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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

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

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        Anna Chui

        Communication Expert

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        Published on July 13, 2018

        Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

        Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

        What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

        By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

        When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

        In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

        Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

        What is attachment theory?

        Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

        The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

        His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

        The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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        When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

        Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

        How attachment develops

        Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

        Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

        The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

        It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

        In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

        Different types of attachments

        In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

        • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
        • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
        • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
        • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

        What attachments mean to adults

        So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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        As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

        • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
        • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
        • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
        • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

        Here’s where it gets really interesting:

        Move towards secure attachment

        The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

        Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

        The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

        If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

        The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

        Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

        How to restructure your thoughts

        Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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        For the Avoidant Style

        As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

        Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

        Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

        Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

        Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

        If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

        Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

        And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

        For the Anxious Style

        For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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        First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

        Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

        For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

        The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

        Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

        When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

        For the Secure Style

        Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

        Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

        Strive towards Secure Attachment

        As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

        • Positive self esteem and self image
        • Close and well adjusted relationships
        • Sense of security in self and the world
        • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
        • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
        • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
        • Trust in self and others
        • Close, intimate relationships
        • Strong determination and problem solving skills

        If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

        It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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