Click below to listen to this post about the eight great smarts on the Candidly Kendra podcast.
When my kids were in elementary school I looked forward to parent-teacher conferences with a touch of dread. I was desperate to know how my boys were doing in school. Were they reading ok? How was math going? Are they behaving alright? But also…do they have friends? Are they weird?
Are they going to be ok?
I was one of the kids in elementary school who worried too much about whether the teacher liked me. …And whether the other kids liked me. (Oh, how little we really change!)
I have one son who turned out just like me – overly concerned about how he’s perceived. He wants to be liked.
But I have another son who is himself and will always just be himself through and through. Of course he wants to be liked, but even more, he wants to be true to himself and be liked for who he is. I admire that about him!
That’s the thing, God made us each just the way we are, with our unique minds, talents, and interests. I love math – well, elementary math. Owen loves advanced math. Teo loves creative writing and everything active. Kai loves history. And God loves us all, just the way he made us.
We are tempted to compare ourselves (and our kids) to make sure we are okay. But we are meant to be different than others. Comparison doesn’t even make sense.
And that’s what God began to teach me a few months ago while I was listening to the Focus on the Family podcast. They were interviewing a guest, Dr. Kathy Koch, who wrote 8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences, a book for parents about the way kids (and let’s be honest, this book is true for adults, too!) are created to be different from each other, each one unique, with the particular gifts that God has given them.
Dr. Koch based her book on scientific research originally published by Howard Gardiner, psychologist and author of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
The Eight Great Smarts
Each of us is born with eight different “smarts,” through some are presented more highly than others. It’s the combination of these smarts that make us unique and talented in our own special ways.
1. People Smart
Some of us are highly people smart. On one hand this means that we are skilled at understanding people, reading nonverbal cues, and engaging in social interactions. (Raise your hand if you got in trouble in school for talking too much! You may be people smart! …Or word smart. Keep reading!)
On the other hand, those who are people smart may also find that engaging with other people helps them process through their thoughts and ideas. In other words, they may like to verbally process with others. Group brainstorming sessions might be where they do their best thinking.
My husband Steve is high in people smarts. He always thinks best when he thinks out loud with a friend.
A people-smart person would likely thrive in these scenarios:
- human resources
- field ministry
2. Self Smart
Highly self-smart people can be introspective. They may do their best thinking when they can get away from others and sit with their thoughts.
I am high in self smarts. When the coronavirus made us all stay at home last March I literally thought I might be driven mad by the constant persence of my family, God love ’em. I told a friend (on Marco Polo) that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts.*
But this is also the reason why writing a blog has been good mental exercise for me; and why walking dogs is my favorite form of exercise. I feel enlivened by giving my mind quiet space to just think.
Self-smart people with thrive in:
- Counseling (when combined with people smarts)
- Science (when combined with nature or picture smarts)
- Mathematics (when combined with number smarts)
3. Picture Smart
People who are high in picture smarts will be drawn to activities that engage their imagination. Mental pictures help them categorize and understand the world.
They may be great communicators if they can use some word smarts to help them describe their pictures to others. The way they see the world is so rich, that it can bring ideas alive in a beautiful way when communicated.
They may be great artists if their picture smarts are combined with body smarts, helping them translate the pictures in their head through their hands onto paper.
My son Kai loves to study historical battles and recreates scenes of those battles with his LEGOS. That’s a perfect example of picture smarts.
People who are high in picture smarts will thrive in:
- studying history
- appreciating or creating art
- interior design
4. Nature Smart
People who are high in nature smarts do their best thinking in nature. The patterns and beauty in nature make them feel alive. They may love to explore a mountain trail, or study a minute blade of grass. They may want to know how and why God made caterpillars, or they may just be content to care for one.
People with nature smarts thrive in:
- hiking, swimming, sailing
- national parks
- park ranger
5. Logic Smart
Logic-smart people are often the ones who are drawn to STEM subjects in school (science, technology, engineering, and math). They see mathematical patterns in the world. They are comforted by order and neatness.
