We have all heard the terms ‘book smart’ and ‘street smart’, but do you truly know what this means? If the two are so different, is it better to be book smart or street smart?
It’s important to have both street smart and book smart qualities to create a successful career and lifestyle. Street smart qualities enable a person to interact with others in all kinds of social situations and use intuition to make decisions. Book smarts lay the foundation of educational decisions.
We talk in-depth about both kinds of intelligence below.
What is the difference between street smart and book smart?
The difference between street and book smart is that one is an academic stereotype, the other refers to surviving on the streets. In films and televisions shows, often this is a common best-friend duo to display the two sides. One person will be dorky, enjoy reading a lot, and be very successful at school. The other is often portrayed as someone down on their luck with usually a difficult home life. Their circumstances force them to be street smart to survive. A book smart and street smart duo is shown as best friends or duos to display how they can balance one another out. But in real life, every person should have their own balance of book and street smarts.
Breaking down the stereotypes, let’s look at the biggest differences between book smarts and street smarts.
The world stereotypes a book smart person to have book acumen, be well-educated, but with little knowledge when addressing immediate and important decisions. Book smart people may lack the practical skills needed to solve ever-changing life challenges.
A book smart person knows the what and the why from an intellect’s understanding. They base their decision on accumulated knowledge, facts, and personal insight gained in class or in an educational environment.
A street-smart person has the experience and knowledge of how life and people work, allowing them to navigate social situations well. They can deal with everyday and large life challenges well using their social and emotional intelligence. Street smarts largely rely on their first-hand experience to navigate life and solve problems. They also often rely on their intuition or ‘gut instinct’ to examine the environment. They are good at interpreting social cues and interacting with people in all kinds of situations.
Is being book smart better than being street smart?
The debate of book smart vs street smart has gone on for years, but street smarts seem to have taken the upper hand.
The arguments laid for street-smart suggest that it is the result of surviving after fighting tough life situations. Street smarts occur from being tested outside the classroom, having to build common sense and self-confidence to make it through tough decisions and experiences. Street smarts help to develop leadership and communication skills. Ultimately, it can be argued that street smart encompasses everything outside of academic learning. Hence why people are arguing that being street smart is better than being book smart in the bigger picture.
Book smart people are very good with their academic studies. They are able to understand complex information and often have a great memory. Book smart people are often associated with scientists paving the way for the future. But book smarts do not account for social and problem-solving skills in the general environment.
The good thing about being book smart is that it is vital for careers such as being a doctor. Without book smarts, we would struggle to continuously save lives. This is where being book smart does take the upper hand. But you need to be able to communicate well in these fields, which is where street smarts would come into play. So, ultimately, it seems you need a good mix of both?
Can you be both book smart and street smart?
It is possible to be both book and street smart and is actually recommended for people to build skills in both areas. This is because combining both will help you be successful in your life in all areas of health and wellbeing.
Being book smart allows you to research, learn and understand the facts and figures of life. This is useful for your academic studies, and also to problem solve in your life. Book smarts provide you with the skills to analyse a situation and apply resolutions that have been tested, possibly scientifically, or through other research methods. You can follow the guidance from books and other educational resources to help better a situation.
A great example of when both book and street smarts come into play is working in the medical field and interacting with patients and families. Having book smarts is what will allow you to learn, understand and apply medical terminology and procedures. But it is also important to build your street intelligence as well. This allows you to communicate with patients and families well, showing empathy for their situations while discussing the technical side. Book and street smarts complement each other, which is why it’s important to build both skills.
You can develop your book smart side by researching and learning the technical aspects of areas that interest you. This trains your brain to continue taking in information and keeping it as a resource for you. Your street smarts increase the most from experiencing life trials, especially in social situations. It’s the development of your common sense as you grow up.
Why is it good to be street smart?
Street smart means you have situational and environmental awareness. Real life is unpredictable and will require people to think of solutions on your feet. That is where being street smart comes in.
Street smart people get things done with confidence since they have gained experience through learning. Often, they observe others and then use what they have seen to develop their instincts and knowledge.
It is good to develop your street smarts because it helps you interact with people in all different environments and circumstances. Developing street smarts can help children being bullied find ways to put an end to the bullying and take the power away from a bully. As you get older, street smarts can also help promote individual and organisational growth with innovation. Often street smarts help you identify a need and fill that need. For example, lots of business people have high level of street intelligence drawn from their own experiences. This encouraged them to create businesses to resolve issues they have faced personally. One might be relating to not being able to get food to a rural area. Street smarts will often be the innovator for an idea to fix this problem. It might not be the final answer, but it is a start.
How can I be book smart and street smart?
We have already established that you need to be both street and book smart. You can be book smart by reading relevant books in your area of specialization. Reading will enhance your knowledge of certain facets of your job based on research.
Reading may be scary for many people, but it is helpful to enhance your brain functions and has several health benefits. You don’t need to read all day long; even just 30 minutes daily can improve your intelligence by a large margin. Approaching reading for a start with small, designated reading times can help improve your attention span for books.
On the other hand, you need to amass experience solving life’s challenges to be street smart. Instead of freezing when presented with a problem at your workplace or in life, be ready to jump into action. With time you will cultivate instincts to handle problems successfully. You will need to develop emotional intelligence and remain calm when making decisions. Spending a lot of time with others and learning about people and our behaviours is a great way to build your street smarts.
Regardless of the side you take on the debate between street smart and book smart; you should strive to gain both skills. This way, you become an asset to yourself and the environment you live and work in. You will also be able to provide yourself with a good, healthy and balanced lifestyle by using both book and street smarts.
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