8 signs someone is more intelligent than they first appear

Amy Reed by Amy Reed | April 4, 2024, 1:42 pm

Ever had someone underestimate your intelligence? Yeah, me too.

This usually happens because you don’t give yourself away so easily. You do certain things that “hide” your true intelligence – probably without even realizing it!

Like the following 8 things…

1) They don’t gloat or brag

Having humility is a positive trait all around. It can help you build more meaningful relationships and get along with almost anyone.

But that’s not the only reason smart people don’t gloat or brag. They know that telling people what they have or know isn’t always a good thing.

Say a toxic coworker says you have no drive to progress in your career. They don’t know that you’ve applied for the new leadership role in your team. If your ego was fragile, you might jump in and tell them you’ve applied.

But if you did this, you know they might try to sabotage you. So you stay quiet. Because getting the position means more to you than what a toxic person thinks!

The same rules apply if you just bought a new car or an expensive phone.

Sure, you could tell everyone at school and post pictures of your new possessions online. But you know this can only make you a target for robbery!

Some people might think you’re mad for not sticking up for yourself or telling everyone how “good” your life is. But when you’re truly smart, you know better…

2) They ask a lot of questions

There’s a strange belief some people have that asking questions is a bad thing. Like it makes you look silly or as if you don’t know what you’re doing.

But as many of us will know, asking questions is the best way to learn! The more you ask, the more you end up knowing. You also end up doing better professionally, academically, and personally!

If you ask a lot of questions, people probably underestimate your intelligence all the time. At work, they might think you’re a little slow to grasp things. But really, you’re making absolutely sure you’ve grasped things!

Plus, I’ve met some people professionally who are very clever with their questions. They’ll ask questions when they already know the answers. They’re just making sure you really know the answer. Or they’re trying to trip you up…

To some people, the enquirer seems unintelligent for asking “simple” questions. When they’re actually being very, very smart.

3) They stay quiet sometimes

When you have true intelligence, you aren’t always the first to voice your opinions. You know that staying quiet can get what you want. Or just helps you learn something!

I tend to speak less in certain situations. When I first started an office job, people definitely underestimated my intelligence because of it!

But when you listen more than you speak, you take in way more. You see what is and isn’t being said. You also think carefully before contributing and make sure you have all the facts before picking a side.

If you do this, you probably find that people really listen when you do speak. Because they trust that you have something meaningful to say.

If you stay quiet and rarely speak up, people might think you’re shy, unopinionated, or just downright unintelligent. But the opposite could actually be true, and they’re just grossly misinterpreting and underestimating you!

4) They simplify things

When you’re truly smart, you tend to have a lot of emotional intelligence. So you know how to talk to people and how to work with them.

You also don’t tend to have a huge ego or a need to impress others. So you’re quite happy to simplify things when you’re talking to someone who will benefit from it.

Let’s look at an example.

You work in IT and you’re talking to a warehouse coworker. When they ask a question, you could answer in acronyms and a ton of technical jargon.

But you know they might not know the acronyms like you do. So you simplify your answer. Your IT coworkers might think you don’t understand technology very well because you’ve answered the question so simply.

But really, you just know your audience. And you see no need to make yourself sound smarter or “better” than someone else. Which is actually a very smart thing to do!

5) They know their limits

Imagine hearing someone say, “I can’t do that”. You might think that person isn’t very intelligent.

But that isn’t generally true. Why? Because truly smart people know their limits. And they’re also unafraid to admit when something lies outside of their skill sets!

Say my boss asked me to rewire a light switch. I don’t know the first thing about safely rewiring a light switch.

But say I said I can do it – just to impress them. This could lead to me or someone else getting electrocuted.

That’s quite an extreme example, but people do similar things all the time. They say they can do things in relationships, in school, at work, at the gym, and just about anywhere, really. Rather than say they can’t do it or they don’t know how.

Telling the truth in these situations can make you look “silly” or like you don’t know what you’re doing. But it really isn’t!

It shows that you know your limits and gives you the chance to be taught something new. It also helps you and others better utilize the skills you have – and develop the ones you don’t. Which is actually a very smart way to grow yourself!

6) They can blend into a crowd

Ever heard of codeswitching? Remember when I said about the person in IT talking to someone in the warehouse? That they’d talk differently to their warehouse colleague compared to their boss? This is what it means to code-switch.

I’ve met people who can’t do this at all. They have one “personality” and that’s that. They’re exactly the same with their friends as they are on dates or even at work.

In my experience, these people don’t often have long relationships. Or long-lasting careers…

There’s nothing wrong with being who you are. But there is such a thing as “reading the room” and adapting to suit who you’re with.

The person I knew who didn’t do this would always say people who did this were “fools”. And that they weren’t being true to themselves.

But truly smart people knew that sometimes it’s good to blend into the crowd. And they’re happy to do it when the time is right.

7) They change their mind

I’ve met people who “go with the wind” – and they used to drive me crazy! They’d always be switching viewpoints and changing their opinions on things.

When you change your mind too much, it isn’t a good look. My view is that it makes you hard to trust and easily swayed by whichever is the more “valued” opinion.

But when you genuinely change your mind about something and aren’t afraid to admit it, it’s actually very smart!

Like if you used to think elephant rides in Thailand were cool and interesting. But after learning about the poor treatment of the animals, you don’t anymore.

Or if you used to hate running and exercising in school. But after realizing how good it is for your physical and mental health, you love it and do it often!

“I thought you didn’t like [running/exercising/any other thing]”, people you know might say to you – thinking you’re foolish for changing your mind.

But you know the reason you’ve changed your mind is because you’re growing. And that you’re actually way better off for it!

8) They’re kind and polite

It’s so easy for people to underestimate you when you’re a kind person. If you consider yourself to be “nice”, you probably know exactly what I mean!

“You’re too nice” or “The world is going to eat you up”, people might say to you. Or worse, “You’re so naïve”.

From experience, I’ve learned that kindness goes a long way in life. It can help you in your career, relationships, friendships, and even your education. It also just feels good to be nice to others.

Plus, I’ve found the saying, “Kill them with kindness” to be very beneficial, especially when someone is angry.

Losing your cool can leave you in a worse situation in the end. But keeping a lid on things can get you what you want, especially in a work environment!

That doesn’t stop people from underestimating you when you’re a nice person. Which is why they might try to take advantage of you, thinking, “They won’t say anything, they’re too kind and polite!”.

Which is why you need to have boundaries. And you need to know when to be kind and polite, and when to be firm!

Final thoughts

Some people have an unusual view of what it means to be intelligent. Like you have to be the loudest, most brazen person in the room. Or know all the acronyms and tech-speak – and use it as much as possible to confuse others!

But that isn’t really what being intelligent is all about. In fact, intelligent people don’t give themselves away so easily.

The signs that they’re smart are usually quite hidden beneath the surface. Which is why you’ll often find them staying quiet, keeping their cool, and happily blending into a crowd sometimes.

While also admitting when they don’t know something, can’t do something, or just need more clarification!

I know being underestimated doesn’t feel good. But sometimes it’s good that people don’t know how smart you really are.

So keep doing what you’re doing, and it might actually benefit you a lot more in the long run!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *