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Personal Intelligences - How Are You Smart?
By Rich Meiss • Friday, February 8, 2008

The People Puzzle Series lll: Puzzle Piece #1  
Maybe this is an area of your life where you believe you got a “raw deal”. You are not smart, or at least you didn’t do all that well in school. Maybe you remember flunking a test, or being called a dummy, or feeling incapable of doing well in certain subjects like math or English. Or maybe you liked to move around and make noise when you were learning, and your teacher(s) asked you to “sit at your desk and be quiet.” Indeed, it seems that many people are wounded in this area of their lives.
In today’s fast-paced information age, a lot of emphasis is placed on being smart. Going to a good school or college, getting good grades, and “making something of your life” is emphasized in many homes and communities. Unfortunately, what is not always recognized is that each of us is “smart” in some way, and that each of us has our own unique way of wanting to learn. Because most parents and teachers do not teach these principles (or in many cases even understand them), many of us have bad memories of our early learning experiences at home and in school.
Our Western educational system has generally regarded a student as “smart” if he or she is good at language and numbers. In fact, our I.Q. tests are largely based on these two subjects – English and mathematics. In my own school experience, I was fairly good with languages and words, but poor in math. Even today I struggle with financial concepts and numbers like business and financial reports. I still feel “dumb” when it comes to numbers. And therein lies the problem. Many people are smart in many ways, but because of a lower intelligence in one or two areas deemed “important” by others, they consider themselves dumb.
Multiple Intelligences
Fortunately today we are learning that everybody is “smart” in one way or another, so the question is no longer “are you smart” but “how are you smart”? Harvard University professor John Gardner, writing in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences helped us expand the idea of smart to much more than just word smart and numbers smart. Gardner originally listed seven intelligences, and in his recent book he has added an eighth. He suggests that we may still discover more intelligences as well.
Gardner used the names listed on the left below as his classification of the eight intelligences. I have taken the liberty to rename them in the smart categories on the right.
Visual/Spatial Intelligence                         Art Smart
Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence                   Body Smart 
Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence                    Music Smart
Naturalist Intelligence                              Nature Smart
Logical/Mathematical Intelligence              Numbers Smart
Interpersonal Intelligence                         People Smart
Intra-personal Intelligence                        Self Smart
Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence                    Word Smart
Art Smart people have good artistic capabilities. They have an eye for color and detail, and have good spatial awareness. They often enjoy painting, drawing and/or sculpting. Art Smart people think in pictures and are good at visualization and imagination. They learn best with videos, graphic images and guided imagery. Art Smart people often become artists, decorators, designers, architects or photographers. Some famous Art Smart people include Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, Martha Stewart, Ansel Adams and Anne Klein.                        .
Body Smart people have good motor skills and are usually good at dancing, athletics, acting and other physical performances. They tend to think in movements, gestures and body language, and learn best when there is movement or the information is presented in a “hands-on” way. They tend to become athletes, carpenters, gymnasts, dancers or surgeons. Body Smart people include Mikhail Baryshnikov, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, and Mary Lou Retton.
Music Smart people are sensitive to pitch, timing, tone and rhythm. They have the ability to communicate and gain meaning from listening or playing music and humming or singing. Music Smart people learn best through music or when music is being played in the background. They tend to become composers, conductors, instrumentalists, singers or musicians of some type. Famous Music Smart people include Beethoven, Mozart, Pavoratti, Billy Joel and Madonna.
Nature Smart people have an awareness of the natural world around them. They have a good understanding of things like animals, birds, insects, minerals, plants, rocks and trees. They learn best when the content can be classified or sorted, or is in some way related to the natural world. Nature Smart people tend to become ecologists, naturalists, veterinarians or zoologists. Some well known names in this group include Carl Sagan, Rachel Carson, Jacques Cousteau, Margaret Mead, and Henry David Thoreau.
Numbers Smart people are good with evaluating, quantifying, sequencing and synthesizing numbers. They think in numbers, abstract symbols and logical sequences. They learn best when math or numbers are involved, or when there is an appeal to logic. They tend to become accountants, computer programmers, mathematicians, scientists, or tax specialists. Famous Numbers Smart people include Albert Einstein, Galileo, Isaac Newton, and Madame Curie.
People Smart people make and maintain friends easily and are often good leaders, facilitators, counselors and mediators. They can put themselves in the role of others and see things from their perspective. They learn best by interacting with others and discussing the content. People Smart folks include Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Mother Theresa.
Self Smart people are introspective and are very aware of their own beliefs, strengths, ideals and values. They learn best when they are given time to process information, formulate their own ideas, and reflect on the learning. Self Smart people tend to become psychologists or psychiatrists, philosophers or theologians. Famous people in this category include Confucius, Virginia Satir, Gandhi, Dr. Ruth and Carl Jung.
