4 ways to show you’re smart without saying a word, according to psychology

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Have you ever wondered how some people seem to radiate intelligence without even speaking? 

It’s as though their presence alone articulates more than words could ever express. 

Today, we dive into the psychology behind this—how you can show you’re smart without uttering a single word.

How many of these tactics are you already using?

Let’s find out. 

1) Mirror others’ body language, but not too much

Being smart is about a lot more than just IQ. That’s where this one comes in; it’s about social intelligence

But first things first, what is “mirroring” exactly? 

Well, as noted by Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, a professor and licensed counselor, it refers to the “tendency to mimic or mirror another person’s facial expressions, nonverbal behaviors, and verbal expressions.” 

It’s also called the “chameleon effect,” and it has a slew of benefits.

As highlighted by the folks at Berkeley Well-Being Institute, numerous studies have backed up how it can help us in social interactions, including increasing liking and trust and creating a sense of similarity and shared experience. 

This is echoed by Dr. Degges-White, who, in a Psychology Today post, noted that “Mirroring others’ verbal and nonverbal cues can build rapport and trust in diverse professional settings.”

So, how can you apply this to your life?

Well, here are a few tips:

  • Observe subtly: Pay close attention to the body language and verbal cues of others without making it obvious that you are studying them.
  • Reflect naturally: Integrate similar gestures and speech patterns into your interaction in a way that feels natural and unforced.
  • Match their energy level: If they are animated and have lots of enthusiasm, match that energy where appropriate. Conversely, if they are calm and soft-spoken, lower your energy level to match theirs.

But of course, it’s important not to overdo this. Obvious, over-the-top mirroring is just awkward for everyone. 

It’s about finding that balance where your mirroring is subtle enough to be perceived subconsciously, fostering a better connection and communication without crossing into mimicry.

2) Wear black

So here’s one you might not have expected. I mean, what does the color we wear have to do with intelligence? 

Well, as it turns out, it has a lot to do with the perception of intelligence. 

A survey found that people perceive those wearing black to be smarter. A whopping 45% of respondents thought intelligent people would wear black. Blue, as you might have guessed, came in second at 35%. 

And for those of you curious, pink came in at the bottom with just 5%, so maybe you should avoid this one if you want to appear intelligent

When we think about it, this preference for darker tones in relation to intelligence is pretty well accepted. 

Don’t believe me?

Go ahead and do a quick Google image search for “intelligent man.” You will see a lot of blue and black. The same goes for the search for “intelligent woman,” and there is no pink in sight.

The point?

While clothing color doesn’t define our intellect, it can influence perceptions, and wearing black appears to be the best choice if you want people to think you are clever. 

3) Be an active listener

As it turns out, appearing smart doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, some things that make you look smart are just plain good manners…like this one.

As psychotherapist and career coach Jenny Maenpaa told CNBC Make It, those who “are able to perceive an interaction holistically, rather than just being in the moment and responding to the last thing you said with the first thing they thought of” are usually intelligent. 

But how do we do this? 

Well, it comes down to a key skill that we have often discussed here at Hackspirt: active listening. 

It’s all about sustained attention, which many studies have tied to intelligence.

And as noted by the British Heart Foundation, doing it well is as much about what we don’t say as what we do. They recommend things like facing the speaker and making eye contact, not interrupting, nodding to show that you are listening, and not fidgeting. 

This skill not only helps us absorb what is being said but also significantly enhances our interactions with others. By genuinely engaging in the conversation and showing that you value the speaker’s words, we project intelligence and thoughtfulness. 

Here’s how you can master this skill:

  • Make eye contact: Locking eyes, not in a stare-down, but in a natural, respectful manner, shows you are focused and engaged.
  • Nod and smile appropriately: Small nods and appropriate expressions convey that you are processing and agreeing with what is being discussed.
  • Lean in slightly: This shows interest and that you are actively involved in the conversation.
  • Avoid interrupting: Let the speaker finish their thoughts before you formulate your response, which shows respect and thoughtful processing.

These subtle cues can make a significant impact on how others perceive your intellectual capacities and social skills.

4) Opt for glasses 

I know, I know, this is pretty shallow. 

But picture Clark Kent—Superman’s alter ego. His disguise fooled no one, but those glasses instantly made him seem more intelligent. Am I wrong? 

Well, psychological research would suggest not. 

Studies have indicated that people who wear glasses are perceived as more intelligent, and some research suggests that candidates wearing glasses are more likely to succeed in job interviews.

Another study, reported on by CNBC, even suggests that wearing glasses can increase one’s chances of winning an election! 

Of course, wearing glasses doesn’t necessarily mean you are smarter, but I guess knowing these facts is a sign of intelligence in itself.

Now you know ‘em; do what you will with them.

The bottom line 

That just about wraps it up from me, folks. 

Mastering the art of silent intelligence is simpler than it seems. 

Mirroring body language, choosing the right wardrobe, honing your listening skills, and even wearing a pair of glasses can change people’s perception of your intelligence. 

As always, I hope you found this post helpful. 

Until next time.

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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