11 behaviors that give people the impression you’re not very intelligent

by Isabel Cabrera | March 13, 2024, 2:14 pm

Everyone’s afraid of looking stupid, to the point where some people overcompensate.

But did you know that making too much of an effort to look smart can make you seem less intelligent than you realize?

That’s because real smart people don’t have to put on a facade. They simply are. 

Sometimes, they might even dumb themself down to their advantage—underpromise and overdeliver, if you may.

But if you’re afraid people perceive you to be less intelligent than you actually are, you’re probably unaware of some things that give people the impression that you’re not very intelligent.

If you want to stop these behaviors, below are some of the things you should stop doing:

1) Being cocky

No one knows everything—not even the smartest person in the world. 

That means pretending that you know everything and, therefore, are better than everyone, is counterproductive if you want to look smart. 

In fact, it does the opposite by giving people the impression that you’re not very intelligent. 

And if you’re truly smart, that fact alone shouldn’t give you a feeling of superiority, because having a superiority complex can actually make you seem stupid and unlikeable.

2) Having a superiority complex

A lot of smart people have a superiority complex. 

They believe their knowledge of the world makes them better than everyone else in it, but that’s not really the case.

In fact, having a superiority complex is not a good look.

Even if you’re genuinely smarter than most people, a superiority complex makes you look unlikeable. 

Even if you talk about big ideas, no one will listen, because it will always seem like you’re only tooting your own horn.

That means no one will actually believe you’re talking to share; you’re only talking to look smart and feel superior, even if your real intention is the former.

So if you want to look intelligent, always keep your ego in check.

Know that true intelligence is about humility and recognizing the value in others, not just your own.

3) Always saying “well, in my case…”

If you’ve ever been with a fake smart person, you’re probably familiar with the infamous, “well, in my case…”

You’ve heard it when you’re sharing a personal experience and you ended up listening to their story instead of being listened to. 

You’ve heard it when you’re talking about a recent achievement and you ended up being overshadowed instead of being celebrated

But if you’re that fake smart person, you probably feel attacked by this section.

But don’t fret—everyone has room for improvement. If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to overcome your arrogance.

On behalf of everyone, I’m telling you now to stop constantly bringing everything back to “your case” as it can come off as self-centered. 

While sharing personal experiences can be valuable, overdoing it can make you seem like you’re not interested in broader perspectives.

So stay open to different viewpoints; it shows you’re willing to consider more than just your own experiences, and it will stop making you seem less intelligent than you actually are.

4) Constantly talking without listening

There’s always that one person in the friend group who loves to talk. 

You know the type—those who seem to love the sound of their own voice and barely let others speak. 

They keep talking about their own ideas, always trying to outsmart everyone in the group.

But real intelligent people listen—and if you, too, want to appear intelligent, try to talk less and listen more.

Real intelligent people have a genuine desire to listen to others when they’re talking, and maybe even encourage shy people to talk about their interests. 

They’ve learned the art of listening because they don’t have to prove their smarts to anyone by being the one who’s always talking.

And you can learn a thing or two from this attitude. 

By listening more, you won’t only appear intelligent—you will also learn so much more, which ultimately makes you smarter.

5) Using fancy words unnecessarily

This is something younger me is guilty from! 

I used to throw around fancy words in casual conversation because it makes me feel smart and superior, but as I grew older, I started to realize that it’s actually quite ridiculous.

That’s because the purpose of conversation isn’t so you appear smart to others—it’s to communicate your ideas, understand other people, and be understood in return.

And how could you ever communicate or be understood if you keep throwing around words that are barely familiar to anyone? 

Using complicated words doesn’t always make you sound smarter. Often, it just makes things confusing. 

Clear and simple language is more effective. Don’t use a thesaurus just to impress. Clear communication is what makes you look smart—not big words.

6) Misusing big words

Big words can be impressive, but only if you use them right. 

Misusing them makes you look clueless, not smart. 

Don’t throw around words like “ineffable,” “effervescent,” or “resplendent” in casual conversation in an attempt to look smart if you don’t even know what they mean. 

Chances are, if you’re actually speaking to a smart person, you’ll only end up looking less intelligent

If you want to continue using big words in casual conversation, at least know what they mean. If you’re unsure, just stick to simple words that you already know.

7) Cursing/using slang in formal conversation

Casual language is great for hanging out—it can even be funny. 

I know I use curse words and slang when I’m with my friends because it can truly be fun!

But in formal settings, I never do. Just the thought of it is enough to make me cringe.

That’s because swearing or dropping slang where it doesn’t belong can make you appear unprofessional and, therefore, less intelligent.

So always remember to keep your words appropriate for the context.

8) Believing you’re always right, and everyone else is wrong

Nobody’s right all the time—yes, even the smartest person you know. 

In fact, admitting you’re wrong is a true sign of intelligence. 

Insisting that you’re right, on the other hand, makes you seem less intelligent. It’s a surefire way to annoy people and make you seem narrow-minded.

So listen to others when they tell you you’re wrong. 

Not everything is an argument. Conceding when you’re wrong isn’t a sign of weakness or stupidity, but a sign of real intelligence.

And conceding is especially important when you’re talking with an expert.

9) Not believing experts

I hate people who don’t believe experts with a passion. 

People who think vaccines poison children’s blood, men who mansplain female doctors—they’re the bane of my existence.

If you’re one of them, know that this doesn’t only make you seem less intelligent—it makes you ignorant. 

Experts exist for a reason because they know their stuff. It’s essential for our survival that we listen to them.

Dismissing their advice or knowledge just because you want to prove a point isn’t a smart move. 

10) Blindly following an idea

When I was younger, there were certain ideas I used to put my whole faith into. Ideas which I deemed infallible, even when their flaws are already staring me right in the face.

Because the truth is, no matter how great an idea seems, it will never be perfect. We have to acknowledge that, or else, we’d be blind followers.

And blindly following an idea is one of the worst things you could do that can surely make you seem less intelligent.

For your sake, always think critically. It won’t only make you appear smart—it will actually make you smarter.

11) Forcing your beliefs on others

Forcing your beliefs on others is the twin sister of blindly following an idea.

Shoving your beliefs on other people’s throats doesn’t only make you seem unintelligent—it also makes you insufferable. 

When we put our blind faith on an imperfect idea, our belief that it’s right makes us want to suck people into our circle, to force them to believe what we believe in.

But as humans, we’re all different. No matter how perfect you think your beliefs are, not everyone will believe it, and that’s okay.

Final thoughts

In the end, looking smarter isn’t about showing off; it’s about respecting others, staying open to new ideas, and embracing humility. 

By avoiding behaviors that scream arrogance or close-mindedness, you’re not just gaining respect, but also becoming a better and smarter person. 

So, keep learning, keep listening, and watch as you leave a positive impression of intelligence wherever you go. 

Ultimately, it’s not about being perfect, but about being open, understanding, and satisfying your curiosity.

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