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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

5 Signs That You Are Being Too Smart

Written By: Mark E. Goodman | 1 Comment

Being recognized as smart is a good thing, right? Maybe not! While you may think that you’re impressing people, what you could be doing is alienating them. Here are five ways that you can be too smart for your own good.

Using big words for no reason.

The famous self-help expert Earl Nightingale claimed that without a single exception…there is a direct correlation between vocabulary scores and incomes.

I used to think so, too. However, what are your thoughts on this sentence: “It shows extreme hubris to ostentatiously create a bespoke solution”? Rather than trying to impress with your vocabulary, align what you say to your listener. If first impressions are lasting, the sentence above clearly leaves a bad taste.

Often times, crafting your dialogue in words that use a few syllables, as opposed to multiple, works best. If you are dealing with a global audience (people who may speak English as a second language), this becomes even more important.

Unless you are at an industry conference, try to avoid using jargon. Lastly, if you have a whiteboard available, write an unfamiliar word in addition to saying it to ensure everyone understands.

Telling personal stories.

In seventh grade, we had to present what we did over our summer vacation. For most of us, this involved a trip to the lake, or completing the library reading list contest. However, one of our presenters noted that during his trip to the Grand Tetons, he found them much more impressive than the Alps, which he had visited the previous summer. We sat there wondering what universe he lived in.

Also dangerous are personal stories where the listener has to grasp for relevance. Consider rehearsing your stories in advance and practicing them to make sure they are relevant to the audience, and tight with just the right amount of detail to get your point across.

Also, if you want to tell a story to illustrate a point, you may want to let your audience know how it fits before you tell the story. This way, you can avoid asking, “Do you know what I mean?” This may seem like you’re trying to figure out if they are stupid – or if you are.

Not listening.

How many times do you tune out the second part of what someone is saying so that you can work on your response? (You are so smart you have already figured out what they will say next.)

How often do you find yourself interrupting or becoming impatient? Instead, assume the other person is sharing good information. Take time to hear them all the way through. After they are done, pause, and then respond. You will seem more likable.

Not allocating enough time.

Now this is a hard one. You are pressed for time, and certainly don’t want to waste your day. On the other hand, by announcing in advance that you only have X amount of time suggests that you know better than the other person the value of the interaction.

Instead, ask them how much time they need and what they would like to cover. You may be impressed by the agenda, or decide that someone else is more appropriate for the discussion.

Emphasizing your credentials.

Your listener wants to know how you can help them, not how important you are.

I knew a salesman whose claim to fame was that he had installed a system on Michael Jordan’s estate. (I guess that might be relevant if I had an estate the size of Michael Jordan’s…)

Your university degree may help you get your first job, but is unlikely to help you close your tenth sale.

In the end, people want to do business with you because they like you and they trust you. Building trust means relating to your community in a manner that is respectful and appropriate. People need to believe that you are competent and credible.

So, rather than trying to prove how smart you are to someone, make them feel comfortable with how you will solve their problem. Relate to them, which will make them want to do business with you.

Article written by
Mark Goodman is the President & CEO of e-Conversation Solutions. He is also past workshop chair at SCORE Chicago. Prior to founding e-Conversation, Mark held numerous positions as a technology executive, including Director of Business Development at Motorola, where he was the first business manager in the cell phone group. In addition to Motorola, Mark was an executive for a Silicon Valley company and a film buyer for General Cinema Theatres. Mark holds an MBA from Boston University and an MA in radio/TV/film from Northwestern University.
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