Fake it til’ you make it – one conversation at a time
As much as some people may hate to admit it, we don’t always know everything. Sometimes conversations crop up that you simply know nothing about. Unfortunately, that’s not very GrownNSexy. So, what can you do to at least look as if you’re clued up?
First a disclaimer: we in no way advocate dishonesty, but the term ‘fake it til’ you make it’ does have some very useful applications in life. And since we want nothing more than for you to make it, we’d like to share some handy tips from lifehacker.com’s Whitson Gordon for you to apply (wisely) til’ you get there:
It may not always be easy if you’re feeling out of your depth, but appearing confident is the best way to convince everyone that you know what you’re doing (I can name a few exes who certainly got me with that little trick). Gordon says this means avoiding ‘blank words’ such as “like” and “um“. Go ahead and pause to think when you have to, and don’t lose your head if one of those words accidentally slips out, but it’s generally a good idea to try to strike them from your vocabulary, he says. If you talk slowly, calmly, and think about what you’re going to say before you speak, you’ll already have a much-needed head start.
Know when to speak
Don’t be too eager to be the first to speak and don’t try and take over the conversation either. The last thing you want is to be called out on your knowledge gaps; and if things happen to get heated – the loudmouths tend to be the ones left looking like idiots. Gordon advises that you should sit back, think about what you actually do know about the topic, and wait for a chance to jump in with that. Besides: true experts don’t just blab; they know that people are paying attention to them and their reputation is on the line every time they say anything.
I especially liked this little gem that Gordon throws in: “If you can’t form a coherent thought, then you’re better off keeping quiet altogether. Just sit back with a smug grin, like you’re silently laughing at the buffoons arguing over such trivialities”.
Emphasise what you know
If you over exaggerate what you do know, that can make it seem more important. But keep trying to learn from the discussion whenever possible. You can make inferences from what the others have already said and certain things that they say can fill in pieces of what you know. As the discussion goes on, Gordon says you can start jumping in with points and act like you’ve had them forever, even though you formulated them mere seconds ago.
Don’t worry about proving others wrong
People who like poking holes in what everyone else says come across as arrogant and annoying, rather than intelligent. If the group is arguing, you can take a side, but Gordon advises that you try to stress agreement with one side rather than disagreement with the other. That way, you don’t get stuck having to present evidence you don’t have, but you’re still taking part in the discussion and sharing your opinion.
The more common ground you can find, the more the other person is inclined to find you wise, intelligent, and respect you—and, often, stop the argument right there, says Gordon. And if you don’t know what you’re talking about, you probably don’t have a strong opinion on the subject, so finding common ground with everyone should be pretty easy.
Steer the discussion to related topics
Chances are you’ll quickly exhaust your cache of knowledge and won’t have much else to say. Take part in what you can, then try to steer the discussion toward something related. If your friends are talking about a sport you don’t know, move away to a sport you do know. If they’re talking about politics of which you have no knowledge, try to find a jumping off point into something you do know. It isn’t always the most effective, but if the discussion isn’t too heated, it can get you out of a jam nicely.
Get in a good last word
As things start to dial down in a given discussion, you have a good opportunity to be remembered and sound like you know what you’re talking about. Gordon quotes Weblog Productivity 501 in explaining the value of getting the last word:
If you have the final word and simply summarize the good points made by everyone else, people will remember your contribution more than the people who really came up with the idea. I’m not suggesting that you steal others ideas, but restating the best ideas (even when giving others credit) will make you look smarter.
When possible, learn the material
It’s clear that all these tips are fantastic in the heat of the moment, but Gordon puts it plainly: “it wouldn’t kill you to actually learn some things beforehand” (and, of course, we agree). “If you find yourself in this situation a lot, it’s likely you get stuck in a discussion about the same topics… If that’s true, do some research on those subjects—even a bit of casual Wikipedia browsing—to boost your knowledge”. Gordon suggests that you get out of your comfort zone and read things you wouldn’t otherwise read.
We think that’s really the best tip of them all, because it gives you the opportunity to do your thinking ahead of time, so you are armed with well-formed and well-presented opinions. That’s definitely the GrownNSexy thing to do.