Five ways to fool people into thinking you’re more competent than you really are
To make it in life, you need people to believe you’re smart and competent. If you’re neither of these things, don’t fret, there are scientifically proven tools for trickery in this area (and relax, I’m kidding. I’m sure you have a lot to recommend you). Previously, we talked about how to appear smarter (wear glasses). Now, here’s a new list of five ways to trick people into thinking you’re more competent than you are.
Fake it ‘til you make it, as they say.
Ask for advice: Scared to ask for advice, lest you look stupid? Don’t be. A recent study at Harvard Business School and Wharton School found that people who seek advice are deemed more competent than those who don’t – at least by the people they’re asking, reports Time magazine.
The authors write: “We find that people are reticent to seek advice for fear of appearing incompetent. This fear, however, is misplaced. We demonstrate that individuals perceive those who seek advice as more competent than those who do not seek advice.”
Willingness to admit you don’t know something is usually a good indicator of personality type. And being asked for advice makes people feel good about themselves, which, “in turn leads them to think more highly of the people who’ve just boosted their egos,” says Time.
Use a middle initial: Would Michael J. Fox be the same person if he was just Michael Fox? I doubt it. Not to mention Alex P. Keaton. How about Simon N. Garfunkle? Oh…wait. Never mind. That’s not a real person. Anyway…
Today.com (which also referenced J. Fox and P. Keaton) once reported on research from the universities of Limerick and Southampton that found initials boost perceptions of one’s intelligence.
In a set of experiments with more than 500 participants, writing by “David F. Clark” was better rated than the exact same writing by “David Clark.” Writing by “David F.P.R. Clark” was rated even better.
The moral of the story? The more initials the better. Add a middle initial to your resume. Spiffy isn’t it?
Be confident: Research suggests that being confident is key to career, family, and relationship success, and that there is a causal relationship between confidence and perceptions of competence. A study at U.C. Berkeley, for example, found that overconfident subjects were judged to more competent than subjects with more accurate self perception. The study found that “overconfidence leads to a behavioral signature that makes the individual appear more competent to others.” See tips on increasing your confidence here.
Wear makeup – If you’re a woman: A study commissioned by CoverGirl owners Proctor & Gamble found that women wearing makeup are judged to be more competent than women who don’t wear makeup. We think the results should be taken with a grain of salt, however. While both natural and “glamorous” makeup are said to have enhanced perceptions of competence in the research, we would not advise one wear “glamorous” makeup in any situation in which one wishes to appear more competent – except maybe a gala of some sort.
Don’t get married, or take off the wedding ring, if you’re a man: A study at the University of Lincoln, U.K., found that single men are perceived to be “significantly” more competent than married ones. “Significantly!”
More than 150 participants were shown a photograph of the same man, with differing descriptions. In some he was married, in some he was single. The lead author said, “I was extremely surprised to see the significant influence that marital status has on the attribution of competence. When our participants were advised that the subject was single, regardless of his sexual orientation, their replies revealed that marriage made him seem less competent.”
To recap: if you believe these studies, people will think you’re competent if you are:
a) An unmarried, confident male with a middle initial who is willing to ask for advice.
b) A makeup-wearing woman with a middle initial who is willing to ask for advice.
OK, I admit, that last one about marriage seems odd. Perhaps you can ignore it. I just thought it was interesting. Hey, I’m just the reporter.