TED Conversations

Gisela McKay

President and Co-Founder, pixcode


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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 12 2011: Among the people I assume to be very smart I have noted that they are often looking very curious and empathic to others, at least if they are kind people. It seems to me that they are willing to trust anybody unless the others are proven unworthy. Also I have noted (like someone has said before) that they are more interested in exploring a thing while discussing it instead of simply exchanging opinions about it. So I think they recognize each other simply by recognizing the open-minded and naive approach in the other.

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