No one likes to feel like they’re less intelligent than everyone around them.
In fact, we can be so worried about coming off as stupid that we go to great lengths to convince people that we’re smart.
In a recent Quora thread, “What are the most common tricks used by dumb people to seem smart?,” users detailed some of the ridiculous ways people try to impress those around them.
1. Using sophisticated language
It’s tempting to pepper your speech with SAT words so as to seem intelligent and educated. And that’s exactly what some people do, according to Quora user Bill McGowan.
Unfortunately, McGowan says, “using big, obscure vocabulary is Russian Roulette — eventually you will misuse one [word] and expose yourself.”
Moreover, research suggests that the best way to impress people with your intelligence is to speak as simply as possible.
2. Voicing an opinion about (almost) everything
The key to looking like you really know what you’re talking about is to “have an opinion about eight out of 10 things being discussed,” says Sid Jain. “If you have an opinion on everything, you’ll draw attention to yourself and a misstep will jeopardize all the other opinions that you put forth.”
Jain may be onto something — experts say the ability to admit you don’t know something is one way to seem smarter at work.
3. Not saying anything
Multiple users mentioned the strategy of staying silent, or as Lilian Raji puts it, “the old theory of the less you talk, the smarter people think you are.”
In fact, there’s an entire Quora thread dedicated to the question, “Why are some extremely smart people very quiet?” One theory is that smart people are too busy thinking and observing to add to the discussion.
4. Keeping a lot of books in their office
Some people think they can give off the impression of worldliness and intellectual curiosity by stocking their office (or home) with tons of books. Of course, says Martin Thoma, that doesn’t mean they have really read any of them.
Yet if they did crack open some of those tomes, they might be pleased with the effects. Research suggests that reading fiction, at least, makes us more empathetic.
5. Faking a foreign accent
Several users cited feigning a foreign accent as a way to make people think you’re smarter.
“Speaking with a British accent has worked wonders for me over the last 10 years,” writes Kenny Madden. (Presumably, he doesn’t live in the UK.)
Meanwhile, research suggests there may be something to the idea that people from certain geographic areas seem more intelligent: One study found that 10-year-old American kids perceived people with Northern accents as smarter and people with Southern accents as nicer.
6. Using statistics and charts to illustrate their point
Mike Laursen has noticed that other Quora users often quote statistics when they’re aiming to appear intelligent. What’s more, they try to make the “questionable statistics more impressive by embedding charts in [their] answer.”
Interestingly, research suggests that using graphs helps to persuade people of your argument, simply because they look scientific.
7. Boasting about how many books they have read
Apparently, trying to appear literary is a common trend among aspiring geniuses.
Mariska Russell says some people brag about “the large quantity of books that they read when they are typically retaining very little and hardly every applying what they have read about to their lives.”
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