Signs of Intelligent Life

So before you even open your mouth and say your first word, people are making judgments about your intelligence.

We all know that the world treats you better if you’re good-looking. Tall is helpful, too. Tall men make more money than short men. They are more likely to become CEOs. They are seen as not only more powerful, but more intelligent.


Do you care if people see you as intelligent? If you do, then you might want to practice a few simple things that can make it more likely that people will grock you as smart. Let’s start with posture. If you occupy your clothes as if they’re still on a hanger, you’ll look as if you’re tired. And if you look tired, people will think you’re generally sleepy-headed. When you’re sitting either at a table or at your desk, you’ll want to practice being compact in your body, legs and arms neatly arranged. Sprawl means disorganized, and unless you’re already certified as a genius, sprawl means you can’t find what you need when you need it, either on your desk or in your head.

Have you ever taught a class, or given a formal presentation to a group of people? Can you remember the experience of looking out at dozens of pairs of eyes? Some people in your audience probably met your look toward them, making eye contact. Others might have disconcerted you by never meeting your gaze.

Where should your eyes go when you’re working in a group, or reporting to your boss, or working closely with someone? If you can maintain eye contact, you will be in good communication with other people. Once they know that you’re looking carefully at them, they will be reading your face to see if you get what they are saying. With tiny head and facial gestures you can indicate that you understand. You appear intelligent, participating in two-way communication even if the other person is doing the talking.

Years ago I had a partner who joined me one day in presenting our wares to a large gathering of our salespeople. When it was over we took a moment to review our presentations. My partner asked me how I felt his presentation of a particular product had gone. I said, “Couldn’t you tell?” “ I haven’t got a clue,” he said. “I don’t like to wear my glasses when I present, so I can’t see anybody’s face.”

Intelligent people are looking for clues, for the unsaid. Valerie Jarrett says President Obama reads body language better than anyone in his top team. He can read a group in the oval office and know in an instant who will need follow up.

So before you even open your mouth and say your first word, people are making judgments about your intelligence. They’re reading your energy levels from your posture. They’re making judgments about how well organized your mind might be from how you hold yourself and move your limbs. And they’re looking at your eyes to see if you are looking at them. If they can’t make contact with you, they might assume there’s no light on.


No matter how tall you are.