10 ways you know you’re with smart people

1. They don’t talk as much as you, because they know they got smart by listening.

2. They know lots of things other than what they’re specialised in. Theirs is the gift of a broad mind, constantly fed with the stimulant of being interested in what everyone else is doing.

3. They juggle home, work and personal interests with dexterity and never fall back on the tired old refrain about “work life balance”. And when they’re juggling, they somehow manage to seem 100% engaged with what they’re doing, on all fronts simultaneously, even though you know they’re taking appropriate steps behind the scenes to make sure their lives are perfectly, serenely balanced.

4. They probably do social media. Not always, but probably. It is not only another chance to listen, but one they use to ensure they can feed their brains with things they otherwise wouldn’t have come across.

5. Even when things go very badly wrong, they’ll be smiling. Smart people never get ruffled because their smart brains present them with alternatives faster than the bad stuff can happen.

6. They know they are usually the smartest person in the room, but they don’t spend their time dwelling on that. Instead, they take it as a personal challenge to see if they can make everyone else the smartest person in the room too.

7. If they are managers, they will make every effort to get people smarter, more connected and more popular than them in their teams. They’re not threatened because they know that smartness is synergistic. They also make sure that their smart people get to look smarter than them for the same reason.

8. They have hidden skills that never get rolled out until they’re needed. They don’t have any need to show their full capabilities for reasons of proving they’re better than others.

9. They may or may not have expensive educations. You’d never know, just by being with them unless you had their CV in front of you.

10. They never, ever, under any circumstances, make you look stupid, even though it would be easy to do so. They’ve learnt through bitted experience that the only thing that happens when you make someone look bad is you look bad yourself.

65 Responses to“10 ways you know you’re with smart people”

  1. Tim
    February 18, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Add: They speak and write with proper grammar and syntax.

    • setareh
      March 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

      According the rule number 10, you are not one of them. It’s make it easy to accept your comment. However, it seems I’m not one of them too beacuse I’m writing you this, it’s make it easier to comment on your comment 🙂
      lets deal with that 😉

    • RiddlesAtU
      April 8, 2012 at 2:18 am #

      I cant express how much I hate this misconception.. I know im smart since i have many sources to validate this claim, so I believe I can make this comment with confidence for my fellow intellectuals.

      Iv found out that only the foolish and dumb feel the need to spell out every single word in this stage of society. Especially considering most of us young intellectuals were raised in a society where our characters are limited (ie. Youtube, Twitter, txt messages, ect..) Its not only wasteful, but its now become a means for people to validate their foolish claims by using spell check on each other.. You can type a grade A comment on youtube.. fully researched and everything, but if you spell “u” instead of “you” to save space for useful information then apparently your ENTIRE point is invalid because youre apparently “not as smart” as everyone else there.. My point is this spelling and grammar foolishness HAS TO STOP on the internet. If you care about spelling so much write a book! Until then quit trying to validate your false IQ by scanning every damn article online to see if you can find a “your” instead of “youre”.

      • Christopher Fornesa
        October 9, 2012 at 8:54 am #

        Though I respect your opinion on the matters of spelling, Riddles, I can’t disagree more about your statement on how only the “foolish and dumb” must spell correctly.

        I’m also told I’m smart (though I know damn well I’m given probably more credit than I should get, I have a host of cognitive disorder for God’s sake), and I can’t stress spelling enough on myself. Just because I choose to spell doesn’t mean I’m an automatic smart-ass, but I did learn how to type as fast as I do through spelling correctly and this is how I’ll always type.

        So with that, I hope people will think before they type and not think that people like me are a bunch of jerks who meticulously look at every single little fault that someone else has in hopes of propping up their own egos. Despite being a millennial, it’s upon my own conviction to spell correctly, typing or writing, and frankly, I was just never the one to accept convention without good reason. 😉

      • Jules
        December 9, 2012 at 7:53 am #

        Hamlet once said “brevity is the soul of wit”.

        Intelligent people get their point across with flawless grammar/intelligence and less words.

        They don’t worry about character limits.

    • Jack
      March 3, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      I think being smart is the ability to understand others even when communication seems impossible. An example of this is when you see trainers communicating with gorillas or when they are being trained. Even though they are very different they are able to communicate fully.

