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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 14 2011: One of the biggest indicators of intelligence is efficiency in communication. An intelligent man can clearly communicate a thought with fewer words than his peers. His speech will lack the words "uh, um," and most importantly "$%^#." Haha. It is true that curses indicate a lower vocabulary.
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      Aug 14 2011: This is a common misconception. Uh and um and other verbal stumbles (sometimes including curse words) are thought to be indicators that the person is putting together their thoughts as they speak. Speech that's free of uh, um, ehhh could be memorized, pre-planned, or simply an expression of ideas that the speaker is not thinking much about.

      They are sort of meta-words that mean "I'm thinking about this" or "I'm about to tell you something new"
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        Aug 14 2011: I'm aware of this. This is actually an important part of the point I was making. A smart individual rarely stumbles & generally knows what he is going to say before he says it. An intelligent person has memorized vast amounts of information, and is aware of the depth of their own understanding of a given subject. This leads to confident speech even when conversing on a subject that the individual doesn't know much about. The majority of the things this person says will likely be pre-planned to some extent.
        • Aug 15 2011: I'm probably both smart and intelligent. Because I rarely stumble but I absorb massive amounts of information that I'm sometimes not very familiar with. But I keep reading and associating with ppl that do. And I absorb their knowledge and incorporate it into mine. And analyze their theories with mine and the ones that I previously absorbed and come with a conclusion of a standpoint in knowledge. But also I stumble over my words sometimes when I've absorbed to much information in a given day and my mind is blank. And maybe 5 min after I talk with that person or we begin a totally different subject it comes to my mind. I'm smart, intelligent, and attentive, astute. I took a IQ test recently and it was inclusive. I didn't fail but didn't pass. Doctor said I had a average IQ but he wasn't really sure and he said so. He just gave me a estimate. But see I passed all the complex tests but didn't do so well on the simpler ones. And that probably is think lot. Sometimes over think. People tell me that a lot. All the complex shapes, pattern and memorization skills that they tested me on I aced. It was actually crazy. Cause I didn't really memorize them. He asked me for a word that was the opposite of the word he spoke and it had to be on the screen. I only looked at the screen for 2 secs. And I just figured out a system of decisive similar antonyms that would make sense. But what do I know. Maybe my IQ is 92. Anyway, later.
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      Aug 17 2011: I would also disagree. Despite having excessive quantities of information in my brain, I add more all the time and I tend to mull over questions in light of recent updates.

      Granted, there are questions with relatively "stock" answers, but one of the reasons I get interviewers to send me a list of questions that I will be asked on air before-hand is so that they do not ask me something that requires I mull over and assemble an answer on the fly. It is true that most interviews don't go in that direction, but it has lead to dead air in the past while I run through my mental filing cabinets for the correct answer.

      In one-to-one conversation, I prefer people who refrain from asking banal questions (ones to which I have the answers immediately at hand).

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