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

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        Last Updated on October 30, 2019

        How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

        How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

        Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

        In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

        Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

        You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

        What is the Stages of Change Model?

        Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

        Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

        Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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          The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

          The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

          The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

          The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

          1. Precontemplation
          2. Contemplation
          3. Determination
          4. Action
          5. Maintenance
          6. Termination

          How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

          To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

            Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

            Stage 1: Precontemplation

            At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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            For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

            Stage 2: Contemplation

            At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

            You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

            The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

            Stage 3: Preparation

            At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

            Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

            Stage 4: Action

            When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

            Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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            Stage 5: Maintenance

            After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

            Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

            Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

            Stage 6: Termination

            Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

            However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

            How long does each stage take?

            You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

            So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

            The limitations of this model

            The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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            Require the ability to set a realistic goal

            For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

            If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

            Difficult to judge your progress

            The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

            Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

            Conclusion

            The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

            While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

            Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
            [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
            [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
            [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
            [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
            [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
            [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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