8 signs you’re more intelligent than you think (and how to use it to your advantage)

We can be limited in the ways we define intelligence, and as a result you may feel you don’t fit the “type.”  

In hopes of offering a more expansive view, here are eight ways to identify intelligence as well as hone and use your mind for good: 

1) You see connections between seemingly unrelated things

One sign of intelligence is seeing connections that aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone. 

You might find yourself making connections between politics and art or physics and spirituality, for example. 

In The Art of Scientific Investigation, Cambridge University professor and animal pathologist W. I. B. Beveridge writes, “Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected.”

Even if the ideas aren’t original, the connections between those ideas and your point of view make them yours.  

This kind of creativity can be fostered by reading often and reading outside of your natural interests so you have more dots of information to connect

You can also try journaling (observations, thoughts, lessons learned, etc.), then reviewing your journals later to see what connections you make with your current thinking. 

As you do this, you may begin to find ideas and solutions in unexpected places. 

2) You have a knack for recognizing patterns

As an intelligent person you’re not only able to make connections – you’re also able to recognize patterns.

Writer and entrepreneur Thomas Oppong writes that intelligently recognizing patterns “allows you to predict likely outcomes and make better decisions.” 

“Knowledge is abundant, but wisdom or the correct application of knowledge is rare,” Oppong writes.

To benefit, try applying what you know about patterns to your daily life. 

Applying self-knowledge can help make our own lives easier. 

For example, if you live in a place with distinct seasons, do you notice yourself feeling down during the colder, greyer months?  

Have you found anything that helps these seasonal blues, through your own research or trial and error? 

Recognizing the patterns in our own lives and in the world around us can make things a bit more predictable and easier as a result.  

3) Your skills or senses are heightened in a particular area

In his 1983 book Frames of Mind, Harvard University psychologist and professor Howard Gardner argues for eight types of human intelligence.

Two of Gardner’s types stood out to me because, I must admit, I’m used to thinking of intelligence in a very particular (read: intellectual) way.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is seen in the way people, like athletes and dancers, move their bodies with physical and athletic prowess.

Musical intelligence, on the other hand, is seen in people (like singers and instrumentalists) who have a strong discernment for musical sounds, rhythms, and patterns.  

With multiple types of intelligence, there’s so much potential.

Think about a particular skill or gift you have:

It’s never too late to develop your intelligence in that area.

You may not become an elite athlete or musician late in life, but there’s beauty in learning for its own sake. 

4) You have a high tolerance for uncertainty

The more you learn the more you realize how much you don’t know, and that knowledge is constantly evolving.

So you learn to make room for nuance, the grey, and uncertainty in what you know.

Sam Conniff, creator of the Uncertainty Experts and consultant to brands like Rolex, Lego, Netflix, Red Bull and Apple, discussed the connection between uncertainty tolerance and innovation with Spark Business Lab.  

“If we begin to learn how we can tolerate doubt, we’ll begin to find it as a place of discovery,” Conniff says.

“Hold that negative space of not knowing for as long as you can, and universally new ideas will begin to emerge.”

 Being able to accept ambiguity is a great gift – given that uncertainty is a fact of life.

 Use this ability to see things from other people’s point of view and consider things from different angles when making decisions.

 Absorbing wisdom from other sources and holding multiple views and realities at the same time is a worthwhile practice.

5) You don’t have all the answers, but you ask good questions

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You’re curious and have a powerful drive to learn more about the things you don’t know –

And identifying what you don’t know is a key first step to asking good questions.

 Children are naturally curious and ask lots of questions.

As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we shouldn’t stop being curious and asking questions.

 We should seek to ask better questions, as we build more blocks of knowledge that allow us to see further down the road.

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity,” Mae Jemison said.  

Speaking as an engineer, physician, and the first African American woman to travel into space, she undoubtedly took her own advice. 

Thankfully, curiosity is something we can cultivate in our everyday lives.

Try writing down one or two questions the next time you come across a piece of media that makes you wonder. 

Whether it’s an article, movie, your favorite song – whatever – the point is to spark curiosity and ask questions. 

It’s a great way to go from passive consumption to being more mindful and thinking more critically about what we consume.

6) You rise to the challenge when faced with problems

You know that problems are inevitable and find yourself looking for solutions or better ways of coping when they arise. 

Think about the questions and problems posed in physics, philosophy, and religion, many of which are unanswered or even unanswerable (at least, by our current thinking and standards).

A good scientist or philosopher isn’t necessarily looking for the simple answer to everything.

They’re often looking for better questions, better solutions – even better problems.

If we can accept the inevitability of problems, whether in theory or reality, it makes for a better life. 

Accepting the existence of problems helps in not jumping to hasty conclusions, making it more likely that we will find better solutions or else learn to better live with our problems.

7) You have strong emotional skills

One sign of intelligence that can’t be ignored is the ability to manage your own emotions and relate to others in healthy and effective ways.

Emotional intelligence is a vital skill for maintaining better relationships and making the world a safer and less lonely place.

Kendra Cherry defines emotional intelligence, in Verywell Mind, as “the ability to express and control your own emotions, and also to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others.”

She goes on to identify other key signs of emotional intelligence, including an awareness of personal strengths and limitations, and empathy and curiosity towards others.

Emotional intelligence isn’t just something you’re born with. 

It’s something you practice and grow like a muscle. 

Use your emotional intelligence to improve your relationships, conflict management skills, career satisfaction, and overall wellness. 

8) You have excellent communication skills

As an extension of emotional intelligence, you know communication matters – so you take care with how you express your words and actions.

In relating with others, you try to meet people where they are, rather than insisting on your own agenda. 

In an interview for Best Life, clinical and forensic psychologist Leslie Dobson says it’s a great sign of intelligence to be able to communicate big ideas in simple terms.

Intelligent individuals may be “able to speak at high levels with jargon.” However, they can also “explain complex ideas to a third grader,” Dobson says. 

You can practice meeting people where they are through active listening.   

Often in conversation we find ourselves thinking of the next thing we’re going to say, rather than truly taking in what the other person is saying. 

Active listening allows us to have better conversations, improving our understanding of each other and the overall state of our relationships.

Tidenek Haileselassie

Tidenek Haileselassie

Tidenek is a writer who calls Ethiopia and other places home. She enjoys exploring places, including home, through a traveler’s eyes, and accidentally discovering things when lost.

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