      I can imagine in my mind the first sailing ship reaching North America, and the white man stepping out and being face to face with native indians. Did they do A or B?

      A) Oh my the english is not perfect and the spellng is off we must now end all trading and go home and tell our king due to grammar and words we just can’t make this work. Well I never!

      B) Try and try and try until they both understood and than work together to make communication possible even though it was not perfect.

      The word sounds and spelling we have today have also changed over time with the times so english to me is not just a rigid inflexible thing it’s the opposite. Being smart means being able to understand others.

      If someone is being understood then why do people pick at little things which brings about more questions. Do they feel inferior? Are the comphensating for something? Very interesting to think about.

      • Carrie
        February 4, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

        Agreed… being smart isn’t knowing all facts, rules, laws, and tidbits and using them tenaciously… I would think it is more of the ability to do all of the above. One might show a talent in grammar, the other science, the other wit, the other spacial reasoning … and focus their abilities on those subjects.

        I think his list is fun and possibly pertains more to a certain personality type that is smart.

        @CFornesa… not all smart or even genius types spell well or use proper grammar. Einstein for one was almost considered to be “retarded” for his poor ability to spell. Look up information on Howard Gardner and “multiple intelligences.”

        And then there is wisdom, which I think some of this list falls under. Being smart or intelligent does not guarantee you will be a kind or aware person. But I still enjoyed the list.

  2. February 18, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    Irritatingly, I am mildly dyslexic. I really try my hardest to make sure everything is perfect before i post, but often fail to catch everything. Sometimes it seems that I can't spot the errors till I read back a few days later.
    Sorry about any mistakes.

    • RiddlesAtU
      April 8, 2012 at 2:21 am #

      Its ok. As long as what you write has great substance, like this article, I can stomach a few spelling errors. Only those hoping to validate their ignorance will make fun of your spelling while the rest will absorb and ponder on it. Great job

  3. February 18, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Simple; brilliant.
    Subtly defines the differences between intellect, intelligence, cleverness and smart. I can visualise this as a ladder; "step off at rung number x", if you reach get past 10 your smart….wonder what defines you then?

  4. Toni Plana
    February 18, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    Brilliant. Smart comments for a smarter planet.
    One more, for non English-speaking people:
    11. They never pretend that they have understood everything when listening, or reading English blogs, but they understand enough to make sense of it, and rush to the dictionary to learn a few more words.
    James, it is a pleasure to read you blog. Hope to see you some time in Barcelona, or elsewhere.
    P.S. -today I learned the meaning of 'dexterity'

    • David Reed
      August 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

      …and I the meaning of “bitted”

  5. February 21, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    Well said. Your blog posts are awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Different Tim
    February 22, 2010 at 12:30 am #

    I can think of a few people who would benefit from reading this … Nicely put.

  7. February 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    Gosh what is beyond smart, anyway? Extra Smart? 🙂

  8. February 22, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Thank you all for your kind remarks on this post. I'm glad you've found it useful.

  9. February 22, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    I definitely agree with you No. 11. Would love to catch up the next time I am down your way.

  10. February 23, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    James, you posses the gift of understatement!
    I spent a day with you last year pre DWP and have been reading your blogs ever since; they have changed the way I think!
    It would be nice to catch up again.
    Thank you!

  11. February 23, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Carol, I definitely recall the great day we spent together. I would love to catch up again if it suits you… am only across the river these days, so a meet up would be simple.

  12. pennykjackson@google
    February 25, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    I have always believed that the most useful way to live and work is to demonstrate the desire to listen not to talk, to draw out conversation and to revel in others contribution. These 10 points illustrate this perfectly.

  13. Don
    February 25, 2010 at 6:10 pm #

    "They know they are usually the smartest person in the room"
    Apparently you are unaware of the Dunning-Kruger effect? I'm tempted to call BS on this list because it is nothing more than unsupported personal opinions.

    • Nicolas
      January 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

      and, if it is?

      It is interesting nonetheless, isn't it?

      It caused you to read and reflect.

  14. March 14, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    I am, tweeting this right now love it!

  15. Taco-eater
    June 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    Smart people tend to let mistakes go because they're not more important than the impact of the piece.

