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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 Chief Editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

        How to Live Life to the Fullest How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck (And How to Overcome It) 26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

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        Last Updated on March 17, 2020

        4 Simple Ways to Make Boring Work Become Interesting

        4 Simple Ways to Make Boring Work Become Interesting

        Are you bored at work right now?

        Sitting at your desk, wishing you could be anywhere other than here, doing anything else…?

        You’re not alone.

        Even when you have a job you love, it’s easy to get bored. And if your job isn’t something you’re passionate about, it’s even easier for boredom to creep in.

        Did you know it’s actually possible to make any job more interesting?

        That’s right.

        Whether it’s data entry or shelf stacking, even the most mind-numbing of jobs can be made more fun.

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        Understanding the science behind boredom is the first step to beating it.

        Read on to learn the truth about boredom, and what you can do to stop feeling bored at work for good.

        VIDEO SUMMARY

        I’m bored – as you’re watching the same film over and over again, even though it’s your favorite one

        When you experience something new, your brain releases opioids – chemicals which make you feel good. [1]

        It’s the feeling you might get when you taste a new food for the first time, watch a cool new film, or meet a new person.

        However, the next time you have the same experience, the brain processes it in a different way, without releasing so many feel-good chemicals.

        That’s why you won’t get the same thrill when you eat that delicious meal for the tenth time, rewatch that film again, or spend time with the same friend.

        So, in a nutshell, we get bored when we aren’t having any new experiences.

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        Now, new experiences don’t have to be huge life changes – they could be as simple as taking a different route to work, or picking a different sandwich shop for lunch.

        We’re going to apply this theory to your boring job.

        Keep reading find out how to make subtle changes to the way you work to defeat boredom and have more fun.

        Your work can be much more interesting if you learn these little tricks.

        Ready to learn how to stop feeling so bored at work?

        We’ve listed some simple suggestions below – you can start implementing these right now.

        Let’s do this.

        Make routine tasks more interesting by adding something new

        Sometimes one new element is all it takes to turn routine tasks from dull to interesting.

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        Maybe there’s a long drive you have to make every single week. You get so bored, going the same old route to make the same old deliveries.

        Why not make it a routine to create a playlist of new music each Sunday, to listen to on your boring drive during the week?

        Just like that, something you dread can be turned into the highlight of your day.

        For other routine tasks, you could try setting a timer and trying to beat your record, moving to a new location to complete the task, or trying out a new technique for getting the work done – you might even improve your productivity, too.

        Combine repetitive tasks to get them out of the way

        Certain tasks are difficult to make interesting, no matter how hard you try.

        Get these yawn-inducing chores out of the way ASAP by combining them into one quick, focused batch.

        For example, if you hate listening to meeting recordings, and dislike tidying your desk, do them both at the same time. You’ll halve the time you spend bored out of your mind, and can move onto more interesting tasks as soon as you’re done.

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        Break large tasks into small pieces and plan breaks between them

        Feeling overwhelmed can lead you to procrastinate and get bored. Try breaking up large tasks into lots of small pieces to keep things manageable and fun.

        Try breaking up a 10,000 word report into 1000-word sections. Reward yourself at the end of each section, and you’ll get 10 mini mood boosts, instead of just one at the end.

        You can also plan short breaks between each section, which will help to prevent boredom and keep you focused.

        Give yourself regular rewards, it can be anything that makes you feel good

        Make sure you reward yourself for achievements, even if they feel small.

        Rewards could include:

        • Eating your favourite snack.
        • Taking a walk in a natural area.
        • Spending a few minutes on a fun online game.
        • Buying yourself a small treat.
        • Visiting a new place.
        • Spending time on a favourite hobby.

        Your brain will come to associate work with fun rewards, and you’ll soon feel less bored and more motivated.

        Boredom doesn’t have to be a fact of life.

        Make your working life feel a thousand times more fun by following the simple tips above.

        Reference

        [1] Psychology Today: Why People Get Bored

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