10 things narcissists do to appear smarter than they really are

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Ever met someone who acts like they are the smartest person in the room? Or someone who always tries to out-do everyone else, no matter what the subject?

If that rings a bell, you’ve likely crossed paths with a narcissist.

Narcissists have a way of looking smarter than they really are. And it’s not by accident – it’s one of their go-to strategies to gain control.

So, how do they manage to seem so clever?

Well, I’m about to reveal the top 10 ways narcissists fool people into thinking they’re smarter than they actually are. 

1. They always have an opinion

Ever noticed how some people always have something to say about everything? That’s a classic narcissist move.

Whether it’s politics, sports, the latest TV shows, or even quantum physics, they’ll have an opinion. And not just any opinion – they present it as if it’s the ultimate truth.

Here’s the catch though: most of the time, their knowledge is surface-level at best.

They’re grand masters of the art of bluffing.

Their confidence can make it seem like they really know their stuff, but if you dig a little deeper or ask some detailed questions, their lack of true understanding often shows.

So next time someone seems to have an answer for everything, remember it might just be a show.

2. They use big words

Ever talked to someone who uses big, fancy words that make you reach for a dictionary? That’s another trick narcissists use to seem smarter.

They love using complex language, technical jargon, or industry-specific terms, even when a simpler word would do. It’s their way of trying to establish dominance and make you feel less knowledgeable.

But here’s the secret: true intelligence is about making complex things simple, not the other way around.

People who genuinely know their stuff can explain it in a way that anyone can understand.

3. They love to correct others

A while back, I worked with a guy who was always quick to correct others.

We could be discussing anything – work projects, movies, even weekend plans – and he’d find something to ‘correct’. It was his way of asserting himself as the ‘smartest’ person in the room.

He’d say things like, “Actually, it’s not pronounced that way,” or “I think you’ll find that the director’s cut is far superior.” It was subtle but constant.

And it wasn’t because he cared about getting things right. He just wanted to show off his knowledge and make others feel less competent.

So, if you come across someone who can’t resist correcting others, don’t let it get to you. Remember, it’s not about your intelligence – it’s about their need to feel superior.

4. They name-drop… a lot

Narcissists love to name-drop.

Whether it’s famous people they’ve supposedly met, influential authors they’ve ‘studied’, or high-profile projects they’ve been involved in, they’ll find a way to weave it into the conversation.

It’s their way of trying to impress you and boost their own status.

According to a study, name-dropping is actually more likely to make people appear less likable and competent. The study found that when people try to show off their connections in this way, it often backfires, making them seem less trustworthy and reliable instead.

If someone you now is constantly name-dropping, take it with a grain of salt. It’s more about their need for validation than any real measure of intellect.

5. They dominate conversations

Narcissists love being the center of attention, and what better way to ensure that than by dominating every conversation?

They’ll talk at length about their achievements, ideas, or experiences, often without showing any interest in what others have to say. It’s as if they believe their stories are the only ones worth listening to.

But real intelligence is as much about listening as it is about speaking. It’s about showing genuine interest in others and acknowledging that we all have something valuable to share. 

6. They boast about their achievements

This one takes me back to a friend I used to know.

This friend was constantly boasting about their achievements. Whether it was getting the highest grades in class, winning a competition, or even getting a better deal on a car, they made sure everyone knew about it.

It was as if every conversation was an opportunity for them to remind us of how ‘successful’ they were.

However, I quickly realized that people who are genuinely successful and smart don’t need to broadcast their achievements. They let their actions speak for themselves.

Real achievers (rather than run-of-the-mill narcissists) are humble and grounded because they know that success isn’t just about outperforming others, it’s about becoming the best version of yourself.

7. They never admit they’re wrong

Let me be clear about this: Narcissists don’t do apologies. They just don’t.

It doesn’t matter if they’re caught red-handed or if there’s undeniable proof that they’ve made a mistake. They will twist and turn, dodge and deflect, do everything but admit that they were wrong.

Why? Because acknowledging a mistake means showing vulnerability, and narcissists equate vulnerability with weakness.

They think admitting a mistake would shatter this ‘perfect’ image they’ve built up.

But here’s the raw truth: Everyone messes up. Everyone. Real intelligence isn’t about never making mistakes – it’s about owning up to them, learning from them, and growing as a result.

It’s about humility and honesty – traits that narcissists often lack.

8. They discredit others’ ideas

Ever notice how some people shoot down others’ ideas without giving them a fair chance? That’s a classic narcissist move.

They often dismiss or belittle others’ suggestions just to make themselves look superior. It’s as if they can’t stand the idea of someone else having a good idea.

I’ve come to learn though that that people who constantly discredit others often do so out of a sense of threat or insecurity. They feel the need to put others down to maintain their own status or esteem.

So remember, if someone is quick to discredit your ideas, it’s more about their insecurities than your ideas.

9. They take credit for others’ work

I’ll never forget the time when I was working on a group project at college.

We all had our parts to do, but there was this one person who barely contributed. Yet, when we finally presented our work, they acted as if they’d done most of it.

It was a classic case of a narcissist taking credit for others’ work.

Here’s the thing: Real smart and capable people don’t need to steal credit.

They know their worth and are confident in their abilities. They also understand the value of teamwork and give credit where it’s due.

Narcissists don’t do that.

10. They’re always competing

Narcissists live in a constant state of competition. It’s like they’re in their own life-sized game of chess, always trying to out-maneuver everyone else.

It’s exhausting for those around them because every interaction feels like a contest that they didn’t sign up for.

But life isn’t a competition. Real intelligence isn’t about being better than everyone else – it’s about being better than you were yesterday.

It’s about personal growth, not comparative achievement.

So if you’re caught up with someone who turns every situation into a competition, remember that their need to compete says more about their insecurities than your abilities.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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