Smart people can think quickly and respond effectively. Wisdom can take longer. But is there a way to respond quickly and insightfully? I think there is. Here are ten things to do that will enable you to harness and deploy your wisdom, and show that you are more than just smart.

1. Listening

Avoid the temptation to try and do your thinking while the other person is speaking; it will end badly when you mis-hear what they say and respond inappropriately. Careful attention will uncover what is most important in what you hear so you can go straight to the nub of the issue.


The SCOPE Process will enable you to respond effectively. SCOPE stands for:


3. Stop

When you have heard the other person out, and listened carefully, stop. Your confidence with silence will make a good impression and communicate the depth of your thinking. Use the time to relax, breathe deeply and assess what you have heard.

4. Clarify

Asking clarifying questions not only gives you time to process what you have heard, it gives you more information. Clarify facts, distinguish them from opinions and, if you have reason to, challenge shallow evidence and woolly thinking. Home in the other person’s central concern.

5. Options

Think through how you could respond and what the impacts would be. Two choices to make are:

A. Expert or Facilitator?

Is this an area where you have deep expertise and can comment authoritatively, or will you provide supporting process to help reach a conclusion?

B. Knowledge or Opinion?

Do you have a credible answer, or do you need to be clear that you don't know? In the absence of sufficient facts or technical knowledge, you may be able to offer an opinion, but be clear about the extent of your confidence.

Perhaps the greatest indicator of your wisdom is how you make this choice. Smart people have all the answers and are keen to dive in and contribute all of them. Wisdom lies in saying little, but making your choice really contribute to the situation.

6. Proceed

Make your point clearly and succinctly; then stop. There are a number of simple frameworks that will help you to articulate your answer in a concise yet compelling way. One is PPP:


State the relevant evidence that establishes the position, as you read it.

What are the pressures on the situation and on decision-making that need to be accommodated?

Point of View

State your opinion, recommendation, assessment or decision.

7. Evaluation

"Experts" are more often wrong than right (more about that in Smart to Wise). So be prepared to constantly re-evaluate what you have said. The only way to be right all the time is to change your mind as soon as you learn that you are wrong.
Now, three supplementary tips...

Tip 1: Silence

Asking for time to think about something may not seem smart, but it is wise. It is better to give a thought-out response than an off-the-cuff gaff. And in taking a moment, you are signalling not just that you are a thinker, but that the other person's question or problem is complex and important. This will flatter them. They asked for help: a quick answer could signal it was easy and that they were therefore foolish to do so.

Tip 2: Defer

You often need to think fast in presentations where you have colleagues to support you. If you get stuck, defer to one of them. Don't just say "over to you". Flag to your colleague that you need help, but give them thinking time, by saying something like: "in a moment I am going to ask Anita for her opinion, but first can I clarify..." Now Anita is alert to your difficulty and has time to prepare too.

Tip 3: Prepare

Thinking fast and responding insightfully does not come by magic, but through hard work and experience. Smart people can offer quick answers that are frequently shallow and even wrong. Wisdom demands that you set aside time for reading, thinking, learning, discussing, debating, listening, watching, experiencing... It is this depth that will give you the capacity to rapidly assess a situation, make connections, and deliver meaningful insights.

Smart to Wise is the latest book by Dr Mike Clayton. Learn more about the journey from Smart to Wise at and sign up for daily wisdom tweets @smart2wise.

Author's Bio: 

Mike Clayton has been searching for wisdom for all of his life. He is fascinated by all branches of knowledge, from management theory to theoretical physics, from linguistics to psychology, and from history to philosophy. Learning is more than an objective, it’s a life-long mission.