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 12 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
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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
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Another way to look more intelligent before you ever speak a word is to wear glasses. Psychology Today lays out some of the research that suggests people believe you are smarter if you wear glasses. In fact, PT reports that some literature suggests eyeglasses wearers also appear “more honest, sophisticated, dependable, and industrious.”
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, you can’t have it all.
Incidentally, if you don’t need any visual aid, you can invest in vanity frames with noncorrective lenses.
3. Focus on looking bright-eyed
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Speaking of eyes, a 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found people are perceived to be less intelligent when they have droopy eyelids or a slight frown than when they have more open eyes and a slight smile.
Researchers note that sleep-deprived people tend to have both characteristics of droopy eyes and a sad-looking face, so getting a good night’s sleep may be key to mastering this trick to looker smarter.
4. Put down the beer
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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.
5. Skip gargantuan polysyllabic words
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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.
6. Make eye contact
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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.