Intelligence is not about getting good grades or landing the best job.
It’s not about being the smartest person in the room or having the most impressive resume.
Real intelligence is about using your knowledge and experience to make a positive impact on the world. It’s about being proactive and innovative, and it’s about having the emotional intelligence and social awareness to navigate complex situations with grace and understanding.
Unfortunately, mainstream definitions of intelligence tend to focus on narrow and superficial markers of success, such as grades and job titles.
But there are many overlooked traits of highly intelligent people that are worth highlighting.
Here are 13 signs to look out for:
1. Heightened awareness of the needs of others
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Highly intelligent people tend to be attuned to the needs and feelings of those around them.
They are able to read situations and people accurately, and are able to respond appropriately to help those in need.
For example, an intelligent person might notice that a colleague is struggling with a task and offer to help, or they might recognize that a friend is going through a difficult time and offer emotional support.
2. Good memory and thinking ability
“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.”
– Robert Frost
While having a good memory and strong analytical skills are often considered key indicators of intelligence, these traits are often overlooked in mainstream definitions of intelligence.
But intelligent people are able to retain and recall information quickly and accurately, and are able to think critically and solve problems effectively.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to remember important details about a project and use their analytical skills to find the best solution.
3. Reliable decision-making
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffett
Intelligent people are able to make sound, well-thought-out decisions, even under pressure.
They are able to weigh the pros and cons of different options and choose the one that is most likely to be successful.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to make a difficult decision about whether to take a new job or stay in their current position, based on what is best for their long-term career goals.
4. Finely attuned intuition
“The more you trust your intuition, the more empowered you become, the stronger you become, and the happier you become.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Intelligent people tend to have finely attuned intuition and are able to sense when something is not quite right.
They are able to listen to their gut and follow their instincts, which can help them make better decisions and avoid potential pitfalls.
For example, an intelligent person might have a strong intuition that a business venture is not a good idea, and choose not to invest in it, even if it seems like a lucrative opportunity.
5. Ability to think outside of the box
“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before. It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.”
– Albert Einstein
Intelligent people are able to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems.
They are able to see connections and patterns that others may miss, and they are able to think creatively to find novel solutions.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to come up with a unique approach to solving a problem at work, such as using data in a new way or developing an innovative product.
6. Excellent problem-solving ability
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Intelligent people are skilled at solving problems, and are able to find creative and effective solutions to complex challenges.
They are able to think critically and analyze situations from multiple angles, and are able to come up with innovative approaches to problem-solving.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to find a way to streamline a complex process at work, saving time and resources.
7. High emotional intelligence
“Emotional intelligence is a critical aspect of leadership in today’s world. It involves the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and to use this understanding to communicate effectively, build relationships, and navigate complex social situations.”
– Daniel Goleman
Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
Highly intelligent people tend to have strong emotional intelligence, and are able to navigate complex social situations with grace and understanding.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to calm a tense situation at work by acknowledging everyone’s feelings and finding a way to move forward.
8. General and tacit knowledge
“I have always believed that the best way to learn is by doing, and the best way to do is by learning. The more you learn, the more you can do. The more you do, the more you can learn.”
– Sir Richard Branson
Intelligent people tend to have a broad base of knowledge and are able to apply it in a practical way to solve problems.
They also have a deep understanding of how things work, and are able to use this “tacit knowledge” to their advantage.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to apply their knowledge of psychology to help a friend cope with a difficult situation, or they might be able to use their understanding of mechanics to fix a broken appliance.
9. Practical approach to solving problems
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
– Thomas Edison
Intelligent people are able to take a practical approach to problem-solving, focusing on finding solutions that are feasible and effective.
They are able to think realistically about what is possible and what is not, and are able to find ways to work within constraints to achieve their goals.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to come up with a practical plan to reduce waste in their workplace, by identifying areas where resources are being wasted and finding ways to cut back.
10. High levels of resourcefulness
“I am not a failure because I have not succeeded. I am a failure because I am not trying. I am not trying because I am not being resourceful. I am not being resourceful because I do not believe I can be. I do not believe I can be because I am not. I am not because I do not try.”
– Tony Robbins
Intelligent people are resourceful and are able to make the most of what they have.
They are able to find creative ways to overcome challenges and achieve their goals, and are able to adapt to new situations and environments quickly and effectively.
For example, an intelligent person might be able to find a way to complete a task with limited resources, or they might be able to come up with a creative solution to a problem when faced with unexpected setbacks.
Intelligence is about so much more than just grades and job titles. It’s about using our knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on the world and to help others. These are the often-overlooked traits of highly intelligent people who are truly making a difference.