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How to Sound Intelligent


We have all, at one point in our lives, tried hard to sound intelligent and fallen flat on our faces. Sounding intelligent is really an art.

But it doesn’t take much. Just a little practise. You must have seen people, particularly one or two men or women, who’d be the most vocal, at parties or social gatherings, discussing some controversial court case, or last night’s blistering knock by some cricketer. And you would’ve wondered, “Wow, these guys know a lot of stuff. How do they do that?” Yes, they do sound smart and knowledgeable, but not all of them really are. They have just done their homework well. You can too sound incredibly intelligent the next time you’re at a discussion if you follow these simple steps:

Read, watch, listen to smart things

What you read makes a ton of difference to how you sound. Know your current events at the back of your hand. Even if you spend 15-20 minutes just reading bite-size reviews of leading stories, even if you skim them, you will have enough stuff to talk about. “Yes, of course I read about the Army chief scandal. Such a shame.” You can pick up newspapers, or magazines like India Today, Outlook, The Week and brush up your knowledge. You can even make notes if you like for quick reference.

You can watch and listen to BBC news or CNN or even to good radio channels. Learn as much as you can about politics, world events, social matters, science, art and such. Even shows like 30 Rock, House, Big Bang Theory, CSI, and West Wing could make you smarter. It is true that the more you watch and read the more knowledgeable you become. Of course your choices should be mildly more intelligent than a Stardust or Filmfare magazine, or shows like E-news and TMZ. That stuff isn’t going to get you anywhere closer to being smart.

And always have facts to back your statements. You don’t want a stray comment to come back and bite you. If you think Aliens are for real, cite facts and figures etcetera to give credibility and weight to your claim.


Take a moment before you speak

It’s really okay if you take a moment before you respond to something. Process your thoughts. It is not advisable to say the first thing that comes to your mind. If someone is talking about Ayn Rand’s, ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and the concept of objectivism, and you say, “I don't need to read the book, I've already seen the movie”, they’ll probably throw their drinks on your face and walk away. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak your mind; just think a little more. Maybe say, “I haven’t been able to read the book yet, but what are your thoughts on the movie?”


Oh my word!

Imagine you’re at a formal gathering, and you hear a person in a suit saying things like, ‘Dude, did you hear about this, uh, sh*t I’m going blank, umm, oh yeah, Facebook buying Instagram? Right? I know. That’s bl**dy awesome man. That’s the sh*t right there.’ It is perfectly fine to use this sort of language in front of your friends. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just inappropriate in a formal setup. If you want to sound intelligent, avoid colourful language, slangs, and fillers. They not only make you sound foolish and incompetent, they also give out an impression that you don’t have the slightest idea about what you want to say. It doesn’t mean you have to consult the thesaurus every second; just speak normally without the fluff: “You must have heard about the Facebook, Instagram deal? I suppose it’s going to do them a world of good.”


Watch it

You’re not competing for the world’s fastest conversationalist or the slowest. So watch the pace of your speech. Find out the optimum speed and stick to it. Along with the pace of your speech, proper pronunciation and grammar are equally important. People have a tough time with words starting with V and W. E.g.: it’s Victory, with a V sound, which is produced when your lower lip raises to touch the upper teeth; and it’s Water, an ‘Oo’ sound that is produced by having your lips form a tight circle. So brush up your pronunciation skills.

Basic grammar skills are as vital as knowing how to breathe. If someone says, “Him and me went to see the soccer game,” you might just laugh in their face. Everyone knows, it should be, “Him and I...” If it’s a slip of tongue, there’s no shame in correcting yourself: “What am I saying? I meant, Him and I...” If someone corrects you, there’s no need to get mad. Thank them and move on. It shows you’re mature and that it was an honest mistake.


Vocabulary

One of the ways to judge a person’s intelligence is his vocabulary. It doesn’t necessarily mean you try to use words like, floccinaucinihilipilification, which means an act or instance of judging something to be worthless or trivial. It means finding alternatives to regular words and using them intermittently (look it up if you don’t know what this means). For example: “That was a fancy wedding” can be replaced with “That was an ostentatious wedding.” Or, “He’s very fussy” can be replaced with “He’s very fastidious”. But how do you learn such flowery words? Well, you can use flash cards or just write them down in a notebook along with how to use them in a sentence. One word per day. That’s all. Pick a word from a book, dictionary or an online source. Note it down and use it in a sentence at work or at a social function. Don’t jump the gun. Wait for the opportunity to present itself. But don’t use a word until you’re confident enough to use it.


Press pause

If you have nothing intelligible to say, don’t say anything. It’s better than speaking gibberish. It’s fine to remain silent and observe. And you do not want to fake too much either, because if someone tries to hold an in-depth discussion on a particular topic you claim to have such an authority on, you will be a done duck.

Also, under no situation, use silly abbreviations: “BTW, I saw someone slip and fall. It was such a LOL moment, I wanted to LMAO, but I didn’t.” Not cool.

So you see, it’s not rocket science, this business of sounding smart. By making a few changes in your daily routine, you too can be the, ‘Oh-he’s-so-smart-I-hate-him’ guy. Try these tips today. Go on then, don’t be shy.


By Kailash Srinivasan

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