How To Avoid Appearing Clueless

by Ron Haynes

Ranking right up there with appearing inconsistent, appearing clueless is one of humankind’s most dreaded social situations. We hate to appear  ignorant or out of the loop. Many people dig the hole deeper by insisting they’re right or that they know what they’re talking about. Almost everyone sees through it … and secretly laughs.

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” –Mark Twain

You don’t have to appear clueless, and here are some ways to insure you don’t.

1. Listen. You CAN learn to listen and when you listen much more than you speak, you appear wise, intelligent, and insightful. People love to talk and if you’re willing to listen, they’ll naturally think you’re a great conversationalist, knowledgeable, and smart.

2. Pick your battles. One thing I’ve realized by raising children is that I’m only going to win just so many battles and I’d rather lose the one about eating broccoli so I can win a more important battle later. The same goes for avoiding the appearance of cluelessness. Don’t jump into a conversation if you suspect you won’t win. Arguing with a pharmacist about drug interactions based on something you read on the Internet isn’t a good idea.

3. Choose your friends wisely. People know a lot about you based on the friends you cultivate. Choose clueless, uneducated friends and you’re bound to have their cluelessness rub off on you.

4. Know your enemies. Preparation is key here. Don’t allow yourself to get into a situation where you cannot prepare enough for a presentation or a question/answer session. Those who plan to disagree with you and make you appear clueless in front of a group will relish the opportunity! Defer until a later date or bring in number 5.

5. Bring in an expert of your own. With the backing of an expert, you appear smart and prepared. Make sure that expert’s credentials are impeccable or else you will not only appear clueless, but gullible as well.

6. Know when to shut up. It’s hard enough to defend yourself when you’re right but when you’re wrong, it’s almost impossible. There are times you just need to move on, let the mud slung on your shirt dry and brush it off later. Sometimes it’s easier that way and you don’t smear that slung mud all over your shirt.

7. Ask carefully chosen questions.

  • So, what’s your opinion about that? Hmm, walk me through how you reached that conclusion.
  • That’s interesting. Tell me more.
  • Can you elaborate?

Asking the right question can help you probe for more information and avoid appearing clueless.

8. Know your limits. By far, the easiest way to avoid appearing clueless is to know your own limits. If you truly don’t know anything about Major League Baseball, don’t jump into a conversation about it with a group of people who have bought season tickets for the last 25 years and act like you know what you’re talking about.

9. Lose the strong opinions. People with strong opinions can sometimes appear to be the most clueless of all because their opinions cloud their perception. These are usually the people who continue to argue a point even though it’s been thoroughly discredited.

The best way though is still Number One – listening. Learn to master your ability to listen and you’ll easily avoid appearing clueless.

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1000 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 5 comments }

Positively Present

Definitely LOTS of wisdom in this post. Thanks for all of the great insights.

Srinivas Rao

Very intelligent post, with advice that anybody can benefit from. I think if we entered the business world with these kind of ideas in my mind, we’d be far more successful.

Tammy Brackett

Love this post! I’m the really quiet type. I’ve found listening really encourages people to share more thoughts and ideas. I think it’s Wayne Dyer who says, “Would you rather be happy or right?” I’m all for happy!

Melissa

I don’t mind admitting when I’m clueless -which is often – I get used to it! ;). Learning happens when you admit you don’t know something, and it helps communication because people love to be teachers. Not so good at work though I admit, when you’re trying to give a professional impression. Great advice for avoiding looking like a twit. Lose the strong opinions, know your limits and know when to shut up are particularly good.

Admin

You make a good point, and I agree with you: admitting you need to learn something is a positive trait. I think you appear “clueless” when you ACT like you know what you’re talking about, but you really don’t!

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