So you’re smart, you’re curious, maybe you’re a little quirky … but are you gifted?  You’ve probably seen all the typical lists of giftedness traits like high achievement, creativity and perfectionism, but let’s talk about ten unexpected signs that YOU might be gifted!

There are a lot of gifted adults out there, but not all of us are aware that we’re gifted, and some of us thought we were gifted as kids, but now we’re starting to doubt whether we’re still gifted for a variety of reasons, most of which center around how successful we are today.  

Most often giftedness is measured by IQ score, but that’s not the only way to identify giftedness, and in fact, it’s not even the best way.  Relying on one narrow intelligence test actually reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what giftedness really is.  It’s not about what you know, it’s about how your brain works.  

The gifted brain processes information differently than everyone else’s brains.  Our brains notice more detail, process incoming information faster, and make connections and synthesize all that information more quickly. So we notice more, we realize what we’re seeing faster, and we connect all the dots more quickly to come up with deeper conclusions and out of the box solutions. 

As you can imagine, trying to test that internal process is pretty hard.  What works better is to watch the process in action.  When you see a gifted person out in the wild, turning the full force of their brain onto a situation that they’re in, it becomes pretty obvious that they’re in the club, so to speak.  They’re recognizably gifted.  You’ve seen this happen in detective movies all the time when the very serious inspector is unsuspectingly walking into danger, but quickly notices all these subtle clues that the bad guy has set a trap, and bam they jump out of the way just in time.  Those little clues, like a faucet dripping or an open window, look like nothing special to everyone else, but the detective’s brain sees them all, realizes what they mean when taken together, and comes to the right conclusion fast enough to save the day. 

So, from the outside looking in, you can appreciate how the detective’s brain works differently than everybody else’s … you think to yourself, “Oh, that was clever.  That was very smart how she figured that out.”  It’s easy to see it in other people, but not so easy to see in ourselves, especially because a lot of us are conditioned to downplay our own strengths, or our self confidence has taken a hit because of the negative messages about giftedness that we’re absorbing from our environment.  

Today let’s look at ten behaviors to look for in yourself that can indicate that you are in fact gifted.  I’m going to give you that “outside looking in” piece that you’ve been missing.  If you find yourself doing more than three of these things, you’re very likely a member of the club too.  And we’ve been calling this special brain “gifted” and referring to “giftedness” but as we know, this label comes with a lot of baggage. I actually prefer to describe us as “intensely perceptive.”  That term actually gets closer to the heart of what makes us different. 

So what are the ten unexpected signs that you’re gifted?

1. You’re the first to laugh at a joke

Let’s say you’re in a group, you’re all watching the same comedian, and in the split second after he lands the punch line, you hear yourself laugh before anyone else.  Why is that?  You all heard the leadup to the joke, but you made the connections faster, you realized why it was funny faster, and your body instinctively started to laugh first.  It’s a little bit like game show contestants who hit the buzzer first.  Their neurons are firing faster, and bam, they got there first. That’s your brain. Humor is actually complicated, especially when it’s sarcastic or abstract, and if you’re the first one to laugh at sophisticated jokes, you may be gifted.

2. You can read microexpressions on other people’s faces

A microexpression is a very fleeting change in someone’s expression that’s not obvious unless you’re really tuned in.  A normal expression uses a lot of different muscles in your face and is obvious to anyone.  A microexpression is when just the tiniest muscle moves the tiniest bit — it can even be as subtle as someone blinking a little faster or slower than normal, or just the littlest movement of the eyebrows or the ears.  It’s almost invisible, but it’s very obvious to a person who sees all the details.  Sometimes you may think to yourself that you’re just getting a vibe from someone, or an intuition, but in fact it’s a microexpression that you’re seeing very briefly.  If you can read people so well that you keep hearing, “What are you reading my mind?” you may be gifted. 

3. You watch videos on 1.5x speed

When your mind understands concepts quickly, the first time they’re explained, you’ll get bored instantly when someone starts to repeat themselves or just can’t get to the point quick enough for you.  I actually do this all the time when I’m watching videos.  I just get so antsy trying to listen to people explain things soooo slowly … discovering that I can increase the playback speed was literally a game changer! If you get bored and kind of aggravated when people explain things too slowly, you may be gifted.  

4. You turn off your music when you’re looking for a new street sign

You often hear that gifted people are highly sensitive, and this means not only that we’re sensitive to emotions, but also to physical stimuli as well.  One example of this (of many) is how being in places where there is a lot of overlapping stimuli coming at you all at once can be overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s a crowd with a lot of people talking at once, and sometimes it’s something as simple as needing to shut off the audio stimulus when you’re trying to process visual information, like when you’re following your GPS to somewhere new and you need to look out for a street sign.  If you get overwhelmed when there’s a lot of stimulation around you, you may be gifted.

5. When you’re reading, you can’t hear people speak to you

This is the flip side of the highly sensitive thing.  Our gifted minds are actually really good at deep focus in the right circumstances.  When we get hooked by something really stimulating, the rest of the world fades away.  I can be reading right next to my husband watching television, and I won’t hear a thing that’s being said right in my ear.  My brain just turns off the volume and I’m there in that book, immersed in that story.  If you can focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else around you, you may be gifted.

6. You have a “thing” that you know inside and out 

You know how some little kids LOVE dinosaurs and will memorize every single type, or other kids are really into Pokemon and can name every one of the hundreds of creatures and all the things they turn into?  That’s a gifted thing, and it’s not limited to little kids.  Think about it.  What subject do you know EVERYTHING about?  This is something that’s not related to what you do for work – it’s more likely something kind of creative like the shapes of historical dresses, or the details that define art deco architecture, or something that just fires your happy neurons and you just never tire of learning more about it.  If you have a “thing” that you know inside and out, beyond a typical, passing interest in that subject, you may be gifted. 

7. It’s not your only “thing”

Many gifted adults are polymaths or renaissance people.  This is sometimes also described as being a multipotentialite.  This is when you have advanced skills in several different areas, to the point where it’s hard to decide what path to pursue.  Maybe you’re a programmer who also is great at acting and you’re also a master gardener.  When you can learn as fast as we can, it’s not surprising that you can also attain mastery of a variety of different fields.  If you’re really quite good in several different areas, you may be gifted.

8. You hate it when people don’t face consequences for not following rules

It’s not just that it isn’t fair, and it’s not just that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things.  It’s that justice is there for a reason.  A logical reason that benefits all of us in society.  Gifted folks often feel unusually angry when we see someone else making a choice that to our mind is illogical and incorrect, and then nothing happens … fire doesn’t rain down, the rule police don’t break down the door … it’s as though reality has turned inside out.  We look at someone doing something they shouldn’t and think “That was wrong. That doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that? I would never make that choice because the risk doesn’t outweigh the benefit.” In our minds, and often in real life, there should be a consequence for making a bad choice.  But when there isn’t, it makes us feel really unsettled, like someone just defied gravity.  AND yes, also it’s not fair. If you get irrationally enraged when you see justice has not been done, you may be gifted.

9. You hate being interrupted in the middle of a project

Massive. Pet. Peeve.  If I’m on a roll, and I’m thinking and creating and solving, Do. Not. interrupt. Me.  I can’t stand it. I imagine the inside of my head as a huge cavernous space with this massive complicated machine that’s my brain.  Most of the time, just a little part of it is running, and there are some parallel tracks where I’m also thinking of a song and maybe what I’m going to do next.  But when I’m really working hard on something challenging, the whole thing grinds into motion and the gears are spinning and the pistons are pumping and pieces of a puzzle are clicking into place.  When you interrupt me, it’s like someone stuck a rod into the spokes of a turning wheel, and the whole thing crashes to a halt.  Little metal pieces break off and the grease that keeps the gears moving seizes up and turns cold, and it’s really hard to get all those big wheels turning again!  It’s so frustrating.  If you get really aggravated when you’re interrupted in the middle of thinking hard, you may be gifted.

10. You get a massive serotonin boost from solving puzzles and finding answers

When you solve a puzzle, whether it’s something small like the Wordle or the answer to a trivia question, or something big like figuring out how to solve a problem at work, when you get that answer, you feel the buzz.  You’re happy, you’re warm, you’re content, and it’s not just because you like praise.  This happens even when you’re all alone.  It just feels good to find the answer, no matter how big the problem is.  Sometimes you’ll even subconsciously find a few little problems to solve to make yourself feel better when you’re down.  I’ve been known to reorganize closets when I’m mad, just so I can stand there and look at the finished product and bask in the glow of that “i fixed this” feeling. If you subconsciously use mini problem solving to feel good or feel better, you may be gifted. 

Now this is not an exhaustive list, and there are certainly other ways to tell whether you’re gifted, or intensely perceptive, but these ten points are a good place to start.  Which ones brought you up short?  I’d love to hear in the comments how you recognize yourself in these signs, and which ones surprised you.