Being Wise and Being Smart

Some people think that intelligence and wisdom are synonyms. In this article I’m going to explain why that’s not the case, as well as break down some other forms of smarts.

I’m sure you’ve met an arrogant smart person before. A person who always acts like they’re right, and – the worst part – they usually are. These people are naturally not very likable. I would argue that these people fit the notion of intelligence, but not wisdom. What they have in hard skills (knowledge) they lack in soft skills (communication). A wise person usually has both of these, which is what makes gaining wisdom harder than gaining intellect.

There is, of course, the question of how someone becomes wise in the first place. A lot of people correlate wisdom with age, but I’ve met enough downright awful old people to know that’s not the case. Rather, I think being wise has to do with the much more difficult balance of emotional intelligence and rational intelligence. A person who can be smart, yet at the same time be empathetic and understand there are things in this world they can’t understand.

There are other types of smarts worth knowing, too. Street smarts, for example, are fundamentally different from rational and emotional intelligence. Street intelligence requires cunning, cleverness, and charisma, skills that someone who is smart or wise might not necessarily have. I think these three, put together – emotion, rationality, and charisma – represent the three “base traits” that revolve around intelligence.

This is, of course, also partially the reason why IQ is so hard to reasonably measure. I’ve written about this before, and still stand by the idea that IQ cannot be accurately determined based on how much we currently know about it. This is one of the reasons why.

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