The other day, I visited a professor at a university and we had a quite interesting conversation, so I would like to write about his story today. It was about on what basis we judge whether a person is intelligent.

Who wouldn’t want to be regarded as intelligent? I am not in a position to tell whether intelligence itself is a vital factor in deciding a person is superior or not, but in reality being intelligent definitely increases probability to become successful in today’s society and companies want intelligent human resources.


Here is the thing. Although being intelligent is certainly an advantage in every situation, we never share the same definition of what kind of people is intelligent. Looking for a yardstick we all try to apply to measure a person’s intelligence, I have found such factors as academic background, job, qualifications, remarks, behaviors and financial status are commonly considered to represent how much a person is intelligent, which means we are surrounded by tons of standards including ones with no factual grounds. In short, there is no solid basis.


Despite the absence of clear standards, the professor’s approach was pretty convincing to me.


He said, “I don’t know what characteristics can be a key element, but when I need to see whether a person is intelligent or not, I pay attention to his/her reactions in five different situations.


1: How a person reacts to opinions different from his/hers

“Intelligent” people respect different opinions while “Not intelligent” people reject those because they feel they are being attacked.

2: How a person responds to things he/she doesn’t know

“Intelligent” people are not afraid of encountering something they don’t know. In fact, they are excited by finding those and try to learn them. On the other hand, “Not intelligent” people are ashamed of not-knowing something. As a result, they try to hide it and miss the chance to acquire new knowledge.

3: How a person tries to teach someone something

“Intelligent” people think they must be “capable of teaching” to teach someone, but “Not intelligent” people think he/she must be “capable of understanding “what they tell him/her.

4: How a person tackles knowledge

“Intelligent” people appreciate knowledge of all kinds, but “Not intelligent” people do not value knowledge until they are sure about for what purpose they are acquiring it. Screening “useful” and “not-useful”, “Not intelligent” people treat “not-useful” knowledge lightly.


5: How a person criticizes something

“Intelligent” people criticize a person, honoring his/her intelligence. On the other hand, “Not intelligent” people criticize a person, dishonoring his/her intelligence.


I personally feel being intelligent has nothing to do with whether you are bright or smart, but how much you can confront the reality. To be intelligent, we need to be patient and objective.


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