Word Smart people have good vocabularies and are good at reading, writing and speaking. They often learn best through lectures, reading, writing and discussing ideas with others. Word Smart people tend to become attorneys, authors, public speakers, poets or salespeople. This group includes such people as Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, F. Lee Bailey, Elizabeth Dole and Zig Ziglar.
There are at least two pieces of good news when it comes to intelligences, according to John Gardner. First, because there are multiple intelligences, each person is smart in some way. And everyone has each intelligence to some degree. Second, intelligence is not fixed. Each of us has the ability to develop his or her intelligence further in the eight categories. (This means that there is still hope for me to become more numbers smart.)
Learning Styles
The complimentary piece to the whole intelligence puzzle is learning styles; that is, how do you learn? Do you prefer to see it, hear it, do it or feel it when you learn? We call these sensory preferences, and each breaks down into more of a visual learner, an auditory learner, a kinesthetic learner or a tactile (or tactual) learner. Unfortunately for many of us, our learning style was considered very little when we were in school. Learning style contributes to good school performance when the teacher recognizes that each student learns in different ways, and accommodates the different learning needs.
Here again, our modern educational system has often failed us. Most schoolwork still favors the auditory learner and visual learner, with little attention paid to the kinesthetic or tactile learner. The earlier example of the teacher admonishing us to “sit down and be quiet” is a good example of that. Today, pioneering schools are recognizing that some students need to move around to learn, or they need to be “fiddling” with something in their hands while reading or listening. 
A friend and colleague of mine, Frank Sopper, a former professor at Landmark College in Vermont. This college specializes in helping students with learning disabilities. One of Frank’s true-life experiences concerns a student we will call Ezra. Ezra was a poor student all through grade school and high school because he was a poor reader.
 Upon taking some mandatory tests to get into Landmark College, it was discovered that Ezra was a very tactile learner. He needed to be touching something while he read or learned. Simply by placing an object, such as a bead necklace, in his hands while he read increased Ezra’s reading ability by over 50%. 
An easy example to illustrate learning styles occurs when you ask people for directions. Some will take out a piece of paper and draw you a map, while others will attempt to verbally explain how to get there. Still others will use their whole body to demonstrate the direction to go, by pointing, turning their body, and using arm and head movements. Each is signaling something about their learning style in how they inform you to reach your destination, because we tend to teach in the way that we like to learn.
Enlightened teachers and trainers today recognize that in their classrooms they will likely have students with a variety of learning styles, so they develop their curricula to meet the needs of multiple styles. They place objects on desks and tables for learners to hold, they create movement in the classroom for some content, and they incorporate a variety of visual and verbal techniques to help each style learn in their best way. They also give learners a choice of different ways to complete assignments. By doing this they are honoring the diversity of learning styles and helping each student discover how he or she is smart.
Discover Your First Puzzle Piece
So what about you? Could you relate to some of the examples given in this chapter? Have you ever felt you were “dumb” in some subjects, or that you just did not have much intelligence? Hopefully you have begun to see that some of your thinking was shaped by the myths and mistakes of our educational system, and that you really are smart and capable. The Personal Smarts Survey is designed to help you discover “how you are smart” and how you like to learn. See the last page of this article for how to take this survey.
Class participants have benefited from this information in interesting ways. One mother related how she was frustrated with her son’s inability to train their new dog. The family had voted on whether or not to get a dog, and everybody voted “yes”. The oldest son was given the job of training the dog, but progress was slow, and the boy seemed to only work with the dog when prodded or threatened. Upon experiencing the Personal Intelligences Survey, the mother recognized that she was very Nature Smart but her son was not. He scored high on Art Smarts, but low on Nature Smarts. Her natural ability to work with pets was not an intelligence her son shared, so the mother took over the job of training the dog.
In my case, I’ve tried to develop my Numbers Smarts enough to be able to do the things I need to do to run my business. But I also have two very capable Numbers Smart people who help me with this side of the business. One is a bookkeeper who does all my data entry, account balancing, etc., and the other is my accountant who handles all my tax and investment strategies.
 I try not to use my low intelligence in this area as an excuse, but instead learn and use the basic things I need to, and then let a Numbers Smart person handle the rest.
By taking the Personal Smarts Survey you will hopefully affirm some things you know about yourself and also discover some new ways in which you are smart. Perhaps you will also discover why you did not do well in certain school subjects or certain work tasks based on this information. The good news is that you are smart in certain ways. Capitalize on these personal smarts by building the kind of life you really want. Maximize your smarts in your work, social and family settings, and find someone else to complement you in your smarts limitations. You will be the benefactor as you learn these things about yourself!
The Personal Smarts Survey ($6.00) will help you begin to understand what your natural intelligences are and how you are “smart”. Once you discover the natural strength areas you possess, you can look for ways to continue developing those intelligences. Free shipping if you mention this article when placing your order for the survey.
© Copyright 2008. Meiss Education Institute. All rights reserved.
Visit our web site at for information about the Personal Smarts Survey and self-assessment tools.

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