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6 Things You Do Without Realizing That Make You Look Less Intelligent

6 Things You Do Without Realizing That Make You Look Less Intelligent

We all like to think we’re pretty smart people. For the most part, we are.

However, our actions sometimes betray our intelligence in ways that we don’t really even notice – but are glaringly obvious to those around us.

Whenever you’re in a situation in which the way others perceive you is important – such as at school or work – you need to be constantly aware of how you portray yourself. From the way you dress and act to the way you talk and the content of what you say, the people surrounding you will use every opportunity they can to judge you – for better or worse.

Take this into consideration the next time you interact with anyone outside of your comfort zone.

Dressing Down

The way you present yourself to the world determines how you will be treated by those who don’t know you. If you dress well, you’ll give off an air of respectability. If you schlep around in sweatpants and a T-shirt, no one will feel the need to give you the time of day.

If your workplace requires you to follow a specific dress code, you should be sure to follow it exactly as written every time you walk into the office. Even something as simple as leaving your tie at home one day will lead your colleagues to believe that you don’t think the rules apply to you – or that you don’t understand the rules in the first place. If you choose to dress down even the slightest bit, don’t be surprised if your coworkers and supervisors don’t listen to a word you say.

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Misusing Words or Sayings

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    For those of us who remember Tim Allen’s sitcom Home Improvement, recall the ongoing shtick in which Tim’s neighbor Wilson would relay some sage advice to Tim, only to have Tim jumble up the story when trying to sound smart later on in the episode.

    While it was always good for a chuckle when done by a fictional character, mixing up popular words or phrases in the real world is more pathetic than hilarious. If you’re a professor of literacy education who thinks “conversate” is a word, for example, your students probably aren’t going to be able to take you seriously throughout the semester.

    Don’t simply use buzzwords just because you’ve heard someone else use them in similar situations. If you can’t explain what you mean without using a colloquialism, you probably shouldn’t have said it in the first place.

    (Author’s note: Sadly, the above example is a true story. Don’t be that person).

    Appearing Aloof

    We’ve all been caught staring into space at some point in our lives, and we’ve all had to pretend as if  we were really listening to whoever was speaking – whether it was our teacher, our boss, or our spouse.

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    While we often make the excuse that we were “deep in thought” when we get caught with a blank stare on our face, the truth is we simply weren’t focused on the task at hand. While there are many reasons why we may not have been focused on the speaker at the time, they’ll almost always assume we weren’t listening because we didn’t understand or care about what they were saying.

    When you fail to maintain proper eye contact and exhibit body language that shows you’re listening, the speaker is likely to think you’re completely lost and have no idea what they’re talking about. Either that, or they’ll think you’re focusing so intently on understanding what they’re saying that you don’t have enough brainpower left to nod your head in agreement.

    Either way, the blank stare doesn’t make you look good.

    Talking Too Much

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      We’ve all heard the saying “loose lips sink ships.”

      While unless you’re high-level military personnel, what you say probably isn’t a matter of national security. But the words that come out of your mouth can lead others to think you’re not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer.

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      A good rule of thumb is to never say more than needs to be said.

      When you speak succinctly, you show that you’re able to collect your thoughts and explain them in an easily understandable manner. You know what’s important and needs to be said, and you know what can be inferred and doesn’t need explanation.

      On the other hand, if you’re one to babble on without thinking of what you’re saying, you give off the notion that you talk just to hear your own voice, or just say whatever’s on your mind and hope it makes sense to others.

      You have complete control over what comes out of your mouth. Choose wisely.

      Talking Too Little

      On the other hand, being too quiet can lead people to pass judgment on you, as well.

      For those of us who tend to take a backseat during conversation, we know that others may come to think that we’re being rude, or that we don’t have anything important to say. Though we know our quietness, shyness, or even introvertedness is not a sign of lower intelligence, others may not understand this so clearly.

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      Because of this, it’s important for the quiet ones among us to speak up from time to time. Remember: You don’t have to say a lot; you just have to say enough to let your counterpart know you’re listening and have some sort of intelligent opinion on the topic at hand.

      Judging Others

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        I realize this entire article is based around the fact that people will judge (and perhaps misjudge) you based on singular actions you take rather than seeing you as a whole person. I’m not saying this is right – but I am saying it absolutely will happen.

        But just because others judge you based on one-off encounters doesn’t mean you should do the same. In fact, it’s much safer to simply never judge anyone for anything, ever. None of us have any idea what it’s like to live someone else’s life. When you judge someone, what you’re really doing is assuming they’ve had the exact same privileges that you have had throughout your life. You’re holding them to your own standard, as if you should have some say in how they live their life.

        When you judge others, it shows you are only able to see the world through your own eyes, and have never once thought about the fact that, with seven billion people in the world, there are seven billion different ways to live.

        Featured photo credit: LB And the Ugly Suit / Jason Meserve / Flickr via farm3.staticflickr.com

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        Matt Duczeminski

        A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2021

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

        The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

        Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

        Posture

        First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

        • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
        • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
        • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
        • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

        All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

        Facial Expressions

        Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

        • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
        • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
        • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

        If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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        1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

        A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

        The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

        This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

        2. Relax Your Face

        New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

        The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

        To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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        3. Improve Your Eye Contact

        Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

        The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

        To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

        3. Smile More

        There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

        Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

        4. Hand Gestures

        Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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        It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

        5. Enhance Your Handshake

        In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

        “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

        It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

        6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

        As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

        Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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        Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

        Final Takeaways

        Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

        If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

        More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

        Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

        Reference

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