12 Little Things That Show People You’re Intelligent — Without You Having To Say It

Nicolas Cole
May 11 · 5 min read

I was at a breakfast meeting not too long ago.

Four people around a small table on the outdoor deck of a nice hotel, right on the beach, one of the women brought two boxes of avocado toast from the café.

“For us to share,” she said.

My first thought was, “How are we going to share avocado toast in those boxes?”

The man we were meeting with started talking about his venture, and as I was listening I noticed the woman tearing the lids and sides off the boxes.

When she was done, the untouched slices of avocado toasted sat on a bed of cardboard, out in the open for us to share.

I immediately chalked her up as being a smart person, and someone I would enjoy working with.

Whether we realize it or not, our actions say much more about us than words do.

This is a big theme that I reflected on writing my book of daily meditations, Slow Down, Wake Up.

We judge each other based on the way we act, not the way we say we act.

Keeping this in mind, here are 12 little things that show people you’re intelligent — without you having to say it.

1. Showing up on time.

The most simple indicator of all.

If you are late, you are disrespectful. It doesn’t matter the circumstance — unless the other party is luckily in the same boat (both of you enduring the same traffic). But still, it’s always best to be the one on time.

Rule of thumb: if you’re not early, you’re late.

2. Dressing appropriately.

Some people say, “It’s always better to be overdressed.”

I disagree.

Being overdressed is the same issue as being underdressed, except you’re probably a lot less comfortable. But they still highlight the same issue: you didn’t do enough due diligence to figure out what would be appropriate to wear.

Take the time to understand where you’re going and what the expectation is.

That way, you’ll present yourself in the best light possible.

3. Remembering the little things.

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” — William Morris

If you can recall the small stuff, people will think fondly of you forever.

Something as simple as, “I got you black, no cream, because I remember you telling me you didn’t drink dairy,” can turn someone into your best friend.

And that’s because listening shows you care.

4. Holding the door open.

When I was growing up and walking beside my mother, every door we would approach she would stand in front of and wait.

She would wait for me to open it for her.

I love that she taught me that.

Such a small act, with any human being, shows your willingness to put others before yourself.

5. The art on your walls.

Ever walk into an office, or someone’s home and think, “Wow, this person must be fascinating.”

How you keep your space shows others what speaks to you. What motivates you. What interests you, and what you believe is worth looking at on a daily basis.

Choose things that give depth to your character.

6. Your shoes.

This isn’t about buying what’s most expensive, or what’s trendy.

Your style of shoes say a lot about you, as a person. They are one of the few things a person can wear that is clearly representative of their personality. For example, someone could be wearing old jeans and a t-shirt, but with nice shoes, you immediately classify them as someone who is deliberate.

Your shoes say a lot about you.

7. When you take notes.

The most obvious example happens with a restaurant server.

An unintelligent restaurant server will try to impress you by not taking out their notepad to jot down your order. An intelligent server will realize they have far more to lose than they do to gain by taking this risk, and will make notes as needed.

The same goes for just about anything in life. Why risk your friend’s pickup order? Why risk your boss’s coffee request? Why risk losing your business partner’s ideas from the meeting?

Taking notes shows you would rather things get done, and done right.

8. The state of your desktop.

How vulnerable do you feel showing someone your desktop?

If there are files everywhere, that’s a clear sign you’re disorganized and out of sorts.

But imagine someone looking at a clean, well-organized desktop with a handful of clearly labeled folders.

What sort of conclusion would they draw about you?

9. Spending money wisely.

I’m all for enjoying yourself, but how you spend your money is a very clear reflection of your values as a person.

Who you spend it on.

Where and when.

This can say a lot about you — whether you always realize it or not.

10. How you invest your time.

The activities you call your own are arguably the most powerful indicator to your priorities as a person.

Do you spend your time working on yourself? Or do you squander it trying to remain distracted from the things that truly matter?

We are all a reflection of how we invest our time.

11. The foods you eat.

Your body is your temple.

What you eat and how you prioritize taking care of yourself says more about you than you might realize. It shows what matters to you (instant gratification or long-term health). It shows discipline, consistency. And it speaks volumes about the relationship you have with yourself.

You are what you eat.

12. Your circle of friends.

“You are the reflection of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Who we associate with speaks volumes about our outlook on life, our beliefs, our goals, and what we find most important in life.

If you want to meet the right people, hang around the right people.

And if you want to improve yourself, spend time with people who value self-improvement.

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Nicolas Cole

Written by

3x Author | Viral Writer | Founder of Digital Press | 100M+ Views | NEW BOOK, The Art and Business of Online Writing, OUT NOW: https://amzn.to/2DnwPEW

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 120,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Nicolas Cole

Written by

3x Author | Viral Writer | Founder of Digital Press | 100M+ Views | NEW BOOK, The Art and Business of Online Writing, OUT NOW: https://amzn.to/2DnwPEW

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 120,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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