things a little differently.

Want to know what? Let’s take a look.

Up first:

1) They don’t overshare

Sometimes, less is more. Intelligent people know that when it comes to certain things in their lives, they’re better off keeping quiet or only telling people they trust.

Oversharing could look like telling a first date about all your past relationship traumas. Or it could be telling a work colleague your career progression intentions.

On a first date with the wrong type (like a narcissist or an immature person), they could use your past traumas to manipulate or exploit you.

By telling an untrustworthy coworker all your career plans, they could sabotage your progression or steal your ideas for themselves.

When you overshare, you also open yourself up to judgment, criticism, and the opinions of others. Which can be bad for your self-worth and self-esteem.

Intelligent people know how bad oversharing can be. And since they get most of their validation from within, they don’t need other’s opinions on everything they do in life!

2) They stay quiet sometimes

It isn’t always good to be the loudest person in the room. The more you talk, the less you listen. And the less you listen, the less you really understand!

Plus, when you’re talking, other people aren’t. And that isn’t always a good thing.

The best advice an old boss gave me when I had to run a meeting was that I didn’t need to fill every silence.

When I did that, I was stopping other people from having their say. Which, really, was what meetings were all about!

I tried it once and it made a huge difference.

It’s instinctive that most people don’t like silence. And they try to fill it. So if you keep your distance, they open up.

Which is something all smart people know.

Plus, when you have true intelligence, you gain a lot of your emotional intelligence from observing others. So it’s just instinctive for them to be a bit quiet sometimes!

3) They ask a lot of questions

Intelligent people have inquisitive minds. Asking questions is just in their nature.

They couldn’t pick a side unless they knew all the facts.

They also couldn’t give a friend good advice unless they knew what happened before, during, and after the situation.

Their questions won’t always be deep or thought-provoking. Sometimes it’ll be as basic as asking why!

And they aren’t asking for the sake of it – or to make someone feel threatened or “stupid” for saying what they said.

They genuinely want to know why you did that or why you think it’s a good idea!

4) They overthink “just enough”

Overthinking is often coined as a bad personality trait. But did you know it’s actually a hidden sign of intelligence?

Overthinking can help you plan, form opinions, set goals, self-reflect, uncover the truth, and build better relationships with the people around you.

And the more active your brain is in this way, the more intelligent you probably are!

So the next time you’re about to tell someone they’re overthinking it (or hear it for yourself), remember – it’s actually just their intelligence showing through. There’s just one small caveat.

When you let your overthinking brain run wild, it can be detrimental to your mental health. It can worsen anxiety, motivation, and your overall confidence in yourself.

Overthinking “just enough” is where intelligent people tend to sit.

5) They don’t trust easily

Let’s get this straight, it’s never a good thing to have trust issues. Trust issues can cause stress, burnout, loneliness, and a ton of relationship issues.

But there’s a difference between not trusting people easily and having trust issues.

The latter is caused by trauma and generally describes an issue that isn’t kept in check.

I.e., the person acts out without realizing their trust issues are the problem, or makes (potentially irrational) life decisions around their trust issues.

But the former is a healthy trait to have. In fact, it’s a smart trait!

Smart people know that not everyone has good intentions. And that it’s good to let people earn your trust, rather than give it too freely.

6) They’re balanced planners

youre wiser than you think 10 non-obvious signs that someone is highly intelligent

In my experience, there are two types of planners: balanced planners and anxious planners.

The second type worries about everything, so plans to stop themselves from worrying.

A friend of mine is like this. She’ll plan every detail of her day, hour by hour, so she feels less anxious. It helps her and that’s all that matters.

A balanced planner is a little different.

They plan because they want to be prepared and get things right. But they know when to stop planning and go with the flow instead.

It’s this balance that signals their high intelligence.

7) They’re always punctual

Another non-obvious sign of intelligence lies in someone’s punctuality.

Other traits associated with intelligence often include being responsible, accountable, and mindful of the impact your actions have on others.

Being punctual is a great example of someone showing they are responsible, accountable, and considerate.

Plus, when you’re late to everything, not only are you bad at timekeeping, you’re also bad at understanding (and feeling remorse for) how your actions impact everyone else!

8) They rarely procrastinate

Everyone procrastinates a little bit sometimes. But truly intelligent people don’t do it all too often.

If they do indulge in it, it’ll be when they have time to procrastinate, rather than when they don’t.

Why? Because true intelligence and time management go hand in hand.

You’ll often hear smart people say, “Let’s just do it now to get it over and done with” or “I’d feel better if we just did it now rather than later”.

They are the kind of people who will start their essay early rather than leave it all to the last minute.

And the type of people who get things submitted early rather than two minutes before the cut-off point.

The only time they might procrastinate is when they know they’re feeling tired and burned out, and they’ll know they’ll do better work tomorrow morning rather than right now.

And in those instances, they wouldn’t consider it “procrastination” anyway. They’d call it rescheduling and reprioritizing!

9) They have opinions (and don’t change them on a whim)

Another hidden sign of intelligence is when someone has opinions – and they stick by them if they think they’re right.

Colleagues I worked with in the past would often “go with the wind”.

They’d flit between supporting something and not supporting something depending on what the boss said – for no reason other than the boss thought that way!

The real smart people weren’t afraid to pick a side and share their opinions. They also weren’t afraid to admit they were wrong or change their mind for a legitimate reason.

But they never changed their opinions on a whim or “just because”.

10) They care about other people

“You should be a bit meaner sometimes. Otherwise, the world is going to eat you up” – is something an old “friend” said to me once.

Caring about other people is often seen as a weakness. But it really isn’t. And if you’re smart enough, you’ll know that very well.

The ability to be kind, respectful, empathetic, and caring isn’t always easy. Especially when you’re confronted with someone who doesn’t “deserve” your kindness.

But the truth is there’s nothing “stupid” about caring for other people.

Being rude and ignorant is the real weakness. And it isn’t all that smart to do if you want to get ahead in life, be a good person, and create meaningful relationships.

Of course, there’s a line you need to draw if you want to live a healthy, happy life. After all, people-pleasing won’t get you (or your self-esteem) anywhere!

But all in all, it’s good (and smart) to be kind – no matter what anyone else says.

Final thoughts

Being smart doesn’t always mean you have good grades or a degree.

Even though those things definitely do represent a good memory and high IQ!

Because true intelligence goes a lot further than your test scores and grades.

It feeds into everything you do in your life – from the way you treat people to the things you do (and don’t) talk about.

So if you recognize the behaviors on this list in yourself, there’s a good chance you’re way more intelligent than you think! 

Picture of Amy Reed

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a content writer from London working with international brands. As an empath, she loves sharing her life insights to help others. When she’s not writing, she enjoys a simple life of reading, gardening, and making a fuss over her two cats.

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