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Too smart for your own good?

Prove you’re sharp without showing off

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in Office Management

Convinced you’re smarter than just about everyone else at work? You may be right, but don’t get carried away. Your intelligence can work for or against you.

Your challenge is to avoid a condescending tone when showcasing your smarts. In many cases, the best way to express your bright ideas is through less direct channels. Here’s how:

Anecdotes. The most brilliant speakers can express complex concepts in the form of a story. They don’t try to explain complicated theories or pontificate ad nauseam. Instead, they translate high-level ideas so that others grasp the main point readily. Example: Warren Buffett, the folksy billionaire investor, taught a young insurance executive not to accept risks he didn’t understand by saying, “You know, when you go into a poker game, you look around and there is always one patsy. If you look around and you can’t tell who the patsy is, that’s because it’s you.”

Experience. Rather than tell someone what to do, share your experience in grappling with the same task. By concisely summarizing what you’ve learned in a supportive, friendly manner, you can assert your intelligence without showing off. Say, “I’ve dealt with the same problem and it took me a few years to make any progress. But here’s what I came up with....”

Questions. Despite the temptation, you don’t want to butt into a conversation by bragging about how much you know. People may not be ready to listen, and your insights may go to waste. It’s wiser to remain silent and wait until someone asks for your input.

If that doesn’t happen, pose a question and let everyone wrestle with it. As the questioner, chances are you’ll eventually have an opportunity to respond to the issue you’ve raised. And you can use questions to demonstrate your keen awareness of an issue or to isolate the most critical aspect of a problem.

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