Good Indicators of Intelligence

By Rachel Puryear

If there’s one thing highly intelligent, gifted and talented people need, it’s each other. We understand – and accept – one another in ways that others cannot.

In large part, we are able to readily identify one another – especially given a chance to meet in a relaxed environment, and build a rapport. However, it’s fun to also look at the more subtle ways we can notice each other’s presence.

Note: All of these traits are good indicators of intelligence, but that doesn’t mean that every intelligent person will have every trait. The absence of some of them doesn’t necessarily mean someone is unintelligent.

With that in mind, let’s look at some good indicators of intelligence in other people:

Hologram of a human brain, with purple lights representing neuron activity.


Intelligent people are highly curious, and love to regularly learn new things. They have a desire to know more about the world around them, and how things work.

When you see someone genuinely interested in a variety of topics, and taking it upon themselves to learn something new on a regular basis, that’s a great sign of intelligence.

A curious girl laying on the grass and looking at flowers through magnifying glass.

I love it when I’m watching something, or having a discussion with someone else, and a question or new concept comes up – and the person gets out their phone, and looks it up. In an age of ubiquitous smart devices, that’s a great way to spot a smart, curious person.

Being Open-Minded

Intelligent people tend to be open to new ideas, thoughts, and ways of thinking. They aren’t content to simply do things the way they’ve always been done, or to just do what they’re told, just for the sake of it.

This is partly because they are able to see more than one point of view, and know that life is far too complicated to maintain one unchanging worldview throughout life.

Also, because they are curious and pursue new learning, they often encounter new information which challenges previous ways of thinking – and even inspires new ideas on top of that.

Man walking down open highway. By Jeremy Bishop.

Furthermore, they don’t build their identities around their beliefs, like more rigid-minded people do. They can change their beliefs, while still feeling secure with who they are.

Note that this doesn’t mean that intelligent people are necessarily gullible. Gullible people readily believe without evidence, especially when something appeals to their emotions or self-interest.

Open-minded people, however; change their minds about something when sufficient, credible evidence is presented; or in the absence of evidence, they refrain from judgment until they know more.

Listening More than Talking

In a conversation, intelligent people will often listen more than they talk. They know that they learn more from others by listening than they do talking. Furthermore, they tend to like to gather their thoughts and think first, before opening their mouths – which tends to result in playing more of a listening role in conversation.

However, if you get them started on a subject they’re really passionate about, that’s when you’ll see them talk for quite a while!

Silhouettes of two people sitting outside, talking, under a big tree, during sunset. By Harli Marten.

In group settings, especially where they are amongst new people, intelligent people will tend to observe people – in order to figure out who they want to talk to. If they find someone else highly intelligent to talk to, you can bet there will be a hearty and robust conversation between them following!


Intelligent people don’t tend to feel the need to do what everyone else does, and to always follow social norms – unless something actually makes sense to them, that is.

A lone red flower in a field of yellow flowers. By Eric Prouzet.

They like to live life on their terms, and do what’s right for them – even if others think they’re a bit weird for it. They’re not big on tradition for tradition’s sake – they prefer to do what works now, rather than automatically defaulting to what worked in the past. They tend to not be afraid of change, and to adapt well.

Still Waters Run Deep

Intelligent people often don’t seem highly emotive, at least not on the surface. They tend to have a high degree of emotional control, at least under most circumstances.

They tend to think situations through rationally, weighing different considerations, before making a move. They don’t tend to act out easily.

Ripples on a calm, smooth surface of water, with a stick poking out of the water. By Johnny Cohen.

However, contrary to popular misperception, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings. In fact, they tend to feel things pretty deeply, and can be quite moved by art and music. They frequently have a rich inner life.

Intelligent people can be reserved about their emotions. They often appreciate and understand things that move them, but others around them might not perceive and feel what they do. So they may have learned to be cautious about openly expressing themselves early in life.

This reminds me of a saying that those who dance are thought mad by those who cannot hear the music. Intelligent people perceive all kinds of “music” that others might not, so we seem “mad” to many others.


Intelligent people don’t tend to run around with giant egos, bragging about how smart they are. Instead, they tend to be pretty humble.

They know that truly smart people don’t need to convince anyone.

Man at base of snowy mountain, looking up, with the moon shining overhead. By Kyle Johnson.

Intelligent people know that they don’t know everything, and they are also comfortable with acknowledging that. They can acknowledge mistakes, and they usually learn from them.


Intelligent people usually have a great sense of humor, particularly of the witty variety. They love to laugh, and will often quickly bond with someone else they can enjoy clever jokes and puns with.

Two children laughing together, with the boy hugging the girl from behind. By Stormy All.

They also might make self-deprecating humor. They may even laugh at a joke at their own expense, so long as it’s more funny than mean-spirited.


Intelligent people tend to be creative, and often readily come up with new ideas. Many of them enjoy making – or at least appreciating – art of all kinds. They like to try out new approaches to old problems.

A canvas with lots of different paint colors all over it, paint brushes, paint bottles, pencils, and a hand reach over it. By Dragos Gontariu.

Since they love to learn, are able to see issues from multiple angles, and are able to think beyond the conventional; these traits lend themselves well to creativity. Intelligent people are able to readily connect dots, which helps them come up with new and innovative ideas.

Need Down Time to Just Think and Reflect

Intelligent people, beginning from childhood, sometimes get labelled as “lazy,” and as “dreamers”. Intelligent people tend to be dismayed by the people who aren’t dreamers, though.

Hands lighting tea light candles. By Eddie Wingertsahn.

It’s not that they are necessarily lazy – although they might be, and that’s not always a bad thing.

However, intelligent people do need some time to think and reflect in life. They tend to get frustrated with jam-packed schedules and constantly busy calendars – not only because that’s tiring and frazzling, but because it simply doesn’t allow for much time spent on the kind of quiet thinking and reflection that they need to feel okay. It’s just how their brains tend to work.

Intelligent people often come up with some of their best ideas and insights while reflecting quietly – or sometimes, it suddenly strikes them some time shortly thereafter.

Good Self-Awareness

Intelligent people tend to know who they are, what they believe in, and often have a strong will about such. This can also get them into trouble as children, as they might not necessarily accept all that they are told to be and believe, and they may get labelled as “troublesome” and even “rebellious” early on, for questioning rules.

Woman sitting and meditating. By Madison Lavern.

Insecure adult authority figures can be startled at how much intelligent children are not little blank slates. Sadly, in some situations, this can put intelligent children at risk of being abused or neglected, and/or the same adults letting other children mistreat the intelligent child.

Empathy, and Awareness of Others’ Needs and Feelings

Although people tend to – strangely enough – view emotional intelligence as separate from other forms of intelligence; the two actually tend to go together more than they diverge. People who are intelligent overall tend to have a high degree of empathy and regard for others – and vice versa.

Two men hugging and smiling. By Erika Giraud.

Intelligent people are often perceptive of other people’s needs, including unspoken ones, and they tend to have a keen awareness of others’ feelings and intentions. Because of this, some might believe them to be clairvoyant – but in fact, they pick up on cues and subtleties that others usually miss.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to seeing, and connecting with other intelligent people – as well as better looking out for intelligent children. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

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