Strunk and White

10 Tips On How to Pretend to be Smart (at Work)

There’s a lot to be said for “fake it until you make,” and we’ll give you a few ideas of how to do that.

BY Rick Bursky
Jan.23,2020 / UPDATED ON MAY.22,2021

We’re not suggesting that you’re not smart. You’re probably this side of genius, but in case you occasionally look in the mirror for a moment of self-reflection and fear creeps across your face, well, you might find a couple of points here interesting. 

1. Talk yourself into succeeding. 

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. The power of positive thinking is a powerful tool. It would be best if you tried it every day. We started by talking about you standing in front of a mirror, so spend a little more time standing there doing daily affirmations. Hey, it works. Tony Robbins is one of the all-time great motivators; you might want to check him out, just click here. Confidence is an essential part of success, and confidence is free for the taking. The headline for this article talked about “faking it,” but that’s only a temporary strategy. We’re offering this tip to get you started. 

2. Make lots of charts and graphs.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and so is a chart. Cornell University did a study that revealed people are more likely to believe a source if it had graphs. I’m sure their research had plenty, it would be pretty funny if it didn’t have any. You don’t have to be a wiz with Excel to create charts and graphs. They’re pretty easy in Word, too. Whenever you get the chance, stick one in a chart and you'll look smarter. 

3. Make your appendix as large as possible.

Everyone loves a good slide show, and people will love yours if you help them believe the information is correct. And nothing does that like a giant, useless appendixes. Everyone will think you really did your homework, and it’s unlikely people will read it. Plus, it makes you look more like you're working from home (vs hardly working).

4. Write better.

Writing is thinking out loud. When you write, people see how you think. (Hmm, what does the way this article is written say about me?) In this email, crazy world, each time you hit send on an email, you’re showing people how smart you are. Don’t use big words that don’t fool anyone. Write simply. An excellent place to learn a couple of things about writing is from Strunk and White. The book Elements of Style will tell you everything you need to know to look good on paper. It’s a short, readable book. Click here to get it. One more writing tip, never let good grammar get in the way of good writing.

5. Look people in the eye when you talk to them.

I’m going to quote another university here. A study conducted at Loyola University demonstrated that participants who intentionally managed their eyes were seen as more intelligent.

6. Say “that’s obvious” when it’s not.

If you’re lucky, this might even make people jealous because you’ll always look smart. What you lack in experience you can make up for with cunning. 

7. Turn nouns into verbs.

Here’s an example. You ran out of time in a meeting, so you say, “let’s calendar the topic for next week.” And this is always a crowd-pleaser, “let’s fast-track it.” Of course, don’t get carried away, things can go wrong here … “let’s bed this project,” you get the idea.

8. Separate yourself from the crowd in group tongue-lashings.

It works like this. The boss isn’t happy, and he or she gets the entire team of twenty people together for a giant ass-chewing. Hopefully, the room is a touch tight, and some people have to stand. Make sure you’re one of the people standing and try to stand behind the boss, if possible. That does two things. It sends a subliminal message to the team that the boss’ anger doesn’t apply to you. And, with you out of the boss’ line of sight, well, he might later not associate you with the ass-chewing.  

9. Dress for success.

It’s been proven a million times (imagine a graph inserted here) that how you dress affects how people see you. Dressing well makes you seem more intelligent. Don’t believe me? Northwestern University found that making people wear lab coats improved their performance in tasks that required intelligence and concentration. No more t-shirt and torn pants at work. And double check that you're not making this fashion mistake.

10. Invite someone to a meeting who doesn’t need to be there. Okay, this is a dirty trick. So make sure you only do this to someone you dislike. After the meeting starts, turn to the person and say, “you know, you don’t really need to be here.” They’ll leave, and you just made yourself look like a powerful person.

This article could have been a much longer list, but we know that you’re probably reading this on your smartphone. You might not feel comfortable using all ten of the ideas on the list but give some a try. Oh, if you have a favorite business tip that’s not on the list, please leave it in the comments section. 

Keywords: Strunk and WhiteTony Robbinspower of positive thinkingdress for successElements of Style
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