10 undervalued traits of genuinely intelligent people

There are different types of “smart” out there. There’s book smart, street smart, people smart, work smart… the list goes on.

But there’s a certain type of intelligence that often flies under the radar, at least in my opinion – the genuinely intelligent people who not only have the smarts but are smart enough to know the best times to use it.

That’s the type of genuine intelligence that’s hard to come by, and always great to learn from.

As someone fortunate enough to know people like this, here are some things I’ve noticed about them:

1) Not Afraid To Admit That “They Don’t Know”

Something you might not expect from the intelligent: them not knowing anything. And yet that’s been the case with every genuinely intelligent person I’ve met.

They’re not afraid to say it, and they’re certainly not afraid to take the necessary steps to address it.

A genuinely intelligent person will never overestimate themselves and are prudent to a fault.

They’re not concerned about what people think about them when they say “they don’t know either” – from my experience, they’ll just shrug it off and move on.

Unlike some people who simply can’t stand not knowing, genuinely intelligent people don’t try to force answers where there are none.

2) Great At Explaining Things

One of the best tests of how well you understand something is trying to explain it to someone who has no idea about it – and this is something that genuinely intelligent people excel at.

Because their knowledge is so in-depth and honed by personal experience, they naturally have a great way of explaining things, even to people who may not have the best background to understand what they’re talking about.

That’s because to truly know a thing is to understand what it’s like to not know about it at all: and genuinely intelligent people have a way of closing this gap without a lot of difficulties.

It’s a very subtle trait, but it’s a dead giveaway that that person is far more intelligent than meets the eye.

3) Take A Lot Of Time Before Saying Anything

I’ve gotten a lot of flak before about staying quiet all the time, and I can’t exactly blame them: I’m just really nervous about what to say.

Genuinely intelligent people are similarly quiet, but that’s because they understand the value of silence (and waiting) before saying anything.

It’s one of the reasons why you just know someone’s genuinely intelligent by the time they open their mouth: consciously or not, you’re also paying attention to the amount of time they spend being quiet before speaking.

When a genuinely intelligent person is quiet, it’s not just because they don’t have anything to say – they’re also masters at picking the right time to say it.

4) Creativity Is An Important Part Of Their Processes

Ever seen someone do something seemingly ordinary and then go “huh, why didn’t I think of that?”

Chances are you’ve seen someone genuinely intelligent at work.

I’ve noticed that creativity often ranks very highly for these people, and it’s not even a process that they do consciously!

Whether by training or other experience, they’re just hard-wired to find a creative way to do something routine.

Keep in mind: creativity doesn’t always mean efficiency.

Genuinely intelligent people will still lean towards the most efficient way to do something if that’s really what needs to be done, but they take a lot of liberty with things they know they can adjust.

If anything, observing someone like this can give you the insight that sometimes there’s no point in doing things the way they’ve always been done.

5) Always Willing To Listen

Genuinely intelligent people are great listeners.

Not just because what they’re listening to is a great source of new information, but listening to them is a habit rather than an obligation.

There are a lot of things we tend to miss because we’re too self-absorbed with ourselves or hyper-focusing on something in our environment. However, genuinely intelligent people don’t have this issue.

One particularly neat trick I’ve learned from watching these types of people listen is that they know when to just let the other person keep talking.

You’d be surprised at how much a person is willing to share if you just lend an ear – because sometimes, what people need is just someone to rant to.

6) Knows The Best Time To Act

I’ve always admired the timing of a genuinely intelligent person.

It’s not like they’re super prepared for everything to happen at all times (though they are prepared in general), it’s just they have a reasonable expectation for how things will usually turn out.

Then they narrow down their possible responses to that situation, prepare accordingly, then pick the right moment to act.

It’s a highly logical way of doing things, but it’s also one that doesn’t burden them with any unneeded anxieties.

A lot of us often worry about things that we’re even prepared for.

But a genuinely intelligent person doesn’t sweat the stuff that they can’t control, mainly because they know the best time and things to do to act.

7) Highly Self-Aware

Genuinely intelligent people are their own critics.

I’ve never met a genuinely intelligent person who didn’t possess a high degree of self-awareness, mostly because they know the consequences if they don’t act without thinking.

Their brand of self-awareness is different too: it’s not just a recognition of who they are and what they’re capable of, but the willpower to act on it as well.

Truth is, being self-aware is only a starting step – you need to have the motivation to act on the things that you’re aware of.

So many people just take refuge in recognizing the problem without even trying to solve it.

For a genuinely intelligent person, those two steps are one and the same.

8) Can Communicate Well

Communication is rarely an issue with genuinely intelligent people.

You’ll never have to second-guess what they say, and if you want clarification, you can just go ahead and ask them.

While this may sound like they’re just being straightforward, there’s a difference: a genuinely intelligent person communicates in a way where the other party also understands them, not just their message.

For me, talking to these types of people is always so refreshing because I don’t have to worry about being misinterpreted. If they need clarification, they’ll ask.

And since they never judge, I don’t have to be so self–conscious about what I say, which actually helps me communicate better.

9) Adaptable To Changes

People naturally gravitate to routines.

Routines are safe and help give us structure in our lives, so getting knocked out of a routine can often be a shock that’s difficult to deal with.

Genuinely intelligent people aren’t immune to these events – it’s just they know how to roll with the punches and adapt to the situation.

This doesn’t always have to be life-altering stuff: you’ll rarely hear them being upset that their favorite bread isn’t in stock or that there are no more seats for them at a restaurant they were planning to eat.

Their reaction to changes is to deal with it if they can, and if they can’t, shrug and move on.

10) Emotionally Stable

Intelligence and emotions are typically not two things that people associate with each other.

Emotional intelligence exists, but it’s so hard to quantify that most people have given up trying.

Genuinely intelligent people deal with emotions in a whole other way – they recognize their importance and allow themselves to feel what needs to be felt.

This trait is why I like talking to genuinely intelligent people: they can sympathize without being patronizing and pay attention without stirring up a fuss.

Again, this is a subtle trait that most people will simply mistake for listening.

But genuinely intelligent people go above and beyond that, and make you feel like they actually care.

11) Ability To Focus On Almost Anything

When was the last time you genuinely paid your fullest attention to something until it was done?

Most of us only give a cursory glance to most of the things around us, but genuinely intelligent people have that rare trait of paying their full attention to anything they deem worthy of their time and effort.

This trait honestly puzzled me at first because it seemed like they’d pay attention to the most random of things – but then I realized that’s me just looking at their world through my eyes.

Genuinely intelligent people see the world much differently, and they process things far differently than we do.

Being able to summon that kind of determination to focus on demand is something that often goes unnoticed, but is a sign of genuine intelligence.

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Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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