Sometimes how smart others think you are is more important than how intelligent you actually are. If you’re wondering how to look smart in front of your colleagues and friends, there are a few tricks you can use that are scientifically proven to help.

These nine tips on how to look smart are good to know, especially when you need to persuade others to come around to your way of thinking.

1. Exuding confidence

Self-belief really is powerful, and it improves cognitive performance. When you believe in yourself, others do too, and you appear more intelligent to them.

If you need some help with building your confidence, be sure to check out our boosting your confidence at work advice.

2. Making eye contact

Looking others in the eye while you’re speaking is good manners and a good way to influence people. As an added bonus, making eye contact will also make you appear more intelligent according to a study by Loyola University that found that participants who intentionally managed their eye contact scored significantly higher on perceived intelligence.

3. Including graphs in presentations/documents/reports

How to Look Smart - Including graphs

According to research by Cornell University, people are more likely to trust a source if it contains graphs. The researchers presented participants with two reports, one which included a graph and one which did not. 96% of those who read the report with the graph believed in the report’s findings, whereas only 67% trusted the report with no graph.

4. Using simple language

This tip may come as a surprise, but the reality is that smart people do not need to use big words to broadcast their intelligence. Intelligence speaks for itself and using big words incorrectly will only show you up. Focus more on communicating effectively than trying to sound clever.

5. Speaking expressively

“If two speakers utter exactly the same words, but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent.” – Leonard Mlodinow, Communication Expert

If you want to sound smart, try to be expressive with your speech by varying your pitch, volume, speed, and energy level.

6. Looking the part

This tip should come as no surprise as we all know that how we dress affects how others see us. Dressing well will make you appear more intelligent, whereas showing more skin has the opposite effect. If you really want to boost how clever you look, wear glasses – the thicker and fuller the frame the better! (No, we’re not just making this up, research has proven that people with glasses are perceived to be more intelligent.)

7. Avoiding alcoholic drinks

How to Look Smart - Avoid alcoholic drinks

We all know that people can do stupid things when they drink too much, but did you know that even being seen with an alcoholic beverage can make you appear less intelligent? This sounds crazy, right? But research conducted by the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania revealed that the perceived correlation between drinking and cognitive impairment is so strong that we assume impairment even if there isn’t any.

8. Using your middle initial

You can probably think of a few notable historical figures who used their middle initials e.g., John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Studies have revealed that using your middle initial will enhance your perceived social status as well as boosting people’s expectations of your intelligence and capabilities.

9. Moving in pace with the crowd

This one may sound bizarre, but Boston University research has demonstrated what is termed the “timescale bias”. This is the tendency to attribute greater intelligence to those who do things at the same speed as everyone else. So, if you want to appear smart, you should try to keep pace with the crowd and not work too fast or too slow.

How to Look Smart: Bringing it all together

While we can’t change our genetics to be more intelligent, we can certainly tweak our behaviour. When it comes to being successful, perception plays a huge role and hopefully, the tips above will help you to have a positive impact on how you are perceived.

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