  16. Aditya
    August 1, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    ahh brilliant, love the person who wrote this. Helped me a lot. Thanks sooooooo much 🙂

  17. CK
    August 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm #

    Don, Dunning-Kruger applies to someone who is unskilled or incompetent. Surely a smart person is the opposite!
    Great list, thanks

  18. the internet
    August 15, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    You are full of "it".
    one way you know you’re with dumb people.
    1. Read this blog.
    The internet

  19. September 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    It takes one to know one.
    Perhaps I'll get better at screening who am I with..hehe..
    I particularly liked:
    "They don’t talk as much as you, because they know they got smart by listening."
    Will keep visiting. 🙂

  20. tm may
    October 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    Number 7 is confusing. Smart people as managers?
    I'm sorry. Managers? Smart?

  21. James
    March 22, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    @James Gardner – What is your definition of smart? While I agree with many of your points, I would say that 3 & 5 depend on more of their personality.

  22. Ram
    March 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I don’t think Tim read all the way to, or missed the point of, bullet #10.

    Nice read, James.

  23. March 23, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    #1 is wrong because, being the smartest person in the room always, gives me the perspective of such position. I am quiet because you just bored me to death with your drivel.
    And as far as being a manager and making those under you look smart, are you kidding me? I do that so I can do less work and more internet surfing and STILL look good to my boss. Then when I get the award I say “I couldn’t do it alone”.
    Another thing about us smart people. We don’t use the stupid cliche terms of the day like SYNERGISTIC. What the bleeeeep does that mean? Smartness does not rub off but stupid can affect a whole room.
    And smart people never try to elevate others in the room. We try to get the morons to shut up with the stupid questions so we can go back to our cubicle and pretend to do work.

  24. August 27, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    I feel like I’m constantly looking for interesting things to read about a variety of niches, but I manage to include your site among my reads every day because you have compelling entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more great material coming!

  25. Neil
    August 31, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    I’d go further on number 10. Truly smart people will help you unlock your potential…you’ll actually feel smarter around them!

  26. Peter
    September 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    I’m gonna disagree with a lot of these. Smart people come in all sorts of varieties from the soft spoken nice guy described here to the total malefactor. There is no set smart person personality and this is just lewd generalization

  27. Carrie
    September 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi James,

    I have a quick question for you. Can you contact me?


    Carrie Taaca
    Higher Level Group

  28. Joel
    September 30, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    This is obviously written by an idiot.

  29. your mom
    October 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    i guess im not smart 😐

  30. dumps
    October 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    I found this page by googling how to work with people smarter than you. doesn’t that make me smart too.

    ps please don’t spam my email box

  31. afello
    October 28, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    Total and utter nonsense. You are basically saying smart people act with integrity and decency This is not always the case.

    The Nazis were pretty damn smart.

  32. Joy (ex DWP)
    January 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    Hi James (old DWP – Future Design – PA to Manus McManus)

    It would seem like the ideal opportunity to say hello and to wish you a very Happy New Year. I have been watching your progress and reading your blog and twitter etc. You have done remarkably well since leaving the DWP and deservedly so.
    Would be wonderful to catch up if you are ever in Manchester and I hope that we can keep in touch, in the future. I should have made contact with you ages ago, but other things have got in the way – you know how it is – my apologies!

    Anyway, this was just a quick “hello”. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Take care, James

    With very kindest regards

    • jawgardner
      January 5, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Joy, so lovely to hear from you! I would indeed love to keep in touch, and see you in Manchester the next time i'm there. Maybe reach out to me on email? My address is jgardner@spigit.com

  33. Currie
    February 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    This post confuses intelligence with a lot of other personality traits. That the author finds a trait positive doesn’t mean it has anything to do with intelligence.

    “They never, ever, under any circumstances, make you look stupid, even though it would be easy to do so. They’ve learnt through bitted experience that the only thing that happens when you make someone look bad is you look bad yourself.”

    The above is absolutely ridiculous. People aren’t considered smart unless they’re nice (as you define it), too? Get over yourself.

    • Peter
      March 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm #


      Being nice is not a prerequisite for intelligence.

      It’s quite easy to start using intelligence for self gain and promotion of your own ego at the expense of others.

      I’d think of intelligence more as raw processing power, without personality traits coupled in at all. Intelligent people are likely as diverse as the rest of humanity.

