Intelligence comes in many forms.
Think Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, and Marie Curie. Each had a different life story and made a unique contribution to the world.
But there are certain qualities that nearly all supersmart people share.
To find out what they are, we sifted through the Quora thread, “What are the common traits of highly intelligent people?” Read on for the most insightful answers.
1. They’re highly adaptable.
Several Quora users noted that intelligent people are flexible and able to thrive in different settings. As Donna F Hammett writes, intelligent people adapt by “showing what can be done regardless of the complications or restrictions placed upon them.”
Recent psychological research supports this idea: Intelligence depends on being able to change your own behaviors in order to cope more effectively with your environment or make changes to the environment you’re in.
2. They understand how much they don’t know.
The smartest folks are able to admit when they aren’t familiar with a particular concept. As Jim Winer writes, intelligent people “are not afraid to say: ‘I don’t know.’ If they don’t know it, they can learn it.”
3. They have insatiable curiosity.
Albert Einstein famously said, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”
This passionate curiosity about the world around you may be one of the keys to intelligence. According to Quora user Keyzurbur Alas, “intelligent people let themselves become fascinated by things others take for granted.”
The good news is you can actively cultivate curiosity in your daily life. Whenever you’re listening to a presentation, write down at least three questions — even if you don’t actually get to submit them.
4. They ask good questions.
The fundamental difference between really smart people and everyone else, says Justin Arvin, “is the ability to ask the right questions.”
Intelligent people know that asking thought-provoking questions is just as important as providing answers. That’s because questions can challenge your thinking and help you come up with new solutions to old problems.
5. They’re sensitive to other people’s experiences.
Smart people can “almost feel what someone is thinking/feeling,” says Richard He.
Some psychologists argue that empathy, being attuned to the needs and feelings of others and acting in a way that is sensitive to those needs, is a core component of emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent individuals are typically very interested in talking to new people and learning more about them.
6. They’re open-minded.
Smart people don’t close themselves off to new ideas or opportunities. Hammett writes that intelligent people are “willing to accept and consider other views with value and broad-mindedness” and that they are “open to alternative solutions.”
7. They’re skeptical.
While skepticism might seem like the enemy of open-mindedness, the two traits go hand in hand. The key is being amenable to considering new ideas, as long as they’re backed by supporting facts.
“An intelligent mind has a strong aversion to accepting things on face value and therefore withholds belief until presented with ample evidence,” says Alas.
This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider UK Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Shana Lebowitz is a Strategy reporter for Business Insider.
Image: A man goes up the stairs at Tokyo’s business district. REUTERS/Yuya Shino.