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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Fake Being Smart: These 9 Daily Habits Make You Look Intelligent

Simple habits that will help you project an air of intelligence, no matter who you're talking to.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Pay attention to trending news

It is never okay to say “What terrorist attack?” if there’s been one somewhere in the world within the past week. No one is suggesting you read every page of every paper of record every day. Instead, scan the “What’s News” section on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for the top stories the smart people are paying attention to. Or subscribe to one of the breaking-news services from CNN or NPR. Supplement the headlines with news from whatever medium works best for you (Facebook trending topics are perfectly acceptable).

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Watch your grammar

Nothing will shave 30 points off your perceived IQ more quickly than bad grammar. It’s the way certain people separate the wheat from the chaff. A few of the groaners to avoid: Less/few: You have less milk but fewer cups. Bad vs. badly and good vs. well: A man who doesn’t feel well or feels badly has something wrong with his nerve endings; a sick person feels bad, and a healthy person feels good. Pronoun problems: “Between her and I” should be “between her and me”; “she and I went to school,” not “me and her.” The word often is pronounced without the T. Trying to make a word sound fancy does nothing but blow your cover. These vocab words can make you sound smarter.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Get organized

Organize your files, lists, paper clips—all of it. A person who is disorganized is often perceived as being … well, a scatterbrain. Once you’ve decluttered, prepare for events; do a little homework before that meeting/job interview/dinner party. People are flattered when they discover you know things about them (not stalkerish things, of course). And when the people you’re talking to are flattered, they look good, and you look smart. This is what highly organized people do every morning.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Fix spelling mistakes

Seriously. This is one of the world’s greatest inventions—maybe better than the wheel. Use it religiously to correct typing mistakes.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Ask smart questions

You’re at a dinner party with your spouse and her colleagues. The person you’re chatting with is a neuroscientist. You’re a nursery school teacher. Don’t pretend to know the latest news about the amygdala. Just listen and ask questions. It’s okay not to know. And it’s very smart to ask an intelligent question.

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Dress the part

Multiple studies have shown that people that are perceived as more attractive are also initially considered to be more intelligent, a phenomenon known as the “Halo Effect.” Dressing sharply and being well-groomed can also lead people to think you’re smart. Check out these style secrets of women who always look put together.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Articulate well

People who speak clearly and deliberately are construed as more confident and intelligent by others. According to Leonard Mlodinow, author of Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, speaking expressively will improve how others perceive your credibility and intelligence.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Maintain proper posture

Body language plays a huge role in how we communicate with others. Using good posture and standing up straight conveys competence and intelligence, while slouching comes across as lazy and can even give others an impression of stupidity.

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Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/BlackJack3D

Project your confidence

Ever hear the expression “fake it till you make it”? Studies show that people who act confident and believe they are intelligent are not only perceived as such, but will actually perform better on tests or in presentations even if they have overestimated their abilities. Acting self-assured makes people more likely to trust you and your intelligence.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest