The last thing you want as either an entrepreneur looking to build a business from scratch or an employee, looking to build a career or find a new job, is for people to think that you're stupid. Perceptions are not always reality, of course, and we don't want people to perceive that we're stupid when we're not. (Although, in all fairness, we don't want people to perceive that we're stupid when we are stupid.)
What makes people think you're not all that bright? Other than making comments on YouTube, that is? Experimental Psychologist, Dr. Balaz Aczel, tracked behaviors that people identified as stupid. They did this by looking at online stories and by asking university students to keep a diary of every stupid thing they saw. What they found is that stupid behavior fell into three categories. Avoid doing these things and you'll look smarter-even when you're not.
When you jump into something without knowledge, you look dumb. When you insist that you know the answer to every problem, you don't look bright-you look rather dim. We've all met people like this. They barge on ahead without doing their research. They don't ask for help when they need it and they never, ever, say, "I don't know."
How to fix this: Stop it. You don't know everything, and it's okay. If someone asks you a question you don't know the answer to, say, "I don't know, but let's find out." Do your research before jumping off that entrepreneurial cliff.
Lack of control.
Are you late to meetings because you just needed to finish scrolling through your Facebook feed? Do you stay up late playing video games and then have trouble functioning the next day? Are you currently obsessed with something that dominates every conversation? Somehow the election or the NFL playoffs are more important to discuss than the topic at hand? Then people might think you are stupid because of lack of control.
How to fix this: This isn't as easily fixed as the problem above. You can't just decide not to engage in addictive behavior that causes problems in your life. However, it's critical for your reputation and your success that you get it in line. If your problem is that you stay up too late playing video games, it might mean you need to stop playing at all. It's often easier to not play at all than it is to stop once you've started. If you keep steering conversations to your obsessive topic, ask a friend to signal you when you start on that path. You'll train yourself to keep your mouth shut.
Absentmindedness-Lack of practicality.
We all know about the absent-minded professor stereotype-someone who is really smart but does really dumb things. The study participants identified this type of stupidity as the least severe. In other words, we're somewhat forgiving of the absent-minded person who can't operate the copy machine, or loses his employee badge three times a week. But, just because people don't judge this behavior harshly doesn't mean they aren't judging it at all.
How to fix this: If you're a high-level person, for goodness' sake hire an assistant whose job it is to fix your absentmindedness problems before they embarrass you. For the rest of us, you'll need to develop your own hacks. When you get in the car to go home, always take your badge off and stick it in the drink holder, so it will be there in the morning. Ask for help when you don't know how to do something. Set alarms on your computer or phone to remind you about meetings. Write notes. Make checklists.
None of us want people to think we're stupid, so fix these things and you'll find your perceived IQ will rise.