The Brilliantly Simple Trait Of People With High Intelligence, According To Tolstoy

Emotional intelligence hinges on this one trait.

man sitting at a desk reading cottonbro studio / Pexels 

Russian author Leo Tolstoy is famous for his acclaimed works of fiction, epic tomes on life and love, death and morality. He also had something to say about the intersection of intelligence and compassion.

According to Tolstoy, there exists one brilliantly simple trait shared by people with high intelligence.

In a TikTok post made by Juan de Medeiros, who focuses his account on reflections rooted in philosophy, the following quote was attributed to Tolstoy: “The more intelligent a person is, the more he discovers kindness in others. For nothing enriches the world more than kindness. It makes mysterious things clear, difficult things easy, and dull things cheerful.”


De Medeiros believes what Tolstoy meant is that “intelligent people are unafraid to be kind.”



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He put forth the well-worn yet true adage that we should “treat other people as you would like to be treated, as well.” He also found value in the idea that “other people may not live up to your expectations, but you can conduct yourself with grace, compassion, and empathy, and therefore be the kind of person you would like to see in the world.”


"To have emotional intelligence is to see the good in other people, that is what Tolstoy meant, that to be intelligent is to be kind," he added.

According to psychologist Dr. Todd Helvig, people with high emotional intelligence have better interpersonal relationships, become better parents, and are generally more successful in their careers. He maintains that high emotional intelligence is rooted in four traits: Self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and relationship building.

leo tolstoy said there is one simple trait people with high intelligence havePhoto: Engin Akyurt / Pexels 


Helvig qualifies self-awareness as the ability to take your own emotional temperature, and then be able to regulate your emotions, a task which is never easy, especially when emotions are heightened.  

To be empathetic is to recognize and acknowledge other people’s emotions, even when their lived experience exists at a far distance from our own. 

Helvig concludes that “investing in yourself always pays off,” and to invest in your own emotional intelligence is to also invest in the relationships that matter most to you. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we’ve been given, and hopefully, we’re also seeking to expand upon our tool set to expand upon the quality of our life, and the lives we share with those around us. 

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In order to build emotional awareness, we should continue to practice empathy at all possible times. As one woman, Raquel Olsson, noted in a TikTok post on building up emotional intelligence, “We gain power by practicing empathy,” but we lose that power if we let it go to our heads.




Another key factor to increasing emotional intelligence is to take the moral judgment out of our emotions, and realize that emotions aren’t “good” or “bad,” they just are. 

leo tolstoy said there is one simple trait people with high intelligence havePhoto: thirdman / Pexels 


We shouldn’t judge ourselves harshly for feeling how we feel, nor should we judge others for how they feel. 

When difficult emotions come up, take a moment, and take a breath. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel like this?” Approaching our emotions with gentle curiosity is one way to have grace and compassion with ourselves, even in tough times.

Giving ourselves and those around us grace to feel our feelings in their full capacity, without passing judgment, is a sign of highly nuanced and deep emotional intelligence. 


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers mental health, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.