10 Proven Ways to Look Smarter

No one wants to be the dullard in a conversation. Here are ways to look smarter even when you’re feeling a little out of your depth.

One of my favorite sayings is “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.”

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to speak even if you are stretching on a subject. But there are methods to make yourself look and sound more intelligent. We’ve rounded up 10 top tips you can easily put into action, even if you don’t feel smarter than a fifth-grader.

1. Brush off your middle initial

We almost all have middle names, but very few of us seem to be using them to their full potential. Time to change that and start inserting that middle initial into your name. A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in 2014 found that the use of a middle initial can make you look more intellectual.

While the study didn’t specifically address the use of a first initial, I have a sneaking suspicion that it too could make you look smarter. After all, I can’t be the only one who thinks F. Scott Fitzgerald sounds more authoritative than Francis Fitzgerald.

2. Take out the contacts and put on the glasses

Another way to look more intelligent before you ever speak a word is to wear glasses. A 2011 study from The College of Optometrists in the United Kingdom found 43 percent of those surveyed believe glasses make people look more intelligent.

Other research indicates not just any glasses will do either. For the full effect, you’ll want thick-rimmed glasses. Think Leonard Hofstadter from “The Big Bang Theory” glasses. On the downside, those big glasses will likely make you look less attractive, but, hey, we can’t have it all.

Incidentally, if you don’t need any visual aid, you can invest in vanity frames with noncorrective lenses.

3. Put down the beer

Everyone seems to lose a few IQ points after downing a few drinks, but the mere presence of alcohol in your hand can make you look like a dimwit. In a 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, researchers called this the “imbibing idiot bias.”

In other words, even if you don’t take a sip, the fact that you’re holding an alcoholic drink may give the impression you’re just moments away from being a blithering idiot, or that you’re just not smart enough to know not to drink in certain situations. Either way, play it safe and skip the alcohol when you want to look your sharpest.

4. Skip gargantuan polysyllabic words

I know, you just learned what idiosyncratic means and want to use it everywhere. But doing so greatly increases your chances of looking like a lame wannabe. Truly smart people use clear, concise language, and by using bigger words than necessary, you risk others thinking you are “gasconading.”

Research published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2005 backs us up here. It found the writers of essays who used overly complex vocabulary or too many words were judged to be less intelligent. Our advice: Don’t try so hard and use words that come naturally.

5. Make eye contact

While you’re speaking your clear, concise words, be sure to make eye contact with the other person. It’s a simple way to up your perceived IQ as demonstrated by this 2007 research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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