Coming across as intelligent is one of our main goals every time we open our mouths to speak.
When we’re in a meeting or job interview, that’s almost all we care about. People have to believe we’re smart to find us credible and buy into our ideas.
Even when with our friends or family, we want them to think of us as being smart.
Do you work with someone who can speak up in meetings with some pithy and concise ideas? And everyone tells him how great his ideas are. Meanwhile, you just said the same thing not 6 minutes ago and everyone looked at you blankly?
Do you know someone who can speak publicly off-the-cuff as natural as breathing? Which might not be so natural when you’re up on stage, right? The boss just asked her to get up and describe something to the all-hands and she just smiled, walked right up, and delivered her message with aplomb.
These people can even make small talk like genius superstars!
The truth about sounding smart.
If being perceived as smart & competent is crucial to you (and it should be if you want to achieve success), make sure you’re doing it right.
Excellent communication skills are on the description of nearly every job post. And according to the Harvard Business Review, you always come across smarter if you use your voice instead of writing.
Who would’ve thought that? We most often think of ourselves as more formal and coming across as more intelligent when we write than when we speak!
Smart folks are those who can make any topic, no matter the complexity, easy and fun for listeners to understand. They’re concise when delivering their message. They sound authoritative yet warm and they have a strong and consistent verbal brand.
When most people try to sound smart, they’re doing it wrong. Improving your vocabulary is a wonderful thing. But peppering your tales with lots of high-brow vocabulary words may not be the best idea.
People who use many 5-dollar words don’t seem smart to others, they appear pretentious and make people feel bad. The trick is to make complex concepts simple when you speak to folks. So they feel good about themselves and automatically think you’re a genius!
How to Sound Smart
- Use simple terminology. Stop thinking the use of big words will make you appear smart. Instead, it makes you look insecure in your intelligence.
- Don’t over-articulate. Connect the words within phrases together.
- Relax & Breathe. Being relaxed always improves your performance; exhale your voice right out of your lungs. Speech is air molecules that vibrate.
- Use a varied intonation pattern. Every word has a different value, like chess pieces.
What does “excellent communication skills” mean? Is it all about perfect pronunciation? “Ooh! I love how he pops all of his ‘t’s! That sounds nice!” Is it about using a string of 5-dollar words? “That’ll surely make me sound smart!”
No. And no. Pronunciation and pretentious words will not make you a better communicator.
To appear clever, you must be crystal clear, persuasive, authoritative, credible & warm. Seeming smart is about having relationships that are easy to initiate, easy to maintain, and where both parties get what they need.
It’s about making people understand you quickly and thoroughly and avoiding misunderstandings. You can do all of this with your communication skills.
Use simple terminology.
You can of course improve your vocabulary. I get an email every day with a new word. But if you use them when attempting to be influential you won’t sound smart, you’ll sound pompous. use complex words every now and again, that’s fine. but smart people don’t try to make others feel bad by demonstrating their extensive vocabulary.
To appear clever, you must be crystal clear, persuasive, authoritative, credible & warm. Seeming smart is about having relationships that are easy to initiate, easy to maintain, and where both parties get what they need. It’s about making people understand you quickly and thoroughly and avoiding misunderstandings. You can do all of this with your communication skills.
You Can Easily Sound Smart
You can do this by using a voice that gets people to feel relaxed and open (super easy to do), it’s about using a charming style that instantly relaxes people and gets them to believe you. And you can make sure you know how to speak clearly.
Then you have to work on being more concise and using persuasive speech, doing away with little habits that undermine you. If you record yourself (do it–it can only help you) describing what you do or talking about a project, you may find that the first five words are superfluous “Um, well, you see…” or the like.
Take out the “I think”s and other phrases/filler words (like “um”s & “a”s) that make you sound insecure and for your own sake stop going up at the end!
3 Steps to Sounding Smart
Follow these three steps and you’ll be sounding like a smarty pants in no time.
The first thing you need to do to achieve the above skills is to RELAX. I hope it doesn’t sound dorky, but being relaxed is the absolute foundation for having fantastic communication skills. I’m not saying you’re a tense person; I’m saying that you continue to strive for higher and more significant life positions. You find yourself in anxiety-ridden situations like giving presentations or making sales to high-level execs or going on job interviews.
The next thing you need to do is BREATHE. Don’t use shallow breathing where your chest and shoulders move (check yourself in the mirror.) Instead, use abdominal breathing where your stomach goes out when you breathe in and in when you breathe out. Abdominal breathing gives you a fuller voice and is more resonant than the one you are using now.
The voice you hear on the recorder is how you indeed sound to other people. Only you can hear the voice that you hear in your head. It’s made fuller and more resonant by the bone conduction of sound. Letting your voice sound full and resonant makes you sound confident, authoritative, and highly intelligent. There’s no getting around it.
Vary Your Intonation
Thirdly, you need to use a varied intonation pattern. Most people are out there, thinking each word is as important as the ones next to it. So they end up articulating each letter that they see. It doesn’t work that way in English. You must only emphasize the essential words in a sentence. The ones that give your listener the most information. Using this type of varied intonation pattern is how you become a persuasive speaker who sounds ridiculously smart.
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People do this all the time without knowing it. They do it during high-stakes situations. They pop all of their ‘t’s and over-emphasize consonant sounds. This ends up with your sounding robotic or staccato.
Instead, glue your words together. Chunk your speech into segments and within those segments glue the words together.