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9 proven tricks to make yourself look smarter than you are

Wearing thick, full-framed glasses may make you look like a nerd, but you’ll also be perceived as more intelligent. This is just one trick you can employ to come across as more intelligent than you really are.

Why would you want to do that? Well, in many cases, how smart people think you are is just as important as how smart you actually are, says Travis Bradberry Coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmart.

If you have an important interview, presentation or negotiation coming up, it might be worth your while to invest in one or two of these tricks that Bradberry suggests for coming across more intelligent than you really are.

1) Use a middle initial.

Bradberry says using a middle initial enhances one’s perceived social status and it also boosts expectations of intelligence and performance.

He references a study where participants were asked to read and rate Einstein’s essay on the theory of relativity, with authorship being attributed to either David Clark, David F. Clark, David F. P. Clark, or David F. P. R. Clark.

David F. Clark received higher ratings than David Clark, but David F. P. R. Clark did the best.

So, if you want a quick perceived IQ boost, start using that middle initial, says Bradberry.

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2) Believe in yourself.

Confidence says intelligence. Other people pick up on your belief in yourself which makes you appear more intelligent to them.

Also keep in mind that if you act in confidence your actual performance will be enhanced, which also boosts the impression of intelligence.

3) Speak expressively.

Bradberry references communication expert Leonard Mlodinow who maintains that even if two people say exactly the same thing, the one who says it most emphatically will be perceived as being smarter.

He quotes Mlodinow: “If two speakers utter exactly the same words, but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent,”.

So, if you want to come across as more intelligent, the trick is to vary your pitch, volume, speed, and energy level when you speak.

4) Make eye contact.

It’s a fact that people who look others directly in the eye are perceived as confident, honest, trustworthy and fearless. But did you know that this habit also makes you look smarter?

“In a study conducted at Loyola University, participants who intentionally managed their eye contact scored significantly higher on perceived intelligence,” says Bradberry.

5) Make graphs.

Graphs impress people; they make the creator look intelligent and trustworthy.

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Bradberry references research conducted at Cornell that had participants read a report on the effectiveness of a new cold medication.

“One report contained a graph; the other didn’t. Other than that, they were exactly the same. Still, 96% of the participants who read the report with a graph believed the claims, while only 67% percent of those who read the document without a graph thought the same.

“So, next time you create a document, stick in a graph. It doesn’t have to be complex; it just has to be accurate,” says Bradberry.

6) Skip that drink.

This is interesting and worth remembering: merely seeing someone holding a drink is enough to make them seem less intelligent. This startling fact comes from a joint study conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.

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It gets more interesting.

It’s not that we assume less intelligent people are more likely to drink; it’s that the perceived correlation between drinking and cognitive impairment is so strong that we assume impairment even if there isn’t any, explains Bradberry.

So, skip the alcohol when you’re out. At least this way no one can judge you as less competent or intelligent just because you have a glass in your hand!

7) Use simple writing language.

Bradberry points out that real intelligence doesn’t have to be broadcasted through big words.

“True intelligence speaks for itself, so you don’t have to show off your impressive vocabulary. In addition, you always run the chance of being wrong,” he says. It’s far better to focus on communicating effectively than to try and impress people.

8) Dress for success.

We all know this basic fact but it’s also confirmed by research: how you dress affects how people see you.

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“Dressing well makes you seem more intelligent, and showing skin makes you seem less intelligent, as it directs people’s attention to your body rather than to your mind,” Bradberry points out.

One study at Northwestern University showed that how you dress also influences your performance. If you dress for success, you are bound to be more successful and perform better. The study found that making people wear lab coats improved their performance in tasks that required intelligence and concentration.

9) Keep pace with the crowd.

Bradberry says research conducted at Boston University shows that we tend to attribute greater intelligence—based on mental attributes like consciousness, awareness, and intention—to people who do things at about the same speed as everyone else.

“If you want to look smarter, you need to stop dawdling, but you also need to stop scurrying around like some crazed robot,” urges Bradberry.


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Written by Coert Engels

I'm a South African based writer and am passionate about exploring the latest ideas in artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology. I also focus on the human condition, with a particular interest human intuition and creativity. To share some feedback about my articles, email me at [email protected]

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