Professional Development

10 Ways to Appear Smarter Than You Are

Written by Peter Jones

We can’t all be blessed with superhuman intelligence in order to get ahead in life. But it is helpful to be at least perceived as being smart—even if that involves a little finessing around the edges.

Here are 10 things you can do to seem a lot smarter. Work at these and you’ll be fooling people with your fake genius in no time.

1. Debunk one thing.

Pick a faddish topic or a current news story—maybe one that’s spreading like wildfire through your feed. Then pick it apart. Are the sources reliable? The quotes correct? Is it doubly corroborated by a reputable news source? Are there counter positions? Other statistics that might conflict with the conclusion of the most posted article? Remember names and numbers for this one and bring it up every time the topic comes around.

2. Wear glasses.

It seems very silly, but it really works. If you wear glasses, chances are people will just assume you’re smart before you even open your mouth. If you need to make a big first impression and your IQ falls a bit behind your ambition, leave the contacts at home.

3. Boost your vocab.

The easiest and best thing you can do to improve your intelligence aura is to actually work to expand your vocabulary. Record yourself having a conversation. Notice any filler words, like “like” or “um” or “so”? Try going on a diet, getting rid of those words and putting really nutritious new (multisyllabic!) words in their place. Try signing up for a “word of the day” mailing list and try to use that word in conversation at least once that day.

4. Teach yourself stuff.

General knowledge is a great indicator of smarts. Pick a few topics that interest you, and go all in—even Wikipedia will do. In addition, consider learning all about a handful of really obscure things. People are very impressed by specialists.

5. Write simply.

Try to be as clear and concise as possible in all your written communications. The more efficient and effective you are, the smarter you will seem.

6. Speak well.

If two people say the same thing, but one says it better—i.e. more expressively, in a firmer tone with fewer pauses and more effect—then that person is going to seem naturally smarter and more trustworthy. Practice selling what you say.

7. Skip the drink.

You have much less control over what you say when you are drinking. Next time you’re at a work function? Go for the sparkling water. Then dazzle everyone as they get tipsier and more tongue-tied.

8. Use your middle initial.

Another silly one, but hey, it seems to work. Don’t people just seem more important if they have a middle initial? Think of John F. Kennedy or Robert B. Parker or Ulysses S. Grant. If you’ve got a good one, use it to your advantage.

9. Believe in yourself.

This is important. People can smell insecurity. Project poise and confidence and understanding, and really know that you’re capable of doing anything that comes your way. And if you can’t get there, fake it ’til you make it!

10. Be still.

Sometimes the person on the sidelines observing when everyone else is diving in is considered the wise (and sometimes judgmental) one. Practice waiting. Listening. Thinking before you speak or act. This sort of control will boost your emotional IQ and also make your brain IQ seem a little higher to an outside eye.

About the author

Peter Jones