Education equity: Often when you think of an “educated” person, you’ll think about what test scores they received, what school they attended, or what job they hold. In the real world, and in real conversations, this information is not readily available. People tend to make judgments on how educated they believe someone is by their interactions with them. By being aware of the way you are speaking, the way you are behaving, and how you appear, you can present yourself as a confident, educated individual.
Increase your vocabulary. The way in which you speak and words you choose communicate a lot to others in each conversation you have. The vocabulary you use is not only a sign of intelligence in conversation but is also a major component in the measurement of your Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and education level on intelligence and achievement tests. Increasing your vocabulary will help you to improve that perception as well as:
- Avoid repetition.
- Express yourself succinctly.
- Increase your creativity.
- Illustrate your knowledge.
Correct your grammar. There are few ways in which you could do more harm to the perception of your education than to use incorrect grammar, incorrect phrases, or “crutch words” such as “like” or “um.” When you are speaking you’ll appear more educated if you enunciate, use proper grammar, complete sentences, and correct phrasing. Some of the more common mistakes include:
- “Yeah” instead of “Yes”
- ”For all intensive purposes” instead of “for all intents and purposes”
- “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less”
- ”Irregardless” instead of “regardless”
- Should, could, or would “of” instead of should, could, or would “have”
Use slang sparingly. It may be difficult to remain conversational in your speech, but you should try to limit your use of slang words or attempt not to use them at all. Be particularly careful of any slang words that may offend someone, including the use of curse words. While the use of curse words does not necessarily indicate someone is uneducated, it does impact the social perception of intelligence, particularly in conversations where you do not know the other people well.
Stay humble. No one is capable of knowing everything, and those who are more educated understand that, and rarely claim to be as intelligent as they really are. Be modest and avoid the temptation to “prove” how smart you are. It will often come off to others as boastful and will lower their opinion of you.
Be silent. Sometimes, in an effort to sound educated or smart, someone can appear to be “trying too hard.” If you have a habit of always trying to interject on every conversation and add your thoughts, try and step back a bit. A key to speaking intelligently includes knowing when to be quiet. Staying silent has the potential to show more intelligence, especially if the alternative is saying something you think is smart.
- This will also help if you feel you are in a conversation of opposing opinions where the other person is attempting to get you into an argument. Being quiet shows you are not interested in verbal fights or arguments, but rather more educated discussion.
Educate yourself. The easiest way to present yourself as an educated person is to, in fact, be educated. Knowledge truly is power in this instance, so try to know at least a little bit about many different topics, if you can. It may take some time to develop your knowledge, and you may not be proficient in everything. Some ways to educate yourself include:
- Learning a foreign language, or select words in other languages. Try learning how to say “please,” “thank-you,” and “you’re welcome” in several different languages. They are easy to slip into conversation.
- Keep up on news and current events. Follow your favourite news station, paper, or online news aggregate site. Knowing what is currently going on in the world will help you to appear “worldly” and knowledgeable.
- Research areas of interest. If you’d like to be perceived as intelligent or educated to a particular group of people, research what is of interest to that group. Better yet would be to research areas that you are interested in.
Be honest. A misconception of being educated is that an educated person “knows everything” when in reality, educated individuals are always questioning and always learning. In your effort to be perceived as more intelligent, try not to build a false image of yourself or pretend to be something you are not. You will be viewed as more intelligent if you ask questions and are interested in learning new things.
- If someone asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I don’t know, but I would be really interested to find out what the answer is, that’s a great question!”
- If someone else is speaking, you can always add, “That’s fascinating! I have to admit I haven’t had a great deal of experience with that, can you tell me more about…”
Listen carefully. You do not always have to be the one speaking in order to be viewed as educated. It can be conveyed in how you act, as well. Make an effort to listen attentively. This will help you to completely understand what the other person is saying before offering your view or asking questions to further the conversation. A good rule, especially in a conversation with multiple people is to be listening twice as often as you are speaking.
- A great way to convey your attention (and according to one study, your intelligence) is to make eye contact with the speaker.
- When offering your view, always leave it open for further intellectual discussion with phrases such as, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but…” or “Do you agree?”
- When asking questions, try and use words or phrases that show your knowledge of the topic. If someone is speaking about a school or university and you’d like to know if they went there, ask “Is that your alma mater?” or “Did you attend their graduate program for your masters or your doctorate?”
Act courteous. Remembering your manners will show respect for others and give you the appearance of being socially educated in the proper ways of conversation. Acting courteous to others will also illustrate the confidence you have in yourself and help you show that to others. Exhibiting confidence through your personality, style, and charisma, is viewed as the trait of a smarter individual. Being courteous includes:
- Greeting others politely, with a smile.
- Taking the care to be prompt and on time.
- Not interrupting others while they are speaking.
- Saying “hello,” “please,” “thank you,” “sorry,” and “excuse me.”
Limit negative emotions. Try and keep a divide between your emotional reactions, especially strong, negative ones, and your conversation. It is good to be excited and passionate in what you are talking about as it is viewed as an important factor in appearing smart. Getting easily angry, exhibiting outbursts, or becoming combative; however, are not regarded as qualities of the educated individual. Staying in a positive, calm demeanor, shows that you are above having simple arguments and instead prefer intellectual discussion.
Surround yourself with intelligent people. Not only are you more likely to be perceived as educated and intelligent, you are more likely to actually become more intelligent due to the probability that you will have more intellectual discussions and be more challenged. Being around educated individuals will help increase your intellectual stimulation, help further your knowledge base, and help further your own education.
Be neat in appearance. Impressions are important to conveying a great deal of information including intellect and education. Particularly affecting the perception of education is the amount of exposed skin others can see. The more modest and formal your appearance the more others will focus on what you are saying and thinking, rather than what you are wearing.
- Wear modest and formal clothes that fit well. If possible, invest in a good tailor, as having clothing tailored to your body makes your clothes look more expensive and elevates your status.
- Make sure your clothing is ironed and stain-free.
- Keep your hair neat.
- Have good hygiene.
- Remove facial jewelry.
- Keep your shoes, fingernails, and teeth clean.
Remove bad habits. Watch out for bad habits or nervous habits such as nail biting, hair twirling, or chewing on pens. You want to communicate confidence in yourself, your education, and your intelligence. While these habits don’t necessarily show a lack of education, they will cause you to be perceived as anxious, nervous, or uncomfortable. If you feel the urge of a bad habit coming on, try to actively refocus your mind on the other person or the conversation.
Cultivate cultural habits. There is a cultural component among the educated, that includes music, art, theatre, and cultural experiences. Taking part in these activities will increase your exposure to various topics, spark your creativity, and provide you with conversational material which illustrates your education. Some cultured areas to consider include:
- Attending theatre performances or the opera.
- Listening to classical music.
- Visiting museums and art galleries.
- Reading books, journals, and the newspaper.
Use your middle initial. While this may seem like an odd factor, using your middle initial in your name is largely regarded as an indication of intelligence and education. This appears to be due to the fact that the use of a middle initial often occurs in formal and academic contexts. At events, have your middle initial included on your name tag, or if you like the way it sounds, include it in your introduction, especially if it makes you feel more like the intelligent, educated person that you are! On the other hand, you should be perceptive of what is culturally acceptable. For example, middle initials are rarely used in the UK, and are far more common American English contexts. Therefore, using the middle initial during introductions in the UK may violate the ‘stay humble’ principle above.