You’ve probably found yourself in such situation where you happen to be trapped in a conversation and cannot add anything meaningful to such conversation either because you have not been properly enlightened about it or you don’t even as far as know shit about it! And then you sit like a confused wallflower taking in everyone’s point of view because you’re not sure what to say. Well it happens, and it’s pretty normal. Even experts can know a heck of different areas of their field but they cannot know it all, unfortunately. Because we don’t want to be left out in every conversation or come off as being uninformed, we struggle to remain relevant to the discourse. But this could go wrong when not done properly. “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”– Mark Twain
Yet for every loop-hole, there’s a big way out! These are smart tips that can help you sound smarter than you are among genuinely smart ones.
Listen! You must first listen and pay good attention to the views of others and be sure to understand it before you speak. When that point of a conversation comes when you must speak and perhaps stand strongly about an issue, it ought to be carried out in the wake of listening cautiously. Thinking before speaking is not just an art but is wisdom defined too. There’s nothing more embarrassing as letting one’s mouth “ooze” and realizing that you have not even made a bit of sense. Rushing into a conversation without even having a clue what it is about is unwise, likewise jumping at the opportunity to speak first or control a discussion. It does not show how enlightened one is but only ends up making you look like a moron and the last thing you’d wish for is to be made a fool of by your own self. Before you hold up for a shot at a conversation, sit back, think about what you have to say properly, then speak!
“He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool – shun him” –Confucius
2) Ask (smart) questions– before you get asked!
Asking questions does not only give you a chance to know more but it also engages the person/people you’re having a conversation with and takes you out of the way of being asked a question that you may have no idea of. Rather than appearing clueless, ask questions! In situations when you have nothing to add to a discussion, asking the right questions helps to save the situation. Think up something relating to what the person has said which you genuinely want to know more about, and ask! That way, you’d remain engaged and appear even smarter than you thought. New knowledge never hurts anyway, it rather advances the mind! A sound individual seeks to know more by asking questions and searching for answers consistently.
“He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple, teach him!” –Confucius
3) Maintain body gestures (Laugh, smile, nod) often– but courteously!
Body gesture is the strongest way of communicating. There’s no better way to draw the attention of an audience than to do so with effective body gestures. Hence, to sound intellectual, you must appear intellectual too! Now when you watch talk shows on TV, you would observe that body gestures are maintained– from the wriggling of the wrist to the head nods when in affirmation or the shaking of the head when in rebuttal. Maintain all of those body gestures with a smile, a nod or a good laugh! This would make you come off as one who is very enlightened about the topic at hand. Smiling for instance helps you calculate and fix up your words quickly before letting it out and laughing makes it appear as you know better but just not interested in contributing. Body gesture in general saves you from losing balance and confuses your opponent (if perhaps it’s an argumentative conversation) even if deep down you don’t know shit!
4) Speak fluently
Yes. You cannot sound like an intellectual if you can’t express yourself properly with the language in which you speak. If you’re conversing in English, use words that you’re comfortable with, not words that would make you sound like a total idiot! Good vocabulary would give you more audience even when you are not making so much sense especially when using the right words and using them confidently too! For example, words like “perhaps”, “It depends”, “it is relative” “generally” would hide your lack of insight on the topic and give you a good platform of bringing in your own idea which may in the end not be so relatable, but you would have shared your own knowledge too!
5) Expand your little knowledge
Now you’ve got a chance to give your input and you have very little knowledge of it, what do you do? – Share your little knowledge, elaborate it, stress it, and say all you know about it. Chances are- they don’t even know what you know! Since you’re the speaker, keep your listener(s) engaged. However, be sure that your facts are right! When you’re proven wrong, choose instead to listen and gain more knowledge than to let out more ignorance.
6) Take your pretty time while talking (don’t mumble-jumble)
Speaking fast does not mean making sense! When you know nothing and you jumble through your (pointless) points hoping to come off as smart, you would end up sounding silly. Never mistake your listener to be stupid because they could be better enlightened on the subject matter than you are and they would sure as hell spot your shallowness on the topic. And when you’re deliberately made to prove your points which you would most likely not have, you would surely get stuck. Again, take your pretty time to listen, ask questions and when you speak, take it slowly and calmly. Better to speak gradually and unmistakably than rapidly and ambiguously.
7) Quote people
You know, Quotes are so beautiful in that they sum-up every
nonsense thing you have to say into one simple phrase, and bam! You would have made your point. Quoting people’s phrases (when they apply) makes you sound significantly cleverer than you are n’t. Applying relatable quotes when talking is a good conversational skill because it helps to spice up the conversation and makes you less of a bore and more entertaining!
“A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.” –A.A. Milne.
8) Use a similar event that has happened in the past
When it gets to the point when you have exhausted the little you know about the subject, and you’re almost returning to that quiet zone, quickly steer the conversation to something that can keep you relevant to the discourse. Bringing in an event you know of that happened in the past or a similar topic which relates to the topic at hand would give the conversation a new dimension and keep you involved. Because you have ground knowledge on the subject, you can talk about it effortlessly. Be careful of changing the topic lousily however, maintain that it must relate!
9) Exit strategy
When the conversation starts to either get heated or you find yourself stuck, its super smart to know when to wrap up politely and exit yourself gracefully. The longer you stay, the more likely you are to make a fool of yourself. If you’ve tried to act and sound smart and it has or did not as much work for you, when that pause moment arises in a conversation, exit yourself yet still sounding like an intellectual. A smart way of doing so is to either buy a little into the other person’s idea but not entirely. “Well, you could be right but I thought of it the other way…….” Right after, introduce the “anyway…” and switch over to a different topic or just politely leave, commending them for the wonderful conversation.
10) Don’t just sound like one, be one!
Because you may not be lucky enough to smartly escape an intellectual conversation next time, it doesn’t hurt to go back and get yourself more enlightened about the subject matter and more! When you broaden your knowledge about different areas by reading, surfing the net, making extensive research on different subject matters, or an area of focus that is widely talked about, it broadens your intellectual horizon and gives you a great deal of understanding and a generally framed conclusion on the issue early, so you know precisely how to present them when the topic arises. The only way to say more is to know more, and the only way to know more is to read more. Reading should not be a duty, make it a lifestyle.
QOTW: “What is an intellectual? In general, someone seriously devoted to what used to be called the “life of the mind”: thinking pursued not instrumentally, for the sake of practical goals, but simply for the sake of knowing and understanding.” ―Gary Gutting
Written By: ‘Nonye J. Chidolue (@NonyeWrites)