An Unusual Trick For Seeming Smart Anywhere, Anytime

It contradicts conventional know-it-all wisdom, but if you want others to think you’re smart, you should ask them for advice.

A research team led by Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks found that people have better perceptions of those who ask them for advice. The reason why? It’s actually the influence of a bit of narcissism. People enjoy giving advice: It offers positive feelings and amps up self-esteem (hello, ego boost). In turn, those asked assume a high level of competence and savvy in the advice-seeker.

In five separate studies, the research team presented participants with a task and a partner. In one experiment, for example, study participants were told they would complete a brain teaser, and their partner would complete it afterward. They communicated with the partner solely through instant message, as unbeknownst to them, the partner was actually computer simulated. When the participant finished the puzzle, their “partner” IMed one of two messages: “I hope it went well. Do you have any advice?” or simply “I hope it went well.” People rated the partners who asked for advice as more competent than partners who did not.

There are a few tricks and caveats to making this psychological power play work in your favor. Check out the video below to make sure you’re asking the right questions to the right people, and soon everyone will consider you a true brainiac.

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