SOUND SMARTER

Trying to impress the boss, the kids or a date? Reader's Digest writers Lisa Fields and Brandon Specktor looked at scientific studies and boiled down the best insights into these quick tips.

Plan Ahead
Whether you're in a private conversation or at a in company-wide town hall, the most important thing you can do is make yourself heard, loud and clear. This can be daunting for an introvert -- and for the rest of us. If you're interviewing for a job, review the posting and take advantage of the whole Googleplex of information about your prospective company. Going on a date? Plan some talking points, even if they're just about some favorite TV shows or movies.

Make Eye Contact
If someone looks at you while you're talking, you're more likely to think he or she is smart. "Good eye contact means the other person is responsive to what you are doing or saying," says Bogdan Wojciszke, PhD, a professor of social psychology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Poland. Researchers at Brandeis University found that conversationalists who maintained eye contact scored higher on IQ tests than those who avoided someone's gaze.

Strike a Power Pose
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab concluded that they could accurately predict the outcome of any negotiation, sales call, or business pitch 87 percent of the time without hearing the conversation. How? By observing the speaking -- listening ratio, interruption patterns, and body language. How open or closed your posture is conveys how open or closed you are to the physical, mental, and emotional advances of others.

Eliminate Pauses
Confidence isn't as perceptible in your body language. As you have probably noticed from watching any political panel show, public event, or business meeting with multiple speakers, the "winner" of the talk is usually the person who speaks most energetically and fluidly. Too many pauses I make you sound unsure of yourself.

Tell Some Jokes
A French study found that women find men they overhear telling funny jokes to be smarter and more attractive than those heard conversing about mundane topics. Other studies have shown that funny women similarly appear smarter to others. There may be some validity to this, because a certain level of intellect is required to consistently make clever remarks. So you can use humor as a hard-to-fake cue to your intelligence. Just don't forget the punch line.

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