  34. Suzanne
    May 12, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    Some people are smart in one area and dumb in others. What is brilliant in my mind is when we can find an unite the best everyone has to give. I’m dumb in some social situations and in finding my way around a city, but smart in fixing things or creating something. I happen to be good at spelling and appreciate the extra time people give to proofread articles they publish. it shows me they cared enough to write it and make it as clear as possible for their readers. On the other hand, a comment is off the top of the head, so I don’t get so picky about proof-reading when I know I’ve made errors.
    This reply mechanism seems to underline incorrect spellings in read, so maybe there is no excuse.

  35. Alejandro (AJ)
    May 29, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    AJ Guerrero, 15 years

    IQ is not intelligence, intelligence is not “smartness”. theres no difinitive way to measure a persons “worth” but the closest measure may not be what you have but what you are natrually dispositioned to not let it overcome you; IGNORANCE in response to whoever thinks “smart” people must be nice: In stead of depreciating someones comment or thought help them to see perspectives not seen before not frustrate them into disagreement, which may morph into ignorance. As for the Hitler topic it was also an anger derived from ignorance, possibly planted into him by a comment someone once made. so if you strive to be “smart’ by any means it will be alot easier if u arent an ass

  36. fromseedtotree
    August 14, 2012 at 3:24 am #

    ok, so i’m here in the room, i accept challenge.

    You all confuse smart with wisdom 😉

  37. Peter
    August 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    I like your article, Mr Gardner, but may I ask if what you wrote here is your personal opinion or do you have some references. I don’t mean if that were your own opinion then it’s of less value. I liked your article already and I agree with most of it. I just want to get some other resources of this subject, as it’s to some degree important to me.

    • Peter
      August 23, 2012 at 6:54 pm #


  38. Rachel
    December 17, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    i agree with half of this. i especially dont agree with #5, i myself am a positive person, however i know a lot of smart people who are negative.

  39. Damian
    February 16, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    well, i guess im kind of smart. i know how to look at things from many different perspectives unlike most and i have general knowledge in lots of subjects and i have trouble switching off my thinking. i often have touble sleeping because im too busy trying to figure something out BUT i sure as hell do not know how to use good punctuation and my spelling is pretty poor too. i guess thats the problems these days isnt it? too many people with half a brain who know how to argue and are quick witted but in general, overall, they are stupid. i think they should make psychology a main school subject like english and maths. maybe that way people would understand each other and themselves alot more and realise their faults and try to work on them. thats what i try to do anyway.

  40. Claudia
    July 18, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Many people tend to forget the various shades of intelligence that exist – too much focus is based on scientific/mathematical intelligence and book smarts. I disagree that smart people “know they’re the smartest people in the room” (unless you mean being aware that they are likely to be better in terms of a certain type of intelligence). My strengths lie in Linguistic, Mathematical, Musical, Communication and to a lesser extent, creativity. However I could never judge myself to be overall smarter than anyone else, or for somebody to be smarter than me because it’s an overly complex and pointless exercise. I find Comedian’s highly intelligent – they need a sense of rhythm and timing in delivery, often make acute observations about society and so forth. People who are TV personalities and perhaps “famous for being famous” – might stereotypically lack in the brains department in terms of being able to solve a mathematical problem, but obviously possess a high level of interpersonal and emotional intelligence in order to be able to influence people and get into a position of being famous and/or influential. It really bugs me when people think smart is just about “knowing things” – that is a very UNintelligent view about being intelligent.

  41. Jentle
    July 24, 2013 at 12:57 am #

    I have tried both academic and street lifestyle. I actually love them both, but it was difficult for me to adapt in a school setting. I didn’t understand why some people get fixated on their opposite.

    In my theory, most people are tend to give a little attention to things that are invaluable/meaningless to them.

    Most people who knew me thought that I’m bright or intelligent (know more things than most people). Other than that, I also speak two languages and two dialects. I’m proficient in my three spoken languages/dialects. How that happens? When I was in my country, my mother and father spoke different dialects. In school, I have had a different language (my primary official language and now English is our second [official] language). My mother’s dialect was spoken by majority of the population in our region and my father’s dialect was spoken by minorities.

    When I immigrated in the United States, I started learning another languages (English and Spanish). I can comprehend English no problem and I can speak a little bit of Spanish.

