28 tips to become more quick-witted (if you’re not a quick thinker)

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We all want to be seen as smart and sharp-witted.

Quick wit is the ability to come up with clever or funny answers at a moment’s notice. It’s a skill that helps you communicate more effectively, and can build rapport with people.

But by its very nature, it only happens in the moment.

Even though some seem to be naturally witty, there are ways to boost your brainpower to help make you more quick-witted.

Here are 28 ways to become quick-witted, even if you don’t think of yourself as a quick thinker.

How do I increase my quick wit? 28 practical tips

1) Don’t overthink it

The first tip is a little word of warning before we get started. Try not to overcomplicate things.

If you find yourself thinking too much about what you want to say, you may end up saying nothing at all. Similarly, putting too much pressure on yourself will most likely make your mind go blank.

Mind blanking has been scientifically shown to be a different mental state caused by the fight or flight instinct.

Your pre-frontal lobe is the part of the brain that organizes memory. It’s also very sensitive to anxiety. Basically, when you panic, parts of your mind shut down.

This is the absolute opposite effect you want to create when trying to be more quick-witted.

So stress is your enemy here. Try not to take it all so seriously, that way you can keep your cool. See it as an exercise in letting your own personality shine through, rather than having to impress anyone.

2) Learn from your comedy heroes

A fun and easy way to become more quick-witted is to watch some of your favorite comedians and sitcoms.

It’s not about memorizing their lines or imitating them. But just by observing them, you’ll pick up a better feel for how comedy works.

Often it’s about subtle things like amusing observations and timing (which I’ll mention later in the article).

Watching how the pros do it will give you a better feel for being quick-witted.

3) Listen carefully

Most of us don’t properly listen. In fact, research estimates that as little as 10 percent of us listen effectively.

If we’re not being distracted by countless other things around us, we’re usually waiting for our part to jump in and talk.

But listening is actually vitally important in becoming more quick-witted. Being quick-witted relies on paying close attention to what is being said.

That’s what is going to offer you your gateway to saying something witty. If you’re spaced out and not paying attention, you’ll miss your chance.

Your role is to listen carefully to help you respond at lightning speed.

4) Learn some quirky facts

Nobody is born knowing things. It’s all learned. So if you want to be more quick-witted, start learning new things.

When you’re trying to be more quick-witted knowing a little about a lot of things can really make all the difference.

Feeding your mind through learning has been proven to boost your IQ. An Imperial College London survey noticed that people who read a lot scored more highly for verbal intelligence.

Are quick-witted people clever? Not always, but it helps.

It’s not all about formal study or reading (which is good news if that’s not really your thing). Life experience is just as relevant too.

Keeping up with current affairs, trying out new hobbies, having chats with different types of people — lots of things can help to broaden your perspective and your mind.

Having interesting things to contribute is one of the basics of good conversation.

5) Be observational and pay attention

One of the most challenging aspects of quick-wit is that unlike other forms of comedy it has to be spontaneous.

The wit comes from the moment itself. You have to be able to observe things happening around you and then react quickly enough to say something funny.

That means not only listening to other people but also paying attention to everything going on around you.

Most quick-wit comes from cleverly picking up on small details. To do this, you’ve gotta stay focused enough to notice things.

6) Practice this quick-wit exercise for 5 minutes a day

Just like any skill you’re learning, practice is what makes you improve.

If you’re looking for a quick-wit exercise, try this one:

  • Make a mental note of something someone says to you, or that you overhear during the day.
  • Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes
  • During that time, try to think up as many funny or witty things to say about it.

A lot may suck, and that’s ok. It’s about training your brain. Over time you’ll get better.

7) Make yourself the butt of the joke

Quick-wit isn’t always about others, sometimes it’s about laughing at yourself.

This is where self-deprecation comes into play. It’s also a great way to practice your wit without running the risk of offending anyone else.

A self-deprecating sense of humor has also been linked to being a better leader and reducing anxiety.

The key to pulling it off is joking about things that don’t matter so much rather than putting yourself down.

For example, waking up with bed hair could be funny. Telling people you don’t like yourself on the other hand is just going to make everyone uncomfortable.

8) Have a few comebacks at hand

Yes, being quick-witted is about responding to a unique situation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little cheat sheet prepared to help you out.

Some situations are more general. So you can have a handful of retorts ready and waiting. Then, it’s just about knowing when to use them.

Some witty replies can be used over and over again. Here are some good ones suggested by people on Reddit:

When being interrupted by someone: “Oh I’m sorry that the middle of my sentence interrupted the beginning of yours.”

When someone is rude or unkind about something: “Thanks for being so understanding, have a great day”.

9) Read the room

One of the most important parts of using quick-wit is knowing when not to use it.

It’s not always going to be appropriate. It can be embarrassing or land you in hot water if you try to use it in the wrong environment.

So before you go trying to be witty, remember who you’re talking to. Especially whilst you’re getting the hang of it, you don’t want to come off as rude in front of strangers, or your boss, etc.

10) Use the right tone because it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

Comedy relies a lot on the tone of voice as much as the words you speak.

You need to pay close attention to how you deliver jokes.

A deadpan tone can add humor to everyday words. Get the tone wrong, and what you say can come across as nasty.

11) Avoid insults

Wit is playful, not bitter.

You totally lose the moral superiority of being quick-witted if you resort to negative comments or personal insults.

Why? Because it just makes you look petty and insecure. It’s not quick-witted to say something that is merely unkind. You always want to aim to be witty and charming.

12) Keep it snappy

A lot of the best wit is limited to one-liners.

The longer it takes to deliver, the more it loses its punch. The shorter it is, the easier it is to understand. And the more memorable it will be.

Remember, wit shouldn’t need to come with an explanation.

Think of wit as a bit like a Twitter post — the characters you can use are limited.

13) Highlight the obvious

What’s funny about stating the obvious is that we’re all thinking it, so it’s funny when someone finally says it.

It can also be a good way of cutting tension.

For example, you might follow up with “so this is awkward” or “nobody is saying anything” after a long silent pause in the room.

14) Speed up your associations

We’ve seen that a lot of quick-wit relies on making fast associations in everyday situations.

So another quit wit exercise to try helps your brain get faster at making unusual associations.

Write down several simple words on a sheet of paper. For example, ‘Dog’ or ‘Dolphin’.

And then see what word associations come to mind.

The more unusual the better. In this case, for ‘dog’ it could be ‘underdog’ and for ‘dolphin’ it might be ‘high-pitched squeaking’.

Faster associations will help to make you sharper in real life. The more you practice the easier it will be.

Putting our example together, the next time someone asks you what your favorite type of dog is. How about: “I’m a real big fan of the underdog”.

Or if a friend starts speaking in an excitable high-pitched tone, you might remark: “I’m pretty sure only dolphins could hear that”.

15) Look for the truth

One of the examples of being witty in standup comedy is when they find the universally recognizable truths in life. Then they highlight and exaggerate them.

But it’s the relatability of the truth that makes us laugh.

Remember that there is a lot to be said for “it’s funny because it’s true”.

16) Say the unexpected

What often makes something witty is when it catches us off guard.

What you say, is not what people were expecting to hear.

For example, during a scene from the TV show Cheers, Woody says: “What can I do for you, Mr. Peterson?”. To which Norm retorts: “Elope with my wife.”

It’s this unexpected association Norm has made which makes his answer funny.

17) Be ironic

One of the laziest ways to use wit is through irony. And that’s definitely not a bad thing.

Some well-placed irony still comes across as clever and funny, but it can also be easy to do.

If you’ve been stuck in a particularly tedious office meeting for hours, you might turn to your colleague and remark that “well, this was fun, let’s do it again sometime.”

With irony, the humor comes from it being the opposite of what you’d expect.

18) Be yourself

This might seem obvious, but there’s no point in trying to be someone else.

Try to keep your own unique sense of humor intact. Say what you think is funny.

Don’t force yourself into saying things that aren’t you. You don’t have to play a role. The wit you use should reflect you.

If it doesn’t you’ll probably feel awkward or uncomfortable. Trying too hard to make people laugh usually doesn’t work.

19) Practice puns

Puns can be another great way to add some humor to an otherwise mundane situation.

Pay attention when words sound similar but have a very different meaning as this can give you a source of humor. For example, the duck said to the bartender, put it on my bill.

But as that joke probably just highlighted to you, you need to use puns in moderation. Otherwise, it tends to get cheesy.

20) Work on your improv

If you’re really serious about practicing your quick wit then improv can be a great way to help.

Improvisational theatre creates a performance that is unscripted and unplanned, spontaneously by performers.

Taking a class or even a course online can help to train you to think quickly on your feet and help you to loosen up rather than overthink things.

21) Make your brain quicker with this simple exercise

You can train yourself to be a quick thinker. Mental speed offers plenty of benefits and being more quick-witted is one of them.

The best way to improve your brain is to make sure you are actively using it.

Try this super simple exercise cited in a research study that found that mental speed facilitates charisma.

See how quickly you can name objects as you look around the room. By doing so, you’re teaching your brain to find the right words as fast as possible.

Interestingly, charismatic people in the study I mentioned managed to name one object every second.

22) Use past experiences

Isn’t it always the way that it’s later that night when the perfect witty retort pops into your head for what you heard earlier in the day.

That’s ok. It’s still all good practice.

Thinking back to situations and finding the ideal response in hindsight still helps you hone your skills.

23) Don’t be wooden

You can try too hard. Being witty has to have a casual and natural flow to it.

Rehearsing and memorizing witty lines to insert into a conversation will come across as forced.

One of the best parts about a quick-wit is how effortless it seems. Of course, it’s not. But being too obvious only gives the game away.

24) Don’t overdo it

There’s a fine line between being quick-witted and being a smart ass.

Everybody may like the former but nobody enjoys the company of the latter.

You need to know the difference and try not to overdo the wise-cracks. Otherwise, it can get annoying to the people around you. Aim for quality over quantity.

Just remember, you’re not on stage doing standup.

25) Try to match the other person’s humor

You’ve got to know your audience.  One type of humor can work really well with one group but go down like a lead balloon with another.

Because a sense of humor is particular, it’s a good idea to follow the lead of the company you’re keeping to decide what will work best.

Friendly teasing is only friendly if both people are engaging in the banter.

26) Keep your body language light and friendly

Seen as experts suggest anywhere from 70 to 93 percent of communication is non-verbal, you need to be aware of your body language too.

Over text, you’d probably use the winky emoji to highlight that you’re only joking. In real life, your mannerisms can help convey the same message.

Try to relax your body, be sure to smile, keep your hands casually by your arms. It’s all going to help make sure whatever you say isn’t misconstrued.

27) Improve your vocabulary

Being creative about language is not just a natural talent.

It takes practice and can be mastered. The better your vocabulary the easier it will be.

A rich vocabulary won’t make you quick-witted alone, but it is one of the tools that help facilitate it.

I’m not suggesting you go to bed with a dictionary every night, but actively try to learn new words and phrases.

Ultimately, being linguistically clever requires a good grasp of language.

28) Be creative

At the end of the day, improving your wit is an art, not a science.

Like all creativity, you can support it but you can’t really force it. Any attempts too usually end up choking it.

Allowing your creativity out is about being curious and playful. So don’t be afraid to be fun and quirky with your attempts at quick-wit.

Part of having a quick-witted personality is also having a creative personality.

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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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