“Light travels faster than sound.
That’s why some people look very bright… until they start talking.” smart
We all want to sound smart. Especially so when we’re decked out in our best outfits, aiming to score a good first impression.
But sometimes, we get stumped by the most unexpected of questions.
If what you are going to answer is going to cost you that million-dollar investment, or that career boost, or maybe even, well, the potential love your life, then you most definitely should learn how to deal with situations like these.
Fortunately, here are 5 tips that everyone can employ to sound smart (in the face of adversity haha):
1 – Compose Yourself
I know, you’re just going to skip to point number 2 now because “Compose Yourself” is just so duh. It’s like, what a waste of tips right?
No. It’s because of how our body reacts when presented with a “dangerous situation” – we fluster. It’s the instinctual precursor to deciding whether to fight or flight.
And hence, when presented with a dumbfounding important question you need to answer, you’d have to surge that composure.
Straighten your posture, display an appropriate facial expression (smile, unless it’s a serious topic whereby a sterner or empathetic look would be more suitable, you get the point) and adopt an overall more confident stance. Reacting with a stunned or blur look, and cowering away is going to cost you those initial brownie points.
As you talk, display confidence in your tone and be mindful to talk slowly. Many people tend to rattle off in such situations because they are verbalising their thoughts. And it’s often peppered with lots of pause fillers (like uhms & errs) and repetitive words – which are clear signals of a lack of confidence.
Talking slowly has advantages – it allows you to think while you speak, and you are likely to hold your listeners for a longer period of time.
2 – Buy Time
Whoever asked you that question is not likely going to wait an eternity for you to provide an answer. So rather than give a prolonged silence, aim to start speaking after you’ve surged your composure (complete with appropriate facial reaction stated earlier).
While your brain up there is still whizzing to churn out an appropriate answer, here are some tricks to buy yourself a few seconds to consolidate your thoughts:
i. Repeat the question. Word for word if you have to.
Q: “Who is the greatest person on earth?” A: “Who is the greatest person on earth?”
Q: “What do you think about the results of the recent elections?” A: “What do I think about the results of the recent elections?”
Q: “What impact would the discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration have on the scientific fraternity?” A: “”What impact would the discovery of gravitational waves by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration have on the scientific fraternity?”
Yea, you get the drift.
ii. Ask more questions in return, politely. In the name of seeking more clarity in the question, it’s definitely fine to be more certain in what you’re being asked.
Q: “Who is the greatest person on earth?” A: “Ah, by greatest, you mean in terms of…?”
Q: “What do you think about the results of the recent elections?” A: “Hmm.. The results in my constituency or the national results?”
Asking clarification questions not only buys you some time to think of an answer, you are also giving the other party a chance to steer you towards the answer he would likely be happy to hear.
3 – Speak from the Heart
And less from the brain.
When you ultimately tackle the question, use less of words like “I think…”.
Instead, use words from the heart like “I feel that…”, “My view would be…”, “I believe…”.
“I think that the greatest person on earth is Gandhi.”
“I feel that the greatest person on earth is Gandhi.”
“I believe that the greatest person on earth is Gandhi.”
Which one of the above statements sound better to you?
Yeap, using more of “feel” and “believe” gives your listener deeper insight into your personality and offers an opportunity to forge a stronger rapport as you speak.
Also, tell stories to elaborate your position! Relevant ones, of course.
Throw in facts to support your stand and to impress with your knowledge. But it’s often the stories, anecdotes and experiences that are able to build the emotional connection.
In fact, the key to “sounding smart”, does not lie with how much you have in your head, but how you can connect the knowledge you have through the heart.
4 – Reframe the Question
If you really can’t tackle the question even after buying yourself a reasonable amount of time, don’t confine yourself within the frame of the question.
View the question from another angle you are comfortable with and answer it from there.
“It’s not about who’s the greatest person, but how we can aspire to be great ourselves…”
“In fact, has anyone ever wondered if elections are the best ways to select governance in today’s society? I feel…”
“The discovery is wonderful but personally I have greater interest in the advancement of…”
Tip 3 still stands, as long as you speak from the heart, tell stories and relate experiences, you can certainly win your listeners over.
Most importantly, even though you have decided to reframe and answer the question in an entirely different direction, conclude with how you reframed it in the first place. Link it to the original question and let the other party know that you still had him/her in mind and the question wasn’t discredited.
That will really make you sound smart. 😉
Hence, in a way, if you are able to impress while avoiding the question totally,
you have a bright future as a politician.
5 – Be Honest.
The biggest taboo in trying to sound smart is to lie. Because if you’re exposed, then all your efforts trying to impress will just nosedive down south into the abyss of embarrassment.
Sometimes, a simple yet confident admission of ignorance can give you the opportunity to open up further conversations.
“Wow I can’t think of anyone that fits the bill at this moment. Who would you think is the greatest person of all time?”
“I’m sorry I haven’t been following the news. Did the candidate you support win the elections?”
“Unfortunately I’m not well versed in this field of study. Was the discovery truly impactful to the scientific community?”
It’s okay not to know everything in the world. Authenticity and integrity is certainly worth much more than trying to sound smart.
That 5 tips for everyone! So, the next time you dress to impress, be sure you communicate to stimulate as well!
Be the person that sounds as bright as you look. 🙂