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.
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.