How to Recognize Wise People—17 Ways to Become Wiser!

How many wise people do you know? Typically, they have a wide range of deep experiences and knowledge whereby you can seek sensible advice.  In his book, Rationality, Steven Pinker, Harvard University Psychology Professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner, reports that being wise in recent times is scarce. He stated “Today’s humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understandingand also appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for COVID-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing?”

Let’s examine some traits of wise people:

  1. Are compassionate, tolerant, and reflective. They are first in line to help others in need. Wise persons see themselves as they are, including recognizing their limitations so they can emphasize and share their experiences with others. Aristotle determined, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
  2. Are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). They entertain differing opinions and share their carefully-worded thoughts after others have expressed theirs. When they speak, others listen. Their personalities are calm and reserved.
  3. Never overpromise and underdeliver. They carefully examine tasks to assess their ability to deliver without procrastination
  4. Are financially responsible. They live within their means and strive to be debt free. Plato observed, “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”
  5. Will admit mistakes and accept blame. They see failures as learning opportunities and thrive on building the future using their experiences, past disappointments, and successes.  They grow from life’s difficulties and don’t dwell on the past.
  6. Will politely challenge the status quo if they feel like the issues or individuals are wrong.
  7. Look for the good in others, even when their opinions differ. They are quick to forgive and don’t hold grudges.
  8. Strive for excellence. Plato determined,Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice.”
  9. Don’t share their financial wealth information and personal life secrets with others.
  10. Avoid making excuses. They passionately strive to implement their visions even when there are major obstacles.
  11. Are sponges for new information. They entertain liberal, moderate, and conservative perspectives to seek differing viewpoints, avoid spending time on one-sided conversations or opinionated media, and don’t openly align themselves with narrow political views or discussions. They limit debating those who refuse to compromise and surround themselves with smarter, wiser, positive, and more experienced individuals to promote growth.
  12. Emphasize relationships, spirituality, and personal growth rather than worldly success markers.
  13. Make sound judgments and choices based on solid evidence and experience. They seek opinions that are contrary to their own to find compromising and best decisions. The wise focus on understanding others rather than making judgments. They resist rushing decisions but strive to analyze all the facts before coming to timely conclusions and listen to both sides of issues with an open mind. Aristotle found, “It’s the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
  14. Look beyond their personal needs and desires for what’s good for everyone. They are humble and don’t seek recognition.
  15. Are purpose- and strategically-driven.  While they “hope for the best and plan for the worse,” they know where they are going and how to get there.
  16. Know success takes time and hard work with the help of talented, passionate teams working in unison. They don’t stop believing in their potential, giving into fear, or staying in their comfort zones.
  17. Pray for wisdom. Many seek God’s help in guiding their lives and are thankful for their blessings. They often believe that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

The Bottom Line: Everyone can’t be wise and unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut. None of us are wise because of genetics, age, education, intelligence, and experiences! But we can learn to become wiser by sharing our knowledge and helping others! As a wise friend said, “Wisdom is a condition of the mind and a journey that begins when we look beyond the barrier of our own self-interests.”

Mike DuBose has been a staff member with USC’s graduate school since 1986, when he began his family of companies, and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Visit his nonprofit website for free copies of his three books and additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health research written with Surb Guram, MD.