9 communication habits to stop immediately if you want to appear smarter, according to psychology

When people want to sound intelligent, they often end up sounding pretentious instead.

Why? Because when it comes to communication, certain habits can make you appear less smart than you actually are.

And there are specific patterns you need to ditch—pronto—if you want to sound more intelligent.

Below, I’m going to share some of those habits with you, so you can start sounding smarter—all according to psychology.

Let’s dive right in!

1) Overusing filler words

When it comes to appearing smarter in conversations, one must avoid overusing filler words.

Filler words, such as ‘um’, ‘like’, and ‘you know’, can be an instant giveaway that you’re not as confident or knowledgeable as you may want to appear.

Imagine you’re listening to a speaker who consistently uses filler words. It comes off as unpolished and distracts from the message they’re trying to convey.

Psychologists point out that these words can become a crutch, making us come across as less articulate and thoughtful in our speech.

To sound smarter, you need to eliminate, or at least limit, these words from your vocabulary.

Start practicing mindful speaking. It might take some time and practice, but the result is worth it, helping you sound more articulate, thoughtful, and intelligent.

2) Speaking too quickly

Another habit to kick to the curb is speaking too quickly.

I remember when I first started giving presentations. I’d rush through my points, barely pausing for breath.

I thought that the faster I spoke, the quicker I’d finish, and the less time there was for people to realize I was a novice.

However, psychologists argue that speaking rapidly can make you seem anxious or nervous, which doesn’t exactly scream ‘smart’.

Over time, I learned to slow down my speech, to pause for effect, and to make sure that my words were being absorbed by the listeners.

The change in response was incredible.

Suddenly, people were more engaged and seemed to view me as more credible and intelligent.

If you’re guilty of fast talking, try to consciously slow down your pace. That way, you’ll seem more confident and thoughtful! 

3) Neglecting non-verbal cues

In communication, it’s not just about the words you say. Non-verbal cues play a significant role too.

In fact, the Mehrabian model of communication actually suggests that you communicate using the 7-38-55 rule: 7 percent through spoken word, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language.

That means your body language, facial expressions, and gestures are just as important, if not more so, than your words.

If you’re slouching, avoiding eye contact, or constantly fidgeting, it can detract from your perceived intelligence.

On the other hand, maintaining eye contact, using open body language, and mirroring the other person’s movements can greatly enhance your credibility and make you appear smarter.

4) Dominating the conversation

Communication is a two-way street. Monopolizing the discussion not only makes you appear less considerate, but also less intelligent.

It’s tempting to show off your knowledge and fill every silence with your thoughts. However, this can come off as self-centered and can make you seem less insightful.

Listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to appearing smart. By showing genuine interest in others’ ideas, asking thoughtful questions, and building on their points, you demonstrate an open mind and intellectual curiosity.

5) Using complex jargon

phrases you should never use if you want to gain peoples respect 9 communication habits to stop immediately if you want to appear smarter, according to psychology

Contrary to popular belief, using complex jargon or big words doesn’t necessarily make you appear smarter.

In fact, it can often have the opposite effect.

If you’re constantly using complicated terms or industry-specific language that your conversation partner doesn’t understand, it can come across as pretentious and alienating.

Indeed, intelligence is often demonstrated through the ability to explain complex topics in a simple and understandable way.

It shows that you fully grasp the subject and are able to communicate it effectively to others.

Always choose simplicity and clarity over complexity; the people you talk to will likely appreciate it because they understand you better!

6) Not showing empathy

Intelligence isn’t just about knowledge and skills; it’s also about emotional intelligence.

One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

In conversation, a lack of empathy can make you come across as cold and unapproachable, detracting from your perceived intelligence.

This is why showing genuine empathy can help you build strong connections with others and enhance your overall communication skills.

When you’re in a conversation, always strive to be kind, understanding, and empathetic. It’s a sign of great emotional intelligence and makes you appear smarter in the eyes of others.

7) Interrupting others

There was a time when I’d jump into conversations with my thoughts, eager to get my point across. I thought it showed enthusiasm and engagement.

But today, I started to realize just how wrong I was.

Interrupting others can come across as disrespectful and dismissive of their ideas. It creates a barrier in communication and can make you appear less intelligent, no matter how brilliant your insights might be.

Practicing patience and allowing others to finish their thoughts before you chime in not only shows respect but also allows for more thoughtful responses.

Now, I find that by waiting, I can better understand the other person’s perspective and formulate a more informed response.

It’s not only polite; it can also make you appear smarter and more considerate.

8) Negativity and complaining

Some people drain the energy from a room just by entering it. Constantly complaining or focusing on the negatives makes them so exhausting to be around.

This is why a habit of negativity can make you seem less intelligent. It gives the impression that you lack problem-solving skills and resilience.

Instead, try to cultivate a positive outlook.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to be unnaturally cheerful all the time or ignore real problems.

But focusing on solutions rather than problems, or looking for the silver lining in difficult situations, can make you appear smarter and more approachable.

9) Not asking questions

The smartest people know that they don’t know everything.

They’re constantly learning, and one of the best ways to learn is by asking questions.

If you’re not asking questions, it can come off as if you’re not interested or don’t care about the topic at hand. It can also make it seem like you know everything already, which is definitely not a sign of intelligence.

So, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It shows that you’re engaged, interested, and open to learning more.

It’s a sign of curiosity and intelligence, and it’s a habit that can greatly enhance your communication skills.

Final thoughts

When we consciously avoid negative communication habits and strive for positive ones, we’re not just trying to appear smarter.

We’re showing respect for our conversation partners, acknowledging that their time and attention are valuable.

Let’s always try to be mindful of how our words and actions may be perceived by others and make a conscious effort to foster meaningful, respectful conversations.

Remember, the goal isn’t to appear smarter at the expense of authenticity. It’s to improve how we communicate and connect with others.

At the end of the day, it’s these connections that truly matter.

Picture of Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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