If someone does these 12 things, they’re probably smarter than they look

by Brendan Brown | May 1, 2024, 10:51 am

Have you ever met someone and later realized they’re much smarter than you initially thought?

These folks are hidden treasures, and it’s quite an experience when a seemingly unassuming friend blows you away with their true brilliance. 

Wondering if there’s an undercover genius in your circle? 

Dive in to discover 12 signs that someone is probably smarter than they look. 

1) They practice effective communication

Attentive listening is a powerful indicator of intelligence. Smart people know the value of actively engaging in conversations, absorbing information, and considering multiple perspectives before responding. 

They don’t just hear what you’re saying while waiting for their turn to speak. They actively listen and pay attention to nonverbal cues. 

When they’re the one talking, they do that effectively, too. Intelligent people express themselves clearly and respectfully — even when they’re wrong. 

2) They admit when they’re wrong

No matter how smart someone is, no one is always right. Intelligent people understand this and willingly admit when they’re wrong. 

That brings me to my next point:

3) They’ve mastered emotional intelligence

Intelligence isn’t just about IQ. Emotional intelligence (EI) also plays a pivotal role in gauging someone’s brilliance. 

People with high EI have a knack for understanding their and others’ emotions. Combined with effective communication and a willingness to admit when they’re wrong, emotional intelligence allows for thoughtful, compassionate interactions.

When someone demonstrates genuine care and understanding for others, it shows they have a deep understanding of human emotions and proves their emotional intelligence. 

4) They make you laugh

Being smart doesn’t mean being serious all the time. 

In fact, some of the funniest people are incredibly intelligent. 


They’re fast thinkers. 

My fiance, Brian, is the smartest person I know. He’s also the funniest. He makes jokes on the fly, and his wit never stops amazing me. Because of him, I learned that someone who keeps everyone laughing is often the smartest person in the room.

But that’s not the only sign of intelligence I’ve learned about from him:

5) They’re fueled by curiosity

A true genius will never claim to know everything or be an expert on every subject. 

Honestly, know-it-alls aren’t all that smart. 

A highly intelligent person knows they’ll never know everything. Instead, they’re curious about the world around them and love learning new things. They jump at opportunities to obtain more knowledge, and their curiosity drives them to seek answers to some of life’s most unanswerable questions. 

But wait, there’s more! Let’s keep the brilliance rolling.

6) They’re great at solving problems

From day-to-day troubles to much more complex issues, smart people are great at solving problems

Instead of becoming overwhelmed or panicking, they look at the situation analytically. Fueled by curiosity, creativity, and a life-long quest for knowledge, they don’t give up until they find a solution — which usually doesn’t take long. 

7) They question the status quo

Do you know someone who questions conventional wisdom and isn’t afraid to challenge norms? 

Chances are, they’re smarter than they look. 

They think critically and challenge established norms to learn, solve problems, and move forward. And they aren’t afraid to speak up and let others know when maintaining the status quo isn’t working.

This often feeds into another sign of intelligence: 

8) They engage in thought-provoking conversations

Someone who challenges the status quo and doesn’t mindlessly accept conventional wisdom has a lot interesting stuff to talk about. 

There’s nothing wrong with dissecting the latest celebrity gossip, but highly intelligent people would much rather talk about the existence of aliens than the Kardashians. But no matter the subject, they talk about it in a way that makes you think.

After many years of thought-provoking conversations, I’ve learned that things aren’t always as they seem. And now, I’m more likely to ask questions or do research to form my own opinion instead of accepting, “It is what it is.”

9) They love doing new things

Smart people aren’t content doing the same things over and over. They seek new experiences and adventures to satisfy their curiosity.

From traveling to see new places and experience other cultures to learning how to scuba dive or fly a plane, highly intelligent folks are always looking for their next adventure. 

They aren’t satisfied learning from other people’s experiences or seeing things through their eyes. They do new things themselves to expand their ever-growing intellect. 

However, they don’t let their adventurous spirit get in the way of getting things done. 

Here’s the thing: 

10) They manage their time well

If you know someone who effortlessly juggles work and other obligations and still has enough time to pursue their passions, they’re probably pretty smart. 

Time management isn’t easy, and many people feel they don’t have enough time to get everything done. But people who seem to have more hours in the day than the rest of us don’t simply have better organizational skills. And they certainly haven’t mastered time travel. 

They know how to plan, prioritize, and make decisions on the fly. They figure out what they need and want to do, and they create a schedule to make it happen.

My sister’s time management skills blow my mind. 

For several years, she was a full-time employee and student. And despite how much time she spent on her job and school work, she traveled to more places than I can even recall. 

She’s a licensed pharmacist now, and her calendar is still packed with vacations, concerts, and plenty of other fun stuff. 

I don’t know how she does it, but I wish I did! It’s also something that made me realize just how smart she is.  

11) They’re resilient

Intelligence isn’t just about being book-smart; it’s also about emotional resilience. Smart people usually have the strength to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to challenges, and grow stronger. 

Here’s one more sign that someone might be smarter than they look:

12) They value self-improvement

People who strive for self-improvement and seek ways to enhance their skills and knowledge often harbor hidden brilliance. Their desire to be better versions of themselves proves their growth mindset. 

Closing thoughts

There you have it! If you know someone who does the 12 things above, they’re probably much smarter than you think. They might even be an incognito genius.

Challenge your assumptions and biases. Embrace the diversity of brilliance in others, and look beyond appearances and accomplishments. 

Next time you meet someone who doesn’t fit your idea of a genius, consider these clues. Recognize and appreciate intelligence, and remain open to life’s surprises.

Celebrate the brilliance that surrounds you!

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