13 phrases only intelligent people use, according to psychologists

Highly intelligent people are just like the rest of us – only smarter. 

They employ certain phrases and conversational methods in a way that we can all learn from. 

Psychology shows us how the roots of the deeply thoughtful person’s phrases demonstrate real complexity of thought and self-awareness. 

By taking a closer look, we can all learn more about approaching life in a more conscious and brilliant way. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) “There’s a lot I still don’t know.”

Socrates taught that the wisest person knows that they know nothing. 

Well, a very smart man or woman may know many things, but they fully recognize that 

As the Dunning-Kruger psychological experiments revealed, intelligent people tend to underestimate their own intellect:

“In one experiment, for example, students who’d scored in the lowest quartile on a test adapted from the LSAT overestimated the number of questions they’d gotten right by nearly 50%. 

“Meanwhile, those who’d scored in the top quartile slightly underestimated how many questions they’d gotten right.”

2) “I’m not sure what this means, but I plan to find out.” 

There’s no shame in not knowing something. In fact, every brilliant discovery started with a statement along these lines

Highly intelligent people admit what they don’t know. 

They let their curiosity eat away at them for only so long before they take active steps to get answers or link up with other people who might know answers as well. 

When there aren’t answers or certainty, the brilliant person commits to finding a solution!

As esteemed Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget noted:

“Intelligence is what you use when you don’t know what to do.”

3) “The research indicates both possibilities hold some weight.”

Highly intelligent people are able to tolerate much more ambiguity than less intelligent folks. 

Only a remarkably intelligent individual is able and willing to allow two or more options to hold weight and be potentially meritorious without having to jump to a conclusion.

Their ability to allow the gray zone to exist is a mark of a truly brilliant mind:

They understand that reality and many issues do not have black-and-white answers or clear conclusions that can necessarily be drawn. 

4) “It’s time to change my approach.” 

Adaptability is the marker of a great mind

Those who grasp life at its most complex understand that changing their approach to an issue, problem or situation is not a mark of weakness:

It’s a necessary and sometimes exciting way to break through insecurity.

“Intelligence depends on being able to change your own behaviors in order to cope more effectively with your environment or make changes to the environment you’re in,” notes Shana Lebowitz.

5) “My paradigm has shifted.”

The framework within which we think and conclude about what’s going on is something that changes frequently. 

Paradigm shifts occur in history, individual lives, relationships and every field of work and research. 

Highly intelligent people understand the limits of always staying within a certain framework and like to jump out of it and change their paradigm to have new perspectives.

“Every structure is to be thought of as a particular form of equilibrium, more or less stable within its restricted field and losing its stability on reaching the limits of the field,” Piaget noted.

6) “Social belonging is very difficult for me.” 

phrases that instantly make you sound more intelligent and thoughtful 13 phrases only intelligent people use, according to psychologists

Highly intelligent people often struggle with social situations

Even if they are fully neurotypical, they often find it difficult to fit in and be seen as “normal” by others who don’t quite get them or find their intelligence overly intense. 

Admitting that they find social situations hard is often a sign of high intelligence and the struggles that can come along with that. 

As counselor Samuel Kohlenberg writes:

“In my practice, I have been able to observe and experience how the world treats young adults with superior intelligence. At times it can be pretty heartbreaking…

“People with high IQs are outliers, and outliers are often a more difficult fit in many respects because the world is not made for them.”

7) “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

This is a quotation that shows wonder and an openness to learning.

Extremely smart people not only do their best to find answers to their questions, they also recognize how many things don’t have straight-cut answers. 

The added touch of quoting Shakespeare just adds even more class and panache to the whole endeavor. 

As No Sweat Shakespeare explains

Hamlet “is suggesting that the human imagination is limited and that there are many things we don’t know, things that haven’t been discovered and, in fact, things we haven’t even dreamt of.”

8) “I need some time alone to think.” 

Extremely intelligent folks often need a bit more time and space than others to think and collect their thoughts. 

Rather than being an admission of being overwhelmed or “slow,” this type of phrase is indicative of a bright individual who knows the necessity of pondering over their options. 

They understand that time together is only productive and enjoyable when it’s balanced by a lot of reflection and deeper thinking that’s also done in solitude.

As Eggshell Therapy and Coaching observes:

“They need a lot of alone time to recharge and appreciate uninterrupted thinking time. They prefer to come together to have an exchange while growing together as people.”

9) “I know what you’re going through and how overwhelming it can be.”

Empathy is a key indicator of emotional intelligence, which is a vital part of a well-rounded and truly smart individual’s toolbox.

The kind of person who says something like the above statement is a person who is reaching out to show care and interest in somebody’s situation.

They are relating to the struggles and situation faced by others, because they know that there is an enormous amount we learn from the struggles of other people and have in common with people, even those we may not expect. 

Kendra Cherry, Ms.Ed. explains it well:

“Emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ) refers to a person’s ability to regulate emotions, and use their emotions to relate to others. 

“Signs of emotional intelligence include strong self-awareness, empathy, embracing change, and managing emotions in difficult situations.”

10) “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I can relate to some of those emotions.”

It takes bravery and intelligence to be empathetic even when a person has not been in somebody else’s shoes and doesn’t really know what they’re going through. 

In such a situation, the high-EQ intelligent person will admit that while they may not have been in the specific situation somebody is in (say being cheated on, losing a friend to suicide or whatever the case may be), they can relate to aspects of the emotions. 

In such a way they reach out while also remaining somewhat humble and unassuming. 

11) “I’m not sure how to explain what I mean.”

Admitting that they aren’t sure how to explain their thoughts or ideas is a big sign of intelligence. 

In many cases, highly brilliant people end up struggling to translate their big ideas into a palatable form and may feel misunderstood. 

Admitting they don’t know how to explain something can be a sign of a very smart person.

As a clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Katie Davis, Psy.D. explains:

“People kind of feel less smart because they feel their work is not reflective of what they know and how easy it is — they’re not outputting the information in a way that they think is consistent with how they understand it”

12) “What are the long-term consequences?”

Even if an action or decision will pay off amazing rewards in the near future, the highly intelligent person asks about the long-term consequences. 

They engage in what’s known as “long-termism,” which is planning their goals and dreams for far down the road rather than right away. 

They’d rather struggle and strive for now for a noble goal, to get a quick fix or pleasurable outcome in the near term but it lead to decline or disaster in the long run. 

“A 2009 psychology study from Yale University gave participants IQ tests and offered them reward money they could receive immediately or later (for a higher amount),” explains author Scott Mautz.

“Those choosing to wait also had higher IQ scores, indicating that resisting making impulsive decisions and carefully weighing options correlates with intelligence.”

13) “I don’t agree, but I’m interested to hear more of what you mean.”

Intelligent folks don’t make a disagreement the end of a conversation or interaction. 

In fact, they’re far more likely to make strong disagreement into the start and launchpad of a good discussion. 

Rather than getting offended or dismissing the very different views or experiences of somebody else, they will ask more about what that person means. 

Why? It’s a free chance to get an insight into a different way to see the world. 

As psychology writer Sophia Leane notes:

“Intelligent people have conversations rather than arguments, which they see as opportunities for new information. Sharing circles, from which everyone emerges wiser.”

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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