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Smart is swell in the workplace

Playing dumb doesn’t work at work (or anywhere else, for that matter). OK, we get that. But is playing smart any wiser?

Career strategists and efficiency experts offer all sorts of clever techniques and tricks by which an individual may seem even smarter than he or she may actually be. Here are a few examples.

1. Dress tidily. Maybe appearances can be deceiving. We’ve all been warned against judging books by their covers, so to speak. But folks still make such snap decisions. Well-groomed spells brainy to many. Like it or not, that’s just how it is.

2. Demonstrate personal organization. Does a messy workstation reflect poorly on a person? Would onlookers consider such a one as less smart than another with a tidy workspace? Wrong or right, it just might.

A person doesn’t have to display a solved Rubik’s Cube, chess board, or Mensa membership card on his or her desk to make an enlightened impression. But clearing the clutter can help.

3. Stay up-to-date on current events. The idea is that scanning daily headlines (or online listings of news trends) may make a person more interesting in conversation, painting that person as being both educated, well-read, and informed.

4. Go for good grammar. Proper speech need not be stuffy, but it ought to reflect correct usage of language, if the speaker (or writer) is to create an intelligent impression. Spell- and grammar-check programs can kick in to kick one’s brainy credibility up a few notches.

5. Employ the internal editor. American humorist Mark Twain said, ““It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Maybe he was thinking of Proverbs 17:28, which says, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Either way, plenty of people seem smarter when they listen to their own internal filters.

6. Listening pays big dividends. Here’s another bonus from exercising the ears. Anyone who can pick up salient points from others’ comments can then tailor the ongoing communication accordingly. Did the prospective boss (or current manager or client or other key individual) just describe a weekend of paddleboarding, a seminar on conflict resolution, or a new market analysis? A savvy listener will keenly pick up on such details.

Perusing this list, a careful reader will likely realize that such techniques don’t really make someone appear much smarter, unless that person actually does possess some smarts in the first place. It takes a modicum of intelligence to practice these strategies authentically.

Appearances fall apart in time, if they aren’t backed by reality.

On the other hand, hosts of folks are a whole lot smarter than they likely believe. Maybe it’s time to start realizing that and practice owning one’s own intelligence.

Maybe self-talk is a good spot to start.

How about we stop using throw-away statements that demean our own smarts?

  • “I know this is gonna sound crazy, but …”
  • “I’d lose my head, if it wasn’t screwed on.”
  • “I’m not smart enough to handle this assignment.”
  • “I used to think I was smart, but now …”
  • “This is probably a dumb suggestion, but …”
  • “You’re a whole lot smarter than I am. What do you think about …?”

Hey, you’ve got the smarts, why apologize for them?

That’s not a license to boastfulness, but it is a push towards intellectual confidence. And that counts for plenty at work.

It’s just smart business.

Adapted from public domain image.

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