Consider This

Robert Stevenson’s Thoughts on the Pursuit of Excellence

Do You APPEAR to be Smart or Stupid?

July 29, 2018

by Robert Stevenson

I think it is safe to say that none of us want to appear to be stupid. BUT, there are things we do that have a tendency to make us appear less intelligent. The last thing you want is for people to think … you’re silly, trivial, unintelligent, or worse yet, mindless. So, if you want to APPEAR SMART, may I strongly suggest you don’t do any of the following.

Be careful of the words you use and don’t use the wrong words, for example: Affect instead of effect, irregardless instead of regardless, heighth instead of height, lie instead of lay, or imply instead of infer. Please don’t mispronounce libary vs. library or duck tape vs. duct tape. Making basic grammatical errors is also a NO NO: "I don't worry about nothing." "He sings good." “I seen them coming.” OUCH; that one really hurts my ears. AND … one I really love, that I read the other day is, “There is great irony in people who type, ‘Your an idiot.’”

Be careful about “dressing down,” especially in professional meetings. It seems that “Business Casual” is more widely accepted today … but if you are trying to gain more respect and seem more professional, wear a suit. Studies have shown that those who wear suits are perceived as more professional and assertive … whereas dressing in casual attire will attract little respect.

Slouching (appear less attractive and lazy), excessive head nodding (it looks like you are agreeing with everything), looking down (you appear shy or lacking in confidence), speaking too fast, speaking too slow, speaking too much and speaking too little will all diminish your look of intelligence. If you want to appear to be a brilliant conversationalist, then ask great questions and let them do more than 70% of the talking, while keeping your head still and chin parallel to the ground.

Using profanity shows a lack of ability to find another word that would be more suitable to get your point across; you might be brilliant, but you don’t appear to be. Some might say an occasional slip is acceptable but, excessive cursing is perceived by many as lacking in class. In one study, 64% of employers said they had a negative view of employees who curse, and 57% said they’d be less likely to promote cursing workers to higher positions; dropping the f-bomb can hurt you more than help you.

If you want to appear intelligent memorize a few facts and drop them into a conversation. I’ve heard these referred to as “sound bites.” You don’t have to read the entire The Wall Street Journal to sound smart. Scan a few headlines from different sections before heading out the door, then drop them into the conversation; they’ll assume you are one “smart cookie.” Reading book reviews will also give you some smart sound bites to share. Steer conversations to subjects you know more about; you can’t be smart if they are talking about something you know nothing about. Asks questions and let them talk; you’ll appear smart merely by asking good questions. You might also want to consider memorizing a few quotes. Winston Churchill said, “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations." By sharing a brilliant quote, you appear to be smart as well.

Once you realize how telling the words you speak reflect to everyone how intelligent you are … you will be more careful in what you say.

"Your only true security in life
is your ability to perform."

About the Author

Robert Stevenson is an expert at building a high-performance business culture, improving efficiency, and accelerating growth. He is one of the most widely sought-after speakers in the world today, as well as a best-selling author. He has owned five companies, sold internationally in over 20 countries. Robert has spoken to over 2,500 companies throughout the world and his research in the area of corporate and entrepreneurial success is extensive. Over 2 million people have benefitted from his powerful, practical, and thought-provoking programs. He is a true master at blending facts, inspiration, conviction, and humor into all his programs.

Companies like FedEx, Prudential, Lockheed Martin, Anheuser-Busch, Chevron, American Express, and Berkshire Hathaway continue to rely on him for a fresh, unique perspective on businesses’ most crucial issues. To learn more about Robert and what he can do for your team visit his website at

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