Are You Sure You Mean To Say Smart? By Amy Goldberg

do you mean smart

 “It’s not that I’m so smart, I just stay with problems longer.”

Albert Einstein

How did we get to a place where we find it necessary to always proclaim, almost every single time after meeting someone, how smart they are? Listen for it, the next time someone describes someone whom they’ve met.

Are we even describing the person accurately? Are you telling me that everyone is smart? Great, if that were the case. However, I doubt that very much, given the grim political climate. Ok, I’m not going there. 😊

The reason why I’m drawing attention to this is because we tend to misuse the word or sentiment when best describing someone. Ultimately, and in turn this misuse has most likely watered-down the true meaning of what being ‘smart’ really is. I’d even go so far as to say that it does a disservice to those who are actually smart and intelligent people. Furthermore, does being smart, and being intelligent mean the same thing? But I digress, and yet let’s go there …

Interestingly, we do tend to think of the words—smart, and intelligent—to be interchangeable. However, there is a difference between the meanings, and the use of these words.

Being smart is an earned status. A trait a person can acquire. It’s also defined by the ability to adapt, read a situation and apply the information. Intelligence, on the other hand, is a trait a person is born with. It’s measurable (IQ test). Additionally, being smart has a practical component, whereby intelligence, believe it or not, isn’t always practical.

Having said that, I’d like to know what do people mean when they say: “smart”? It probably means that they’re generalizing from a single instance in which the person knew something they didn’t. That makes sense.

Closer to home, however, a number of my friends when best describing the qualities they’re looking for in their ‘ideal’ man (no such thing) will say that he has to be smart. What immediately comes to mind when I hear the ‘list’ with smart topping the chart is, “Poor guy. Oh what pressure.”

I push forward for some clarity and say, “What do you mean by smart?” In fact, it’s not about being smart at all, as what I’m hearing is something entirely different. I proceed, “Go on.”Well,” says my friend; “He needs to be able to carry a conversation, be financially secure, and interested in what I have to say.” Interpretation: he needs to be emotionally available, wealthy, and a good listener. Did you read ‘smart’ anywhere in that descriptor?

What I’m trying to convey is that when you meet someone for 5 minutes and go away thinking/saying that she/he is ‘smart,’ it makes one believe that perhaps ‘smart’ isn’t necessarily what you mean, which doesn’t make you sound smart, which makes me sound smart-alecky. 😊

I do not want to end on a smart-alecky note. My attempt at sounding ‘cute’ doesn’t always translate well onto paper.

Consider this if you will. When we’re in conversation with people we meet for the first time, it’s likely we’ll glean some interesting tidbit, new information, thought, idea, or perhaps a different perspective. It may not necessarily be labelled as ‘smart.’ I think the real truth is that we’re just so happy to have a conversation that doesn’t involve texting, that the first thing that comes to mind is the word: smart.