My son Owen is logic-smart. (Bless his heart, our home is never up to his neatness standards.) He excels in math and enjoys engineering (we call it high-stakes LEGOS). He also won’t let soft arguments go. He can see the broken strings of reason behind any imperfect rationale. He may just as easily be a lawyer as an engineer.
People with logic smarts will thrive in:
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)
- debate (if also word smart)
- computer programming
- auto mechanics (if also body smart)
- home repairs and renovations
6. Music Smart
A music smart person is brought alive through music. They sing when they are happy; they sing when they’re sad. If they’re shy, they might not sing aloud, but a song will always be playing in their head.
They are also likely to find musical patterns in the world around them. When I dropped a collection of pots and pans on the kitchen floor, my music-smart son (Owen) pointed out that they made a rhythmic, musical noise (which to me sounded like just a crash).
People with music smarts will thrive in:
- appreciating and creating music
- musical composition
- music teachers
- band and orchestra
7. Body Smart
Those who are body smart have skill with their bodies. They have a greater ability to move their bodies in cooperation with their mind. When they want to catch a ball, they do! When they have a picture in their mind, they can bring it out onto paper through their hands. When they hear a musical melody in their minds, they can bring it out through their fingers on the piano. In many ways, body smarts are the element of action that combines with each of the other smarts.
But body smarts also play out in movement and activity. Many body smart kids have a difficult time sitting still in school. They fidget and get antsy. They feel most alive when they are using their bodies actively; when they are moving.
My son Teo is body smart. For as long as I can remember he has moved his way through every sport and activity. He loves them all, as long as they get him moving. Playing football, he had great hands for catching; competing in track, he enjoyed the most-complicated triple jump; and mountain biking gives him a thrill above all else.
Those who are body smart thrive in:
- active extracurrricular activities
- basically, anything that gets them off the couch and off their devices
8. Word Smart
Just as you can imagine, being word smart means that someone is smart with words. Word smart people communicate well, whether they are speaking or writing. They often enjoy reading, but may have a strong preference about the type of reading they enjoy (fiction, not nonfiction, for example). They will likely be great at memorization. And they may find it easier than others to learn a new language.
I am word smart. Words matter to me; I find it very distracting when people use them incorrectly. I love to read; but more than just the stories, I like to see the words the authors string together. The thesaurus is my best friend.
Word smart people may thrive in:
- public speaking
Knitted Together By God
Here’s the thing, our culture highly values people smarts and word smarts. The schools highly praise logic smarts and word smarts. But God made us all smart in our own way.
God didn’t make a mistake if he didn’t make you good at math. The fact that math class was so hard was a painful effect of our fallen world, but not a sign that something’s wrong with you.
God didn’t make a mistake if you can’t carry a tune. The kids who laughed at you in school and the feelings of shame that came along with that were a result of the broken world we live in. But there’s nothing wrong with you.
The Bible says that God knitted us together in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:13). I imagine him sitting in his divine rocking chair, needles clacking. Research skills? Check. Loves the outdoors? Check. Total lack of appreciation for the arts? Check. Picky eater? Check.
And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:31)
Bring It Home
Which smarts caught your attention? Did you see one (or two or three) that you realize describe you? Did any of the “smarts” surprise you?
Did you see some smarts that describe your loved ones? Do you think you will engage with them differently based on what you learned?
How does knowing about the eight great smarts broaden your understanding of how God made you?
*You might find it interesting to know that I am both people smart and self smart. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I thrive in opportunities to sit with my own mind and let myself think. But I also find myself enlivened by opportunities to engage with others. This is a great example of how our smarts combine to make us who we are.
Check out the book!
8 Great Smarts: Discover and Nurture Your Child’s Intelligences by Kathy Koch, PhD
Other Articles To Read:
“Four Worship Styles That Connect Us To The Heart of God” from Candidly Kendra
“Is There A Best Personality…for Church Leadership?” from Candidly Kendra
“Gardiner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences” by Kendra Cherry on Very Well Mind
“Your Child is Smart! The 8 Great Smarts Everyone Posesses” by Meredith at #WhateverMoms.