No one wants to look dumb or be permanently labeled as the odd ball of the group when talking to others. I’m no exception and I believe you are, too. The thing is, when your mind drifts to other things like your partner, your upcoming party on Friday, or your next meal, it’s good to have some tricks up your sleeve to fall back on. Let me tell you my top 8 tips on appearing smart during ANY conversation.
1. Sit up, stand straight
Your body gives away more cues than what you say. In this case, keeping a straight back when sitting or standing. When people see you maintain a good posture, they instantly perceive you as a smart person. You bring a greater sense of confidence that slouchers don’t have. How you first make an appearance matters, so before you approach anyone, remember to keep your spine straight at all times.
2. Throw in some quotes
If someone in the group says, “We don’t need anyone else to finish the project,” break in and reply, “As John Donne says — no man is an island. We need to hire more people.” Everyone will agree to both sides, completely perplexed by your intelligence and wish they knew as much as you.
3. Pivot the conversation in your favor
There always comes a time when everyone starts chipping in on a topic you know nothing about. All you can do is sit silently and observe as they exchange tons of facts and ideas. At this point, you can make your move and go, “Oh by the way guys, what are your thoughts on Donald Trump?” Everyone will shift their attention to you at once, curious to hear about this new topic. Follow it up with “I always hear so much black and white opinions about him.” And then bam! You won yourself a moment of looking smart.
4. Don’t look away from your listeners
When someone looks straight into your eyes while talking, you can’t help but feel a great sense of respect for him/her, right? At least, I do. That’s why it’s a good habit to stay focused on your listeners without glancing around or blinking too often. Even if your eyes get itchy or the waiter behind you broke some glasses, try to maintain direct eye contact. Believe me, your listeners will absorb everything you say like a sponge and declare you as the smartest person of the group.
5. Pause while talking
You might dread pausing when talking, because that will automatically flag you as someone who doesn’t know what to say. The irony, though, is that those pauses are the secret for looking smart. If you pause for a couple seconds to explain an important matter, you create suspense and power up the value of your words. Build people’s excitement. Get them itching for what you’re going to say next.
6. Forget about filler words
When you have nothing to say, remain silent. It’s better than filling the silence with unnecessary words like “um,” “uh,” “I mean,” “err,” “like,” “ahh,” “you know,” and the list goes on. These words mark you as a slow thinker and damage your smart reputation. Don’t let that happen and throw these words into the bin before starting the conversation.
7. Use your hands
People pay more attention to movement than they do with words alone. By allowing people to read your hand gestures, you’re giving them an easier time to understand your thoughts and to get more information that you otherwise might’ve missed with your words. So if someone asks you, “How can I reach the bank?” answer them with “Go left, then take the second right and continue forward” using the appropriate gestures for the directions. Great job! You’ve saved yourself from further explanations, all thanks to your hands.
8. Be up-to-date
One important tip to looking smart is to know what’s happening around you. Whether it’s an Olympian celebrating his victory with an intimidating amount of McDonalds or another bizarre Pokemon Go story, sharing fresh and new events with others will win you the spotlight. That doesn’t mean reading every newspaper in the country from front page to last. You only need to scan the headlines before leaving your home. It’s a smart life hack guaranteed to put you on the center stage for any conversation.
Editor’s note: Giving credit to Sarah Cooper for the original piece: 10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings.