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How to Know If Someone Is Playing Dumb or Really Is Dumb

How to Know If Someone Is Playing Dumb or Really Is Dumb

When you’re up against a business rival, a competitive member of your own family, or just an annoying friend who you suspect might be lying to you, it’s always in your best interests to find out exactly how much they know. If you want to know what you’re up against, you need to discover their true knowledge and capabilities.

For example, if you are going after a big promotion at work but your colleague also has their eye on the position, it’s a good idea to work out precisely what they know about the role, and whether they have actually taken the initiative and applied for it.

Or let’s say that you suspect your partner of cheating on you. In a bid to discover the truth, you meet up with their best friend, who you think might be covering for them. Their friend says that they have no idea whether your partner is cheating, and that they know nothing.

Here’s the problem – how do you know whether their friend is playing dumb?

Playing Dumb Is Often A Great Strategy

To put it plainly, playing dumb works beautifully when you are trying to throw someone off the scent. When you are up against someone else, you can gain an advantage if they underestimate you. Their guard will go down, and they may even share valuable information with you! Pretending that you don’t know much about a situation will encourage other people to open up first. You can then gauge their true character and communication skills.

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    For example, suppose you are a salesperson and you are competing with another member of your department for an end-of-year bonus. Pretending as though you don’t really care about the bonus, and acting as though you aren’t very confident in your sales abilities, may encourage your rival to become overconfident. They might even babble on about the great tricks they use to turn their cold leads into profitable sales. Needless to say, you’d have a great advantage over them in this situation!

    Pretending that you are less smart than you really are will also endear you to others. A high IQ often makes other people envious, so it’s best to maintain that you have achieved your success through sheer hard work, a little luck, or a combination of the two.[1]

    Although intelligent people are often capable of undertaking a lot of work to a high standard, they can suffer the burden of heavy expectations. For instance, if you are well-known as a competent person at work, the likely result is that you will be given yet more work to do. Playing dumb can work in your favor, because your boss won’t expect much from you! The smartest people know that it isn’t always a good idea to show your competence at every turn.

    How to Tell Whether Someone Is Playing Dumb?

    Of course, someone who appears to be playing dumb may just be, well, dumb. So how can you tell the difference?

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    The first clue is that someone who is playing dumb will take great care to allow other people to talk.

    This lets them gauge their competition’s true level of knowledge. They also gently provoke other people in a bid to obtain extra information.

      For instance, let’s take the example of a woman who has found evidence that her husband is having an affair, and decides to confront him. She has seen a photo of another woman in his wallet, and her friend has told her that he has been seen leaving a local bar with the very same woman in the picture.

      If the husband in this scenario is smart, he’ll “play dumb” by denying that he has done anything wrong, and asking how she arrived at her conclusion. This approach will let him discover how much she knows, which will then help him make a decision – can he get away with lying to her, or does she have incontrovertible evidence that he’s been unfaithful?

      He might use another tactic – asking dumb questions to make her underestimate him. For instance, he may say something like “Why do you think I’d have a photo of her?” when asked about the picture in his wallet. On the other hand, smart people sometimes overdo it, i.e. their questions are just a little too dumb. This is a red flag that signifies that they are trying to appear ignorant.

      An intelligent person who is playing dumb will gradually bring you round to their point of view.

      They are often assertive, put on a show of sympathy for your position, and then slowly convince you that your perceptions are wrong. By the end of the conversation, you may find yourself agreeing to go along with them. For example, a colleague who you suspect is stealing your office stationery might nod in apparent agreement as you relay your grievance, ask a few dumb questions (e.g. “Your stapler? I didn’t even know we used them in this office!”), then behave in such an earnest manner that you end up agreeing with them – there is no way they could have been stealing from you, right?

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      Finally, watch out for neutrality and flexibility.

      People who play dumb are careful to keep their cards close to their chests. Revealing their true preferences and political allegiances could give their rivals some information to use against them at a later date.[2]

      Play Dumb to Understand the Fake Dummies

      To get closer to the fake dummies and understand what their real intentions are, play dumb too. This is what we call “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

        Though it’s not easy to play dumb, here we’ve got some techniques to make it work for you.

        Never overdo it.

        Do not pretend to be more ignorant or stupid than you really are too often, or people will either think that you truly are brainless, or that you are intentionally setting out to manipulate them. You should never tell anyone that you use this tactic, because they are unlikely to ever trust you fully in the future.

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        Be smart when choosing your moment.

        Only play dumb when it will help you get valuable information. For example, if you pretend that you are oblivious to office politics, other people will start to confide in you. This gives you useful information about all the key players in the company.[3]

        Playing dumb can give you a valuable opportunity to ask questions that might otherwise seem rude or inappropriate. For instance, let’s suppose that your manager has been blowing the department’s budget on pointless IT training and, as a result, there is a shortfall of cash.

        Rather than asking them outright to explain precisely why they felt the need to overspend, and exactly how much they spent, you could ask them to tell you how the department’s budgets are decided upon. You could then ask them to take you through the department’s recent accounts so you can see an example of a budget in action. When you appear to be earnest and eager to learn, people will not question your true motives.

        Practice your poker face.

        If you are asking intentionally stupid questions or pretending to be far less smart than you really are, it’s easy to give into the temptation to smirk. Don’t do it, or you’ll give the whole game away. If necessary, practice remaining straight faced, even when confronted with an amusing situation.[4]

        Go Forth and Act Ignorant

        As you can see, those who know how to play dumb, and how to detect it in others, are in a strong position. When you learn how to tone down your intelligence, others will trust you more. When you can spot this tactic in colleagues, friends, and relatives, you’ll soon be able to tell when they have an ulterior motive in mind. Next time you need some information from someone, why not act a little dumber? The results will surprise you.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Anna Chui

        Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

        It’s Okay To Be Envious As Long As You’re Not Jealous The Jeopardy of Taking Others’ Opinions Seriously life is pain Life Is Pain: Why a Life Without Pain Guarantees True Suffering Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind What Is The Secret To Convincing Someone To Change Their Minds?

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        Published on October 30, 2020

        11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

        11 Essential Philosophy Books That Will Open Your Mind

        There are numerous ways to build your mindset, but none are as profound as reading philosophy books. Through these books, some of the greatest minds around ask questions and delve deep into thought.

        While there isn’t always a clear and distinct answer to the many questions of philosophy, the entire field is a gateway to a higher sense of self. It gets you to think about all manner of things.

        Below, we cover some of the essential philosophy books that are best for those who are just starting or looking to expand their mind.

        How To Choose a Good Philosophy Book

        Before getting to this list, we’ve researched ideal philosophy books to help you expand your mind.

        We’ve found that the best philosophy books excel in the following criteria:

        • Complexity – Philosophy isn’t a subject that you can’t dive into immediately and understand everything. The books that we selected are great for people making the first leap.
        • Viewpoint – With philosophy, in particular, the author’s views are more important than in your standard book. We want to ensure the viewpoints and thoughts being discussed still hold up to this day.
        • Open-mindedness – Philosophy is all about asking perplexing questions and unraveling the answer. You might not reach a conclusion in the end, but these books are designed to get you to think.
        • Culture – The last criterion is culture. A lot of these books come from early philosophers from centuries ago or possibly from recent years. These philosophy books should paint a picture of the culture.

        1. Meditations

          One that you’ll find on many of these types of lists is Meditations and for good reason. It’s the only document of its kind to ever be made. The book focuses on the private thoughts of the world’s most powerful man who advises himself revolving around making good on his responsibilities and the obligations of his position.

          We know enough about Marcus Aurelius to know that he was trained in stoic philosophy and practiced every night on a series of spirituality exercises. These exercises were designed to make him humble, patient, empathetic, generous, and strong in the face of whatever problem he had to face off. And he faced plenty of problems since he was basically the emperor of roughly a third of the planet.

          All of that is poured into this book, and you are bound to remember a line or more that will be applicable in your life. It’s a philosophy book staple.

          Buy Meditations here.

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          2. Letters From a Stoic

            Similar to Marcus Aurelius, Seneca was another powerful man in Rome. He was a brilliant writer at the time and was the kind of guy to give great advice to his most trusted friends. Fortunately, much of his advice comes in letters, and those letters happen to be in this book. The letters themselves provided advice on dealing with grief, wealth, poverty, success, failure, education, and more.

            While Seneca was a stoic, he has a more practical approach and has borrowed from other schools of thought for his advice. As he said when he was alive, “I don’t care about the author if the line is good.” Similar to Meditations, there are several brilliant lines and advice that are still relevant to this day.

            Buy “Letters From a Stoic” here.

            3. Nicomachean Ethics

              Aristotle was a famous Greek philosopher at the time with profound knowledge. He’s named after a form of logic as well called Aristotelian logic. Through this book, Aristotle writes about the root of all Aristotelian ethics. In other words, this book contains the moral ideas that form a base for pretty much all of western civilization.

              Buy “Nicomachean Ethics” here.

              4. Beyond Good & Evil

                Friedrich Nietzsche played a big role in the philosophical world. He was one of the leading philosophers of the existential movement, and it all came through this particular book. He is a brilliant mind. However, the issue with a lot of his work is that it’s all written in German.

                Fortunately, this book is one of the slightly more accessible ones since it’s translated. Within the book, he breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality. By doing this, he sets the stage for a lot of the 20th-century thought process that followed.

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                Buy “Beyond Good & Evil” here.

                5. Meditations on First Philosophy

                  In Meditations on First Philosophy, René Descartes breaks his book down into six meditations. The book takes a journalistic style that is structured much like a six-day course of meditation. On day one, he gives instructions on discarding all belief in things that are not guaranteed. After that, he tries to establish what can be known for sure. Similar to Meditations, this is a staple and influential philosophical text that you can pick up.

                  Buy “Meditations on First Philosophy” here.

                  6. Ethics

                    Written by Benedict de Spinoza, this came at a time during the Age of Enlightenment. Enlightenment was a movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries and with that, many schools of thought emerged and were presented through books.

                    Out of the many influential philosophy books published back then, Ethics dominated during this period as it discussed the basis of rationalism. Even though we’ve developed further beyond that, Ethics can introduce new ways of thinking from this particular school of thought.

                    Buy “Ethics” here.

                    7. Critique of Pure Reason

                      Immanuel Kant is another great philosopher who brought together two of history’s biggest opposing schools of thought into a single book. Those schools being rational thought and empirical experiential knowledge—knowledge gained through experience.

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                      In Critique of Pure Reason, Kant explores human reason and then works to establish its illusions and get down to core constituents. Overall, you can learn more about human behavior and thought processes and thus, open your mind more to how you think and process everything around you.

                      Buy “Critique of Pure Reason” here.

                      8. On the Genealogy of Morals

                        Another piece of work from Nietzsche that is accessible to us is On the Genealogy of Morals. According to Nietzsche, the purpose of this book is to call attention to his previous writings. That said, it does more than that so you don’t need to worry so much about reading his other books.

                        In this book, he expands on the cryptic aphorisms that he brings up in Beyond Good and Evil and offers a discussion or morality in a work that is more accessible than a lot of his previous work.

                        Buy “On the Genealogy of Morals” here.

                        9. Everything Is F*cked

                          The only book on this list that’s been written in the past few years, this book by Mark Manson aims to explain why we all need hope while also accepting that hope can often lead us to ruin too.

                          While many of the books on this list are all practical, this one is the most realistic one since not even the greatest of philosophical minds could predict things like technology, Twitter, and how our political world has shaped.

                          Manson delivers a profound book that taps into the minds of our ancestral philosophers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, and digs deep into various topics and how all of it is connected—religion and politics, our relationship with money, entertainment, and the internet.

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                          Overall, this book serves as a challenge to all of us—a challenge to be more honest with ourselves and connect with the world in a way we’ve never tried before.

                          Buy “Everything Is F*cked” here.

                          10. Reasons and Persons

                            One of the most challenging philosophy books to read on this list, Reasons and Persons will send you on quite the trip. Through a lot of painstaking logic, Derek Parfit shows us some unique perspectives on self-interest, personhood, and whether our actions are good or evil.

                            Considered by many to be an important psychological text around the 20th century, the arguments made about those topics will open your mind to a brand new way of thinking.

                            Buy “Reasons and Persons” here.

                            11. The Republic of Plato

                              Written by Plato himself, this book is the origin of political science and offers a brilliant critique of government. As you would expect, the critique is still important today. If you’re looking to understand the inner thoughts of Plato, this is one of the best books around.

                              Buy “The Republic of Plato” here.

                              Final Thoughts

                              Philosophy books take a while to digest as they provide profound knowledge and leave you with many questions. With many of these philosophy books, you need to take your time with them, and you might have to read through them a few times as well. And with every read, your mind will only expand.

                              More Books to Open Your Mind

                              Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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