6 behaviors that make you seem less intelligent (but are easy to stop)

Ever wonder why sometimes people underestimate how smart you are?

Well, as harsh as it might sound, it could be your fault. 

You might be highly intelligent, but could you be doing a few things that make people perceive you as less intellectually capable?

Today, we look at six behaviors that make you seem less intelligent. 

Fear not, though; most of them are easy to stop!

Most of them are obvious, but some might surprise you. I know the second behavior was a surprise to me. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) Cursing 

While swearing might have been the thing to do in high school when you wanted to look like a rebel, according to a study reported by the Daily Mail, it makes us seem less intelligent. 

Also, people who curse are perceived as more aggressive and less likable. 

Funnily, other research suggests that swearing might actually be a sign of intelligence

However, that’s not how the majority of people perceive it. 

If you want to appear intelligent, it might be time to clean up that potty mouth. 

While you might have guessed this one, this next behavior came as a surprise to me. 

2) Drinking (or just holding) alcohol 

We all know that when we overindulge in alcohol, we say things we otherwise might not, things we live to regret.  

We may even lose some control of our balance and general posture. 

Obviously, this makes us look less intelligent than we are. 

But what’s wrong with having just a drink or two? 

Well, a study from the University of Michigan and Penn’s Wharton School showed that simply holding an alcoholic drink can cause people to perceive you as less intelligent. 

Keep in mind this does not mean that you consumed any alcohol or showed any of the effects of doing so. 

Just having a glass of wine or beer in your hand makes you appear less intelligent

Have a business meeting at a nice restaurant and want to look intelligent?

You may want to rethink that glass of wine. 

You may have guessed this next behavior. However, the figures are pretty shocking when you get into the research. 

3) Using big words 

People often think using ‘big words’ will make them seem more intelligent.  

It makes sense, right? 

Many think so. 

In a survey by Preply, 70% of respondents admitted to using complex vocabulary to impress someone. 

However, a whopping 43% of people surveyed felt that those who use complex vocabulary are trying to sound smarter than they are. 

That’s not the most shocking finding, though. 

Almost 60% of people said they used a word to sound more intelligent even though they didn’t know the meaning. 

Yes, almost sixty percent. 

How much communication we are sacrificing in the name of appearing smart!

So what can we learn from this?

  • Only use words that you know the meaning of. This can save you a lot of embarrassment, as being caught using big words incorrectly will make you look pretty dumb. 
  • Don’t try to use complex vocabulary just to look smarter. Even if you are employing it (I mean using it!) correctly, some people will perceive you as trying to look more intelligent than you are. Use it when it is the most appropriate for the situation.
  • Use words your audience will likely understand rather than those that sound most impressive.

If you want to learn more about this, we already covered some phrases that can help us sound smarter in a previous article. They aren’t ‘big’ words, however. 

4) Faking knowledge 

We’ve all been tempted to get involved in a conversation even when we knew nothing about what was being discussed. 

After all, we don’t want to look like we have nothing to say

So what do we do?

We pretend to know something. We agree with statements we don’t fully understand. 

We fake it. 

The problem with this is that it usually doesn’t work; eventually, we expose our lack of knowledge. 

Then, not only do we look less intelligent, but we also appear dishonest. 

I have been guilty of this. 

I once was invited to a wine event. 

I knew nearly nothing about wine, but everyone else there seemed to be an expert.

Stupidly, I engaged in a conversation about the particular French wine we had just tasted. I got in over my head. Rather than be honest, I faked it. 

Needless to say, my lack of knowledge on the topic became apparent all too quickly, and in the end, it was pretty embarrassing. 

I looked like a fool, but at least I learned a valuable lesson. 

We don’t always have to have an opinion. We don’t always need to speak. 

Learning more is a good idea. Faking knowledge is not.

5) Not thinking before speaking 

It should come as no surprise that this one made the list. 

When we forget to think before speaking, we inevitably say something dumb. 

We have all been guilty of this. 

It often happens in the heat of an argument; we say something we don’t mean and go on to regret it deeply. 

But sometimes, in everyday conversations, we forget to use our brains before opening our mouths. 

The result?

We say something stupid and instantly regret it. 

We know from the second we say it that it is pretty dumb. 

If you often don’t think before you say something, it can make you look a lot less intelligent than you are

It is but a habit, however. You can change it with some practice. 

Before uttering a word, practice taking a breath. 

Then, formulate your response instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to your mind. 

You will instantly seem more intelligent. 

6) Mispronouncing words 

Is it ‘espresso’ or ‘expresso’? 

We’ve all made mistakes like this and sometimes don’t even realize we are doing it. 

Making pronunciation mistakes with commonly-used words can make you seem less clever. 

Of course, this often happens with words like ‘espresso’, which is borrowed from Italian. 

However, there are so many other words that native English speakers pronounce incorrectly. In fact, Your Dictionary identified a list of eighty words that we commonly mispronounce. 

You would be surprised how common some of the words are. 

One that often gets me is ‘mischievous’.  Is it ‘MISS-chuh-vus’ or ‘MISS-chee-vee-us’? 

It’s the former. 

Another is ‘hierarchy’. People are often one syllable short of good pronunciation on this one.

Making mistakes like these is another thing that can make you seem less intelligent than you are. 

The bottom line 

So now you have it, folks. 

While you may have guessed most of these, one or two may have come as a surprise. 

I mean, holding a glass of wine makes me seem less intelligent? Research would suggest so. 

Anyway, thanks for staying with me until the end. I hope this post helped shed some light on why some underestimate your intelligence.  

Until next time. 

Mal James

Mal James

Mal James Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business. As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys. In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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