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Gisela McKay

President and Co-Founder, pixcode

TEDCRED 30+

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How do smart people "find their level" in conversation?

I am interested in identifying how smart people (gifted/exceptional or whatever word we’re using this week) people recognize each other.

I have observed that they can identify each other relatively quickly, and even broadly determine where they sit relative to each other while average or “less smart” people can usually identify that they are dealing with “smart” people but not necessarily the extent to which they are smart.

Some things I have observed that are “tells” of being “quicker”:

1. A willingness to leave the conversational basics behind and explore deeper into the subject (and if the person they are conversing with does not follow, drop back to the level the other can cope with).
2. Anchoring - taking the current topic of conversation and looking for a frame of reference they are already familiar with to understand it better.
3. Quips and parallel commentary - fleeting comments that are not meant to derail the main thrust of the conversation.

Any other keys you have observed in your experience?

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    Aug 11 2011: I think you hit the mark with number one, a willingness to leave conversational basics. The people I find most intellectually fun to talk to are the ones who are most willing leave convention behind. For me, these people are usually philosophy students or graduate students who spend their days thinking about theory. Or people who love talking about Harry Potter and other grand fiction. If they don't feel discomfort at leaving reality, I consider that a mark of intellect. Because for me, intellect has to do with willingness to be reflective on things you are not comfortable about.

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