    Am I able to use advanced vocabulary? Yes, I can utilize it no problem. I just feel a little snooty, so I stay in lower places. 😀

    Some Americans would speak a vocabulary that is not commonly spoken to describe stupid people as bozos. Lol.

    Dude or gurl, don’t speak foolishly in front a foreigner. Don’t let the phenotype deceives you.

    I stumbled around SOME ignorant people. They thought that their fancy English was terrific and I never understood them. I didn’t correct their mind. I made them feel intelligent!

    I don’t know myself completely, but I know I don’t deceived people through languages. They wouldn’t know if I want to do the same behavior.

    There’s no need to show off my limited intelligence.

  42. Beth M
    August 9, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    To be fair…. I have made people feel stupid on purpose. They deserved it. Trust me.

  43. January 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    0. Smart people don’t read stupid X-whatever list blog posts.

    1. I talk a shit load, and I may be way dumber than I should, I’m still way smarter than most, so whatever.

    2. You can’t really be smart if you’re only good in one field. No depth, no cigar.

    3. Smart people aren’t necessarily wise people, don’t mix both.

    4. I don’t do social media. It’s like the real world, full of drooling morons.

    5. True. I never doubt that I will find a solution, but we all get to experience fear now and then.

    6. I do try to teach people, but they don’t necessarily like it.

    7. Most smart people just aren’t managers. You don’t get smart by doing stupid work.

    8. It’s more like you have too many skills to actually have any chance to have one person experience them all in a reasonable time frame. It comes from trying to excel at whatever you do.

    9. True dat.

    10. Wrong, I often make people look stupid, and often accidentally. You can’t really expect every smart person to spend most of their time making sure none of their genius ever gets noticed lest it hurts the fragile egos of the self-limited.
    Also, you are stupid, sir. And I think you’re hanging with nice people, not smart ones 😉

    • jawgardner
      January 10, 2014 at 3:01 pm #


      Thankyou for your views. Though its slightly ironic, I think, that you comment on this post given your point 0. 🙂

  44. Lesley
    January 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    The fact that some people are willing to take the time to insult the writer is very sad indeed and says a lot more about them than about the writer. (Point 10 in nutshell me thinks!) . Thanks for the article James. Very interesting. Whilst some might not agree with your views on what constitutes smart people, its a great topic for an Intelligent conversation and debate. I didn’t even notice the spelling and grammar mistakes as i was more interested in the content……

    • jawgardner
      January 11, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Oh you’re welcome Lesley, and thanks so much for your comments!

  45. Osama Bin to Walmart
    February 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    I wonder how many people have inserted tiny linguistic tidbits into their replies to appear well-spoken. Also, being unable to compare one mind against another except through speech (which I find totally inadequate and time-consuming for the aforementioned purpose), how would one know he or she is intelligent amongst the ‘dumb masses’ who may, in fact, be utilizing the point above that states that intelligent people do not display it?

    P.S. – I consider myself intelligent to think that comedy, fun and laughs are some of the most valuable things to occupy your time. I am, of course, speaking as removed from the topic of family, marriage, children and related things.

  46. diho
    March 15, 2014 at 4:56 am #

    I think most of us have relegated smartness to the background of negativity. To be smart is not to be tricky or crafty but the other way around, namely, to understand and known much yet allow others too to grow even more than you….the writer did a nice job


  1. My naughtiest posts of all time - February 17, 2011

    […] getting a massive number of hits from StumbleUpon on a post I wrote over a year ago called “How you know you’re with smart people“. At the time I wrote it, I’d just come from a group discussion populated by people who […]

  2. Quora - May 25, 2011

    How can you tell whether someone is smarter than you?…

    I reproduce a recent blog post of mine on this topic: 1. They don’t talk as much as you, because they know they got smart by listening. 2. They know lots of things other than what they’re specialised in. Theirs is the gift of a broad mind, constantly f…

  3. Look Smart | Team 478 - March 28, 2012

    […] See More . . . […]

  4. Cum recunoști un om deștept - Marius Sescu - February 5, 2013

    […] cred că cel mai interesant răspuns e cel de mai jos, luat din articolul ăsta în […]

Leave a Reply

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


Proudly powered by WordPress   Premium Style Theme by www.gopiplus.com