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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 October 22, 2020

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

        How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

        Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

        When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

        Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

        What Makes People Poor Listeners?

        Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

        1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

        Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

        Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

        It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

        2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

        This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

        Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

        3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

        It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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        I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

        If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

        4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

        While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

        To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

        My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

        Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

        Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

        How To Be a Better Listener

        For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

        1. Pay Attention

        A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

        According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

        As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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        I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

        2. Use Positive Body Language

        You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

        A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

        People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

        But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

        According to Alan Gurney,[2]

        “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

        Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

        3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

        I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

        Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

        Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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        Be polite and wait your turn!

        4. Ask Questions

        Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

        5. Just Listen

        This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

        I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

        I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

        6. Remember and Follow Up

        Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

        For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

        According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

        It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

        7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

        If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

        Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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        Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

        Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

        NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

        1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
        2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

        8. Maintain Eye Contact

        When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

        Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

        By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

        Final Thoughts

        Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

        You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

        And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

        More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
        [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
        [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
        [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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