Have you noticed that some people pretend to be busy at work? I’m sure you have, as it’s certainly not uncommon. However, some people practice a bigger deception, namely, they pretend to be much smarter than they really are.
But whether it’s attempting to look busy or look smart, it’s obvious that these people are super-conscious of how others see them.
And while pretending to be something they’re not can work for a time – eventually they’ll be caught out, as the vast majority of people overestimate themselves in the ‘acting skills’ department.
When it comes to faking smart, these pretenders fully believe that their ‘act’ can change the way others see them.
For example, an ambitious office worker might look and sound smart as they’re keen to climb the career ladder. However, as you’ll discover in a moment… appearances can be deceptive!
I’ve thought long and hard about these pretenders, and I’ve come to the realization that they don’t understand that the quality of smartness needs to come from within. It’s not a characteristic that can just be put on a like a jacket or a scarf.
Clearly, these people are ‘acting’ from a surface level and playing the role of someone who is seen as smart (although that will be their own interpretation of smart).
Just think for a moment about a person who you once thought was smart – but later realized was really just an average person with a gift for selling themselves. If you recall some of the conversations you had with them, you’ll remember that they loved to give lots of opinions on things, but could seldom express the reasons for these opinions.
Simply put, they dominated conversations by talking a lot – but most of what they spoke was nonsense.
I’ve encountered so many of these people over the years, that I now feel sorry for them when I see them pretending to be something that they’re not. It’s quite sad as they’re emotionally and mentally desperate for others to see them as smart people who know lots of things.
I want to share with you now my techniques for spotting mediocre people who are pretending to be smart people.
The first and primary technique is to ask these people lots of questions. When you do this, you’ll quickly begin to unravel their ‘lines’.
What I mean by this, is that an average person acting smart will only be able to mimic the surface qualities of a genuinely smart person. Once you start probing the pretender with questions, you’ll immediately begin to find holes in their stories and responses.
I recommend asking simple questions such as:
When you ask questions like these, an actor will struggle to reply, as they won’t have a genuine back story to call upon.
But be careful, if a pretender feels that they’re close to being exposed, they may react with anger and aggression – as this will be their only way left of showing that they still have control and power over things. And even if they’re not aggressive, you can be sure that they’ll argue with you and insist that they’re right.
To give you a real-life example of this, I remember working with an ‘average Joe’ who talked smart – but was in reality, quite the opposite. One time when we were discussing technical details of a project, I noticed he started using terminology that was not just irrelevant, but was in fact, completely off track.
When I mentioned this to him, he suddenly became super-defensive and said that he had simply misspoke. However, it didn’t end there. After making his excuses, he abruptly switched the attention from himself to me. He started accusing me of all kinds of things – none of which were true. Luckily, his falsehoods were noticed by others on the project, and it wasn’t long before he was no longer a part of it.
When you know what to look for, you’ll find it incredibly easy to spot the actors and pretenders. When they are faking smart, they won’t have done their research, and this means that they won’t have the proper perspectives on an issue. This is why asking questions will expose them. When trying to respond, they will fail to explain things properly or convincingly.
Hollywood provides a good metaphor. For instance, you’ve probably seen actors playing expert lawyers. On screen, they look and sound impressive. However, if you had the opportunity to ask the actor some legal questions (outside the remit of the script) they would almost certainly just look at you blankly. In other words, they only have a surface knowledge. And this knowledge is very limited indeed.
It’s vital that you know how to spot people who are faking being smart. If you allow them to fool you, they’ll lead you down a hazardous road littered with bad ideas and bad decisions.
Clearly, a person faking smart, doesn’t have the genuine knowledge or experience of someone who’s actually smart. And because of this, they’ll always lack the proper perspectives on issues, causing them to make inferior choices.
Whether they’re your subordinate or your boss, don’t let their pretence negatively impact your work. Either help them to bring out their authentic self – or if they’re unwilling to do this – take steps to distance yourself from their delusions.
Knowing how to spot a pretender will be a fantastic skill that you can use in all areas of your life. Never again will you be taken in by people who claim to be something they’re not.