How to Identify if Someone is Really an Expert

It’s often said that an individual needs 10,000 hours of practice to obtain expertise in their area of choice, as theorized by Malcolm Gladwell. This approach can be applied to a variety of areas from soccer to astrophysics.

While modern technology has provided us with a plethora of revolutionary tools, it also makes it easy for individuals to get access to information at the click of a button. This in turn makes it harder and harder to tell the difference between people who are genuine experts in their field, and someone who has simply read a Wikipedia page.

Here is a quick guide to help identify who is a genuine expert in their field:

Real experts are self-aware

When asked about something that is beyond their knowledge it’s not uncommon for true experts to hold their hands up and simply say “I don’t know”. This confidence in the limits of their intellect is often a sign of their emotional intelligence. When individuals assume they know everything it’s often a sign that they know very little. It’s the awareness of how little you know that signifies a true thought leader.

Real experts often demonstrate intellectual honesty and curiosity

The ability to be honest with oneself about their own position tends to be a trait unique to experts. Confronted by evidence which contradicts their own arguments, experts tend to accept it with an open mind. Do the same with someone who has less expertise and you may be met with a more aggressive response. This comes down to one simple reason, experts see this as an opportunity to entertain new ideas, others simply see this as a personal attack.

Real experts never talk about themselves, only about the wider scope of their field

It’s rare that experts are the first people to speak. This is because in many cases, experts appreciate that their personal opinions are merely part of a wider discussion. It’s this appreciation and awareness of wider thought that separates genuine expertise from those with a passing interest.

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