You might be the most intelligent businessman on the planet. But unless people can see it, you won’t be able to take advantage of it in social situations. And that could do damage to your personal brand, networking relationships, or even your entire business.
If you’re super smart, remember that only a small percentage of individuals will genuinely be able to tell. According to the Dunning-Kruger effect, you need to have a threshold level of intelligence to detect others’ brilliance. Most people don’t reach this level and so can’t evaluate your intelligence directly. Instead, they have to look for cues or markers that help them along the way.
Thus, being intelligent isn’t enough. You also have to look it too. But how?
Simple really. Here are some proven methods to make yourself look ten times smarter, all backed by science. You never know – it could help you land that next business deal.
Don’t Use Your Middle Initial
When most people write their names, they write their first and last names in full, bridged by initials for any names they have in the middle.
So, for instance, you might write, Thomas C. Campbell. Sounds good, right? Well, according to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it’s not the most intelligent way to write your name on your business cards or when addressing clients. According to the paper, you’re much better off with T. Colin Campbell – initializing the first name and then writing any subsequent names in full. It might sound like a weird quirk – and it is. But it can make a massive difference in business. Try it and see what happens.
Your eyes’ brightness shouldn’t have anything to do with your overall levels of intelligence – and from a biological perspective, it doesn’t. But that, strangely, doesn’t stop people imagining that it does. Studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology show that people rate those with droopy eyes as less intelligent than those whose eyes are wide open all the time.
Sometimes, you can’t help having droopy eyes. It’s just aging or part and parcel of your genetics. However, there are ways that you can fight back against the droop.
Going to bed earlier, for instance, may help. So too might eating a better diet as this reduces the fat deposits in the eyelids that make them hang down. You can also get cosmetic procedures that lift the tissue around the eye and minimize occlusion. Either way, being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed can help create much better first impressions in business.
Don’t Drink Beer
Most of the smartest people in the world drink beer as a matter of course. It’s just something you do at lunchtime with your colleagues before you head back to the office for a long afternoon of work.
It turns out, though, that drinking a flagon of beer can make you look a bit like a dimwit. It’s probably okay to do it in front of your colleagues. But try to avoid it, if possible, in front of clients. They’ll come away with the distinct impression that you’re a fool, but they won’t quite be able to put their finger on why. Sorry – but it’s the alcohol. Ditch it for a bottle of table water instead. It’s boring, but you can still drink to your heart’s content when you go home.
Don’t Use Long Words
You might think that using longer words would make you seem more intelligent. But weirdly, it has the opposite effect. Too often, you come off looking like a lame wannabe instead of somebody who knows what they’re doing.
In business, speak to people on a level they understand. Avoid the technical jargon – 90 percent of the time, you don’t need it. When a more straightforward word will suffice, use it.
Always Make Eye Contact
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin suggests that maintaining eye contact raises your perceived IQ. Thus, the more you focus on the eyes of the people you deal with in the course of your business, the smarter they will see you.
Where possible, maintain positive eye contact for around ninety percent of the time. Look away briefly when considering your next thought and then resume your stare.
Be More Questioning
You might think that knowing a lot about stuff would make you seem more intelligent – and it can do. But if you want to raise your perceived smartness levels in business, you’d be wise to ask more questions. People who waffle on and on endlessly about the stuff that they know often come off looking like windbags. Those who ask incisive questions, though, tend to boost their personal appeal.
Weirdly, asking for advice from other people, can make you seem more competent. So if you struggle to get people to respect you, you might want to try this counterintuitive tactic. Strange, right?
Dress Powerfully, But Don’t Let It All Hang Out
Dressing powerfully but modestly is perhaps the best advice we can give in this section. You want to create an aura of professionalism while at the same time, avoiding anything that could be considered sexual. Remember, the stereotype is that smart people are geeky, not attractive, so you want to play up to this as much as possible. You’re not looking to flaunt it all, but you are trying to create the impression of intelligence.
Where possible, wear as much black as you can. The vast majority of people associate the shade with intellect. If you’re a woman, avoid excessive cleavage. It might look great in the mirror, but sexiness and intelligence don’t mix in others’ minds. Sad, but true.
Put On Your Spectacles
Want to improve your perceived IQ ten times over? Simple: just wear glasses.
There is now an extensive literature that shows that wearing specs instantly makes you appear more intelligent. And the strength of the effect is enormous – a whole standard deviation by some estimates.
With an easy click here, you can see different types of glasses on offer. If you’re going for intelligence, choose the thickest rims available. The bigger they are, the smarter you appear.
Why this is the case remains a matter for debate. Some scholars think it has to do with the fact that thicker rims make you appear less attractive, which links to what we discussed earlier about intelligence. For others, it’s just the geek factor. People have associations in their minds about the kid at school who wore massive spectacles and aced all the tests. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
Get Your Teeth Whitened And Straightened
More research suggests that people perceive those who have straight teeth as more intelligent than those who don’t. Researchers think that this has to do with the social status it implies. If you have crooked teeth, it might suggest an impoverished upbringing or the fact that nobody in your life ever encouraged you to seek orthodontic help. It could also be suggestive of the fact that you come from a more impoverished background.
In business, that’s precisely what you’re trying to avoid. You want to present yourself as a wealthy, successful person to attract as much authority as possible. Having a tooth at the front of your mouth that sticks out at an odd angle could undermine your efforts.
It’s also true that people with whiter teeth and fuller, younger-looking gums are also seen as more intelligent. So just remember that when you get back from a hard day at the office and can’t be bothered to clean your teeth.
Don’t Swear So Much
Popular movies like to present maverick business leaders who spend the majority of the time swearing. Every other word is “F this” or “F that.”
It turns out, though, that this isn’t a good tactic for people who want others to perceive them as authority figures. According to employee surveys, 54 percent of colleagues said that it made them appear less intelligent when team members swore.
Strangely, though, the evidence seems to suggest the reverse. In correlations with IQ tests, people who swear more are actually more intelligent. Unfortunately, in the business world, real science doesn’t mean much. If you have something you want to say, try to articulate it in a way that avoids the use of profanity. Don’t use rude language to make your point.
Avoid Facial Piercings And Shaving Large Chunks Of Your Hair Off
We all want others to perceive our individuality. But sometimes, fashion statements have to take a backseat in business. You might love the idea of putting a massive bullring in your nose or shaving the sides of your head to get a mohawk look, but others are going to judge you for it. And ultimately, you’ll pay the price.
When it comes to facial mods, do what you can to keep them to a minimum. Stick with regular earrings and subtle makeup. Don’t go for anything ostentatious. It could shave between five and ten points off your perceived IQ score.
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