How to Appear More Intelligent


3 Easy, Research-Backed Ways to Appear More Intelligent,” the headline reads.

How can I not click on that link? It’s like being thrown a guaranteed lifeline in a stormy sea of self-doubt.

At my age, my intelligence quotient might have peaked, or even begun its descent on the far side of the bell curve. It might be all I’ve got left is putting lipstick on the pig—at least I might be able to appear more intelligent if not actually be more intelligent.

And it’s all been condensed into three easy ways. That’s a compelling value proposition. Plus, it’s research-backed. As a person who believes in science, and as a person who has an important meeting in just a few hours in which I have to appear intelligent, I dive right into the article.

After skimming through the bland introductory paragraphs, I get to this quote from expert Dana Carney, a psychologist at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business:

“When we appear engaged with, stimulated by, and connected to what others are saying and doing, it tends to reflect our intelligence and it shapes others’ perceptions of how smart we are.”

Dana Carney

That makes a lot of sense: Engagement = interest = intelligence. But it also makes me uneasy. If I have one major shortcoming, it’s that my listening skills aren’t always honed to perfection. It’s a little embarrassing because everyone wants to be known as a good listener, and while I have a good measure of empathy and stay completely engaged when interested, I also tend to have an unruly, wandering mind. I admittedly can get bored when someone else is speaking if I find the topic dull. Or I can fall into the quicksand of trying to figure out what I’m going to say in response. Or I can expend important energy trying to find the perfect time to enter a conversation.

Boy do I need these three tips—and the timing is perfect with my meeting coming up.

As advertised, these are incredibly easy habits to adopt:

1: Lean In!

Literally. Get a little closer to the person you’re in conversation with, but not too close. A good rule of thumb is close enough to see their pores but not so close you can count them. This leaning in worked out well for Cheryl Sandberg, COO of Meta, so it should work for me too.

2: Nod Along.

This one is almost too easy to be true. All you have to do is nod your head ‘yes’ while other people are speaking and it will be taken as “another indication of your interest and engagement and thus your intelligence,” according to Dana Carney. I practice a bit: Chin up, chin down. Chin up, chin down.

3: Verbalize your interest.

Another one that’s as easy as promised—because you don’t even have to verbalize actual words or sentences. Carney says to signal and reflect intelligence all you need is “affirmative paralinguistic utterances such as ‘mm-hmm,’ ‘yes,’ and ‘ah-hah.” Basically, if you can grunt in tune, you’ll be a winner.

I’ve got my three new skills packed and I’m off to my meeting. Lean, nod, verbalize. Lean, nod, verbalize. I may not even have to listen closely and if I do these three things I’ll still come off as some kind of genius. Wish me luck.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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