Christian Montoya

How to sound smart in five simple steps

Before I came to Cornell I had this foolish expectation that everyone I met here would sound smart. The reality is that while everyone here is smart (not all to the same degree, I admit), there are a lot of students who don't sound very smart at all. It's also not too hard to sound smart even if you aren't… masters of such would be actors, CEOs and politicians.

The simple truth is that the techniques by which one can sound smart are things anyone can do. Not convinced? Read on:

  1. Fix your posture. The majority of social communication is body language. How you say things is as important as what you say. If you have a tendency to slouch people will think of you as lazy, boring or shy. Roll your shoulders back and keep your chin up in the company of others. Make eye contact with people and convince them that you are confident and enthusiastic about what you are saying. You'll be surprised how differently people react when you talk to them.
  2. Avoid using both "colorful" and "useless" language. Colorful language would include all of those dirty "cuss" or "curse" words that mommy told you not to use. Useless language includes "like," "you know," "yeah," etc. Compare the following sentences:
    1. That was so, like, awesome as s***!
    2. That was awesome.
    3. That guy is such a, you know, f***ing moron.
    4. That guy is a moron.
    The odd sentences might be fun when you are hanging out with your buds, and others might enjoy your colorful dorky colloquialisms, but if you really want to sound smart then go with the even sentences. Less fluff, less color, more class.
  3. Read the news. People associate being up to date on current events with being smart. By "news" here I'm not talking about pop culture or sports… that stuff doesn't make you sound smart. You have to read about social issues, politics and world events. Random trivia about what's going on in foreign places makes for great table discussion and convinces others that you are a citizen of the world. (Bonus points: form an educated opinion about the news you read… but please, know what you are talking about.)
  4. Stop stuttering and don't say "um." Stuttering is a serious speech problem, and I believe the tendency to say "um" and "uh" are part of that too. I used to suffer from stuttering and I overcame it by doing two things: speaking slower, and thinking up entire sentences in my mind before saying them. If you find yourself stuttering, stammering, or just plain stuck, stop, think about what you want to say, then say it. Avoid drawing out your sentences with "um" and if you must, speak as slowly as you need to. You might sound slow, but people will have a much easier time understanding you.
  5. Back up your statements with facts. Someone who does nothing but express opinion doesn't exactly sound like a scholar. I know we are talking about ways to sound smart and not necessarily be smart, but if you've accomplished all of the previous tips and you are looking for a challenge, this is my advice: don't just tell people what you think, but tell them why. Use information that you know to be true and tell others how they can find that information too. Obviously you don't have to be an expert to have an opinion on something, but it helps to be able to argue your points and explain to others why you believe what you believe.

Now you might be wondering, "this guy is a such a pompous arrogant jerk. Who does he think he is, writing this stuff?" That would be the wrong way to look at this. I just figured it would be fun to put all these tips together. After all, someone out there might actually find this stuff useful… go out there and give it a try.

Thank you for reading • Published on January 26th, 2007 • Please take a moment to share this with your friends