6 Tips to Help You Talk Like a Smart Lady
As a professional woman, I’ve had to work twice as hard to be considered smart and capable. In my case, it doesn’t help that despite being well into my 30s, I still look like a tiny, big-eyed teenager. I actually considered once dying my hair gray, hoping a more stately, mature look would convince coworkers I actually did know what I was doing. It may seem a silly or drastic gesture, but I was just so frustrated. No matter my credentials or years of experience, there was always somebody who still bought into the dumb girl stereotype. Knowing the game was already fixed against me, the pressure was on to show the world how brilliant and fearless I was.
Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned all kinds of tips and tricks to ensure I’d always put my best, smartest lady foot forward. One of the easiest ways to do this was to practice how I spoke, and I can’t say enough how much this helped boost my confidence. So if you’re nervous about making small talk at a fancy cocktail party or giving a huge presentation for your bosses, here are six tips to help you improve your eloquence and talk like a smart lady.
1. Be knowledgeable and informed, like the smart lady you are.
The easiest way to sound silly in a discussion is to talk about something you have no knowledge of. When you find a topic that interests you, read up on it. Look for several sources. If it’s a political issue, be aware of whatever bias your favorite news site may have and seek out contrary opinions. That way, if someone tries to “one up” you in an argument, you can already anticipate your debate partner’s facts and have a response ready. And if you don’t know anything about a topic, simply say so. Ask for someone to tell you about the subject. If you can tolerate the potential mansplaining, you’ll come off as both smart and open-minded for wanting to learn more.
2. Think your own thoughts.
You’ve done the research, your brain is awash with facts and figures, and you’re ready to share your smartness with the world. Not quite yet. Don’t just parrot what you’ve heard on the news or read on your favorite smart girl e-zine. A nuanced opinion that draws from both personal experiences and research will have far more weight.
3. Listen up!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting with someone and at some point while I’m talking, I see this glazed look in their eyes. In that moment, I know they’re not listening to me at all. They’re simply waiting for me to shut up so they can tell their story. We all do it and it stems from a harmless desire to share and participate.
However, if you truly listen to what people are saying around you, you’ll sound much smarter and more thoughtful. Your response will seem like an extension of the conversation and not just something you blurted out when it was your turn. The second part of this tip is to ask questions. If someone brings up a topic you know a lot about, inquire if the person has read a specific article. Ask their opinion on a particular area of the subject that you found interesting. It’ll show you’re an active listener, but also that you clearly know what you’re talking about without shoving your brilliance in their face.
4. Embrace your inner con woman.
The reason they call con men con men is because they’re so confident in their scheme, they can even make others believe it. Along the same lines, no one is going to believe you know what you’re talking about if YOU don’t believe it. Now, I totally get that confidence is something a lot of women struggle with, but there really is some truth to that sassy old slogan, fake it until you make it. And trust all that hard work you did researching whatever you’re talking about. Avoid starting sentences with “I feel that” or “I just think that”. Such framing of our thoughts too easily allows others to discredit what we’re saying. You know what you’re talking about, so make sure they know it, too!
5. Be word wise.
Big words are great for Scrabble but not in regular conversation. You want to strive for that perfect sweet spot of “smart-ish” words that most educated people can understand, but are uncommon enough that your language will stand out. Do not pepper random big words in your speech unless you are completely confident you know what they mean. Mispronouncing or misusing a word is embarrassing at best, and even if you do manage to fire off “circumlocution,” you’ll probably just come off as elitist or unapproachable, not smart.
6. Be prepared for “Man-terruptions.”
Some people (men) are going to interrupt or talk over you. This is a sad fact of life. One day, perhaps we will live in a magical utopian society where everyone listens and no one mansplains. Until then, all you can do is make like a girl scout and be prepared. Should someone interrupt you during your brilliant speech or witty anecdote, don’t sound annoyed or unsettled. That doesn’t mean you let them off the hook either. With a calm voice, say, “I’d really like to finish before we hear your thoughts,” or “Oh, I wasn’t done with my story,” and then launch right back in. Do not feel guilty for interrupting them. This is your time to shine and they’ve already been rude to you!
To keep interrupters from stepping on your verbal toes, keep your speech flowing without long pauses. Also, speak with a loud, clear voice. Women are frequently called out for sounding shrill, so the more calm and steady your voice is, the more you can stay in control of the situation.