Not so long ago, researchers discovered that smartness does not equal intelligence. Intelligence is systematically measurable and defined as an ability to acquire new knowledge and skills and to use them. On the other hand, smartness is a collection of often counter-intuitive traits that help you reach your goals through sometimes unorthodox means.

Genuinely smart people do not have to be ‘brainiacs’.

Most often than not, they will go through school being average, never drawing attention to themselves by being stellar performers, athletes, or spelling bee champions. Their unique skill set will help them out more in the real world, which is not boxed into a set of academic rules and expectations.

Highly intelligent people have the upper hand in a well-organized, structured environment, but they will still often be outperformed by smart individuals who might not be their intellectual equals.

Why is that? What do genuinely smart people have that the intelligent ones lack? For starters, intelligent people are overly confident. They know they are smart and will often make ‘mental shortcuts’, believing that they are doing the math faster that way.

The truth is, they are skipping it altogether. This leads to a number of embarrassing mistakes – just think of the bat and the ball question! – that smart people sidestep with ease.

So, are you just ‘paper smart’ or are you genuinely intelligent? Take a look at this list of characteristics genuinely smart people possess and find out!

1. Their mind operates in a constant state of flux

They are always uncertain of their wants, desires, ambitions, and even thoughts. They are also well aware of that. They let that uncertainty drive them forward because they believe it breeds possibility. In other words, they don’t encapsulate themselves in a certain frame of mind because they know that limits their true potential.

2. They think before they speak

Their mouth is rarely quicker than their brain. When you ask a smart person a question they will take their time to answer. They don’t rely on their wits to guide them to a good answer; they think long and hard before giving one, especially on important questions.

3. They aim to contribute

Genuinely smart people add to a conversation only if they feel that they can contribute something to it. You won’t see their Facebook walls full of opinionated status updates. They speak only when sure that they can bring something meaningful to the table. And if they don’t have something constructive or insightful to say, they’ll most likely keep their mouth shut.

4. They think for themselves

You’ll be hard-pressed to convince a smart person into doing anything they didn’t have time to think about. They refuse to let other people’s ideas mold their reality, and they don’t hold anyone to be infallible. They will rarely conform just for the sake of fitting in, and they dismiss the notion that a majority is always right.

5. They are not afraid to be wrong

Genuinely smart people don’t let their ego run away with them. They are perfectly capable of admitting mistakes and acknowledging that they are, possibly, not the smartest person in the room.

6. They offer a different take on things instead of simply correcting others

They are rarely argumentative and nit-picky. Instead of correcting other contributors, smart people will respectfully offer their opinions on the matter, and make their case using facts and logic. Their answer doesn’t have to be the right one, but it will offer a fresh perspective and deepen the discussion.

7. They are not antagonistic

Genuinely smart people know that, once you lose your cool, all hope for constructive discussion goes out the window. That is why they avoid being argumentative and picking fights with others. After all, you’ll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. They know it, and they use it.

8. They trust their gut

We often get off the track because of our wild-running impulses. Smart people don’t allow themselves to get sidetracked and derailed easily. They ignore impulses and stick with their instincts, often forgoing short-term benefits for the sake of long-term goals.

9. They are problem solvers

They think long and hard about their problems and how to solve them, preferring steadfast solutions to temporary fixes. That is why other people often turn to them when in need. For that reason, they themselves consider this particular trait both a blessing and a curse.

10. They don’t care about what you think

How many times have you’ve been stopped dead in your tracks just because you considered what other people will think before doing something? If your answer is often, then you have some work to do on your ‘smarts’.

Genuinely smart people rarely take into account how others will feel about the decisions they make. They pursue their interests without the fear of looking foolish or being judged by others.


  1. Thought Catalog

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. TRACE


  2. Beb ang

    i can so relate and enlightened me as smart. haha

  3. lida parker

    They are always uncertain of their wants, desires, ambitions, and even thoughts. They are also well-aware of that.

  4. Bob

    They think before they speak… and should think before they type…….

  5. Aya

    Thank you for the article, I have learned to let my inner voice guide me even while typing this comment. Distrusting your gut can seriously derail you if you are a naturally smart person!…..I currently have two job offers to choose from and my gut feeling points to a separate unparallel direction!…..

  6. Ojok Rogers


  7. ShawnBenson

    hie, there!im not that educated not that daul am so facinated with futue humanity

  8. Frances

    Thank you for your insights.

  9. Thomas

    Hi. I want to thank you for writing this article. I found it very fascinating, educational, and it satisfied my hunger for curiosity on this subject.

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