10 non-obvious signs that someone is highly intelligent

by Brendan Brown | February 20, 2024, 10:46 am

What are the subtle signs of a keen intellect that aren’t obvious at first glance? 

You may be surprised to learn some of the unexpected ways remarkably smart people tend to act and think differently. Science reveals how high intelligence manifests in our behaviors, decision-making, and interactions. 

By tuning into these cues, you’ll be able to perceive profound mental capacity – even if someone is trying to downplay their brilliance. 

Prepare to have your assumptions challenged as I uncover hidden signs of the highly intelligent.

1) They’re curious

You know that child that’s always asking you ‘WHY?’, well there is a very high chance that he or she is going to be very intelligent. The first step to knowledge is a curious mind.

And the irony is that while asking a lot of questions may seem childlike, it’s because these people are so open, so interested and clever. Their inquisitiveness leads them to uncover truths and gain profound insights. 

Psychologists have found strong links between curiosity and intelligence. Studies show curious people generate more complex ideas and integrate disparate information better. MRIs reveal their brains are more active when presented with surprises or unknowns. 

Their enjoyment of novelty and challenge sparks neural connections key to abstract thinking and memory formation. 

While less inquisitive people avoid uncertainty, the curious crave the discovery of new mental pathways. Their questions open doors to elevated understanding and innovation.

2) They are witty

Wit is essentially the fusion of humour and intelligence.

A quick and clever mind will make fast associations, see where the humour is in a situation and devise witty remarks. To be a really great comedian you have to see the nuances in human behaviour and life, which is something that highly intelligent people can be good at.

Years of studies have shown a correlation between people with high intelligence and a good sense of humour. Their sharp minds instantly identify absurdities and ironies which they creatively transform into incisive punchlines. 

3) They can blend in with almost any group

As with a lot of things in this article, not all highly intelligent people can do this, but those who can are usually highly intelligent.

These social charmers usually know a bit about a lot of topics, making it easy for them to make small talk or fit in. They also have a very high emotional intelligence that helps them ‘read the room’, allowing them to make people feel at ease or even engaged and special. 

Their versatility and adaptability comes from taking a genuine interest in others and wanting to connect. There’s that curiosity again!

Another skill which helps with this is:

4) They’re adept at reading people’s body language

Highly intelligent individuals are exceptionally skilled at interpreting nonverbal cues like facial expressions, gestures, and posture. They can discern how others are truly feeling – if they are engaged, agreeing, or uncomfortable – even when words say otherwise. 

This social perceptiveness allows bright people to communicate more effectively and make deeper interpersonal connections. Their ability to read body language gives them an edge in social dynamics.

If you or someone around you, always seems to know the best thing to say and do around others, it could be due to deep body language reading skills. 

5) They can do the math and work out dates very fast  

Have you ever known someone who can do extremely fast math? 

My ex could work out ridiculous sums very quickly. He also told me that he could remember any day in his life if he really wanted to. He said it was easy and anyone could do it, though he couldn’t explain how.

I told him not everyone can! People with high intelligence often have superb working memories and information retrieval abilities. Their minds rapidly compute complex calculations. 

And they can vividly recall detailed events from years ago – handy during pub trivia nights!

6) They innovate more than they imitate

A lot of highly intelligent people would rather spend more time making something better, than doing something the boring old way.  

I know that in my life I’ve worked in roles where there was a tedious and repetitive task. I spent a long time figuring out how to automate it. And now no one has to do it by hand anymore!

I guess that’s why Microsoft’s Bill Gates used to say that he liked to hire ‘lazy’ people. The most brilliant minds dislike inefficiency and are drawn to inventing more clever solutions. 

While others blindly follow convention, intelligent innovators question the status quo and pioneer better systems. 

7) They listen to others’ philosophies and beliefs without challenging them

Why? Because they know there is no point to challenge certain things. Beliefs are beliefs otherwise we would call them facts! You aren’t going to change someone’s mind unless they want that.

And for many people, their belief system is actually vital for their well-being. Highly intelligent people understand that.

They have nothing to prove and no ego, so there is no need to be ‘right’. 

Intelligent people recognize everyone has a unique perspective shaped by different life experiences. While fiercely analytical, they stay open and avoid knee-jerk judgements.

A wise person understands that listening – not reacting – leads to deeper mutual understanding.

As well as respecting other people’s ideas, they realise that they can learn things from them as well.

Don’t get me wrong – highly intelligent people often love a good debate, but only when both sides want to engage. 

Related: Exploring the complicated link between intelligence and discrimination

8) They admit when they’re wrong 

Secure in their abilities, highly intelligent people don’t hesitate to acknowledge mistakes or change stances when presented with new evidence.

In fact, they are usually happy to be shown something new or to be proved wrong.

They remain eager to evolve their thinking and learn more. They are unburdened by pride or the need to appear infallible. For smart people, being right is much less important than pursuing truth and harmony.

9) They are superb judges of character

With razor-sharp intuition and emotional intelligence, certain super-bright individuals can quickly discern a person’s true nature and motives. 

They pay close attention, picking up on subtle cues and inconsistencies that reveal honesty vs deception. This ability helps protects them from duplicity and helps them surround themselves with integrity.

Don’t get me wrong, many highly intelligent people do get duped, and overconfidence is never good!

But being rational while also trusting your gut and considering your experience, is a high intelligence way to navigate human interaction.

10) They have wide-ranging interests and passions

While some genius-level minds are obsessed with a single subject, many are polymaths with diverse interests spanning science, arts, philosophy, culture and more. 

Their thirst for knowledge leads them to be curious about virtually everything. Intelligent people recognize that crucial insights come from synthesizing information across different disciplines. 

They enrich their thinking by immersing themselves broadly in our fascinating world. Staying open to new pursuits also keeps their sharp brains stimulated.

You’ll know you’ve met one of these highly intelligent types when they share all their interesting ideas and thoughts with you. Prepare yourself for a fascinating journey!

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