Our theme for the month of September is Alphabet Soup. Each writer was assigned a letter and will title their post “___ is for ___.”
Have you ever wondered why some people seem so much smarter than you?They can’t be that intelligent, you reason. Guess what? They’re not. They just know how to play the game. Have you ever wanted to be like them, to appear to be so much brighter and more put-together than everyone else around you? I’ve got good news for you: it’s incredibly easy. You, too, simply need to learn how to play the game. You just need a little know-how.
It all starts with the way you talk. What you say is secondary; it’s how you deliver the words that will make the mark. When you’re about to deliver a statement, begin by stuttering a few times before you speak. I don’t mean this in a derogatory or offensive way; think vintage Obama. If you need to tilt your chin up and lift your eyes to the sky for a moment, by all means. This gives the impression that you’re attempting to harness brain cells hovering above your already-too-large cranium, the complexities of which couldn’t possibly be grasped by the mundane person you’re with.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a quick-hitting money line, I’ve got you covered. Let’s say you are in a serious conversation with your two closest friends about the merits and morality of America’s largest companies. You get a little lost and, admittedly, stop paying attention. The conversation is getting heated; “Are you kidding me?!” is uttered angrily a number of times. As you wander in and out of focus, one of your friends says something about “tax rates” and the other mentions “corporate social responsibility.” All you need to do in such a situation is confidently announce, “Let’s back it up a second.” This makes everyone feel like complete idiots for not establishing the right level of clarity; certainly, your friends will think, there are some introductory statements about Amazon and Walmart that we failed to mention in this crucial conversation! Now all your friends can see when they look at you is a wise Buddhist monk meditating in a dark cave. If “let’s back it up” feels too simple, feel free to go with “let’s avoid gun-jumping” or “can we approach this at a higher level?”
Here’s a surprisingly easy trick: When you aren’t sure how to phrase something, throw in words like “perspective” or “standpoint.” Let’s say your spouse asks you to take out the trash. Sure, it might be easy to put together a sentence such as “I don’t have the capacity for that.” This sentence makes sense, and you even managed to utilize a four-syllable word. NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Instead, give a dramatic pause before uttering to your spouse, “From a capacity perspective….” In all likelihood you won’t even need to finish your statement because your spouse will immediately be taking out the trash herself while simultaneously congratulating herself for marrying such a modern genius.
Sometimes people will ask questions you don’t know the answer to. No problem! All you need to do is divert the attention back onto them. Simply say, with a smile or nod, “That’s an excellent question.” Say it with a slightly frustrated tone as if you’ve been considering the very same question for weeks. Even better would be “That’s the million dollar question,” delivered with some serious gravity. Telling someone their question is great is the adult equivalent of “You are looking great today.” By the time the words have left your lips, your counterpart has undoubtedly already forgotten the original question.
If you really want to go for it, you could make grand statements about everything without any data to back you up. You can even make up words if you want! How, you ask? Just look really confident, use your hands a lot, and vilify anyone who disagrees with you. Say things like “I know more about this topic than anyone,” and if you are in need of a few concrete examples to prove it, just use general phrases like “…and many other things.” Make up mean nicknames for people who try to get in your way and call them fake any chance you get.
You know what? Never mind, don’t try this method—it won’t get you anywhere in life.
If you begin using these tricks in your life, you’ll notice immediate results and your IQ may even improve a few points as a result. Still, it’s important to remember where you came from. Begin sentences as often as possible with phrases like “I could be wrong here” or “I apologize if this isn’t well-worded.” Then you can say whatever you want! This is the grown-up version of no offense. When you say “I could be wrong here,” what you’re really saying is “I’m fairly certain I’m right but I also want you to know how humble I am.” In the end, my friend, if I can back it up a moment, humility is the most important thing to remember from a know-how perspective.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.