Education & Career Trends: How to identify a Pseudo-Smart Person

4 min read

Edition: July 26th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Many people feel extremely smart but they have zero achievement to back up their ego. (Image Credit: creative

If you have had the privilege to have deep 1-on-1 conversations with heads of multi-million dollar businesses, you’ll know that they are genuinely smart people, who make you feel humbled just by their presence.

Many people feel extremely smart but they have zero achievement to back up their ego. Even when every piece of evidence shows that they’re not so smart, they find a smart reason why the world is wrong and they’re right.

That’s not how top performers think.

Here’s how to identify a pseudo-smart person: ask them what they’ve actually done in order to achieve their goals. If they start justifying their inaction, you’re dealing with a pseudo-intellectual.

The 4 things truly smart people never do

1. They don’t overthink

Instead, they test things with brutal immediacy and take immediate action

  • A hallmark trait of highly intelligent people is humility.
  • Intelligence is a by-product of experience and knowledge, and smart people are painfully aware of the things they don’t know or can’t do.
  • When you think about it, overthinking is just a state of inflated ego.
  • You think that you can ‘think up’ an answer to your problem. You think that you’re smart enough to solve a problem just in your head.
  • That’s not what smart people do. Smart people know that the answers to their problems cannot be found in their head.
  • They’ll sign contracts on an impulse and cut them off just as brutally.
  • If they find something interesting, they’ll turn 140% of their energy to that thing alone, and then leave it as soon as they realise it didn’t work.

2. They don’t do small talk

Instead, they lead with honesty and directness.

  • Another thing that stands out with genuinely smart people is their directness and honesty.
  • Truly intelligent people value their time, and they value yours.
  • That’s why you’ll seldom hear a smart person chit-chatting about their vacation for 30 minutes. They just don’t see the point.
  • It’s not that smart people don’t enjoy being nice — or that they don’t know how to be pleasant.
  • If you appreciate them being direct, they know they’re dealing with another smart person.
  • If you get confused and insulted by their directness — they’ll instantly know you’re probably just trying to look smart.

3. They don’t need a sophisticated reason to act

Instead, they often act on an impulse.

  • Intelligent people will sometimes act childishly, but do not mistake their free-willed behaviour with aimlessness.
  • Truly intelligent people always know what they’re doing. Intelligence is more than just about intellect. Intelligence is about trusting your emotions, too.
  • Smart people learn how to trust their inner signals in combination with external information.
  • Pseudo-smart people, on the other hand, will usually have a super-smart reason why they’re doing whatever it is they’re doing.
  • They’ll talk about markets, industries, news, latest research. They’ll try to convince you that the entire world is behind them on their decision and then they procrastinate.

4. They don’t hijack conversations

Instead, they listen more than they talk.

  • Another hallmark of highly intelligent people is that they’re rarely the centerpiece of the conversation.
  • You’ll rarely hear them dominate over someone— unless they have a reason to, partly because truly smart people realise how futile most conversations are.
  • After years of trial and error, they come to find a truth that their words rarely lead to any tangible result.
  • Instead, they focus on actions. Also, they’re good listeners. They’ve had lots of other really smart people tell them things about life and business. To do that, they’ve learned to be good listeners.
  • Whenever you hear someone dominate a conversation — beware, you’re most likely dealing with a pseudo-intellectual.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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