If you want to seem smarter to your co-workers and new acquaintances, what should you do? According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a growing body of research shows that you would do well to listen to your inner Mom and follow her advice.
Raise your hand if you remember your Mom telling you to sit up straight and look her in the eyes when you were talking. It turns out that those are two of the visual clues people focus on in deciding whether a person speaking is intelligent. It’s not hard to understand why people have that reaction: those who slouch look slothful and undisciplined and speakers who don’t make eye contact seem shifty and deceptive, whereas people who sit up straight and look you in the eye seem engaged, interested, direct, and honest — all qualities that are associated with intelligence.
According to the article, other behaviors that projected intelligence included having self-confidence, being responsive in conversation and not over-talking, using clear language and not unnecessary big words, and — and this is a key one — admitting it when you don’t know something and asking for help rather than trying to fake it. You can bet that, in most situations, your audience will include someone who knows that you’re just trying to bluff your way through and your credibility will take a hit.
Oh, and one other cliche actually turns out to be right: the research shows that observers inevitably conclude that people who wear eyeglasses are smarter. No word, though, on whether darker frames are correlated with higher presumed IQ.