Why I Play Dumb - The Perks of Playing Dumb
The fine art of playing dumb gets way too much flack these days. What makes pretending to be smart such a good idea? Why is it so important to feign competence and control when more often than not, we lack both?
Don't get me wrong- I have plenty of reason to pretend that I know what I'm doing. Or at least, I apparently have grounds for pretending to be smart. I graduated salutatorian from high school, and graduated at the top of my class in business school. I even gave one of them fancy speeches at graduation, and they gave me a bunch of medals and a big shiny clock (the clock, by the way, runs slow, which is a perfect metaphor for my mental capacity).
If I'm smart, I'm only smart enough to know that I'm dumb. And that playing dumb is, on the whole, much more efficient and beneficial than being the know-it-all. To argue my case, I'll share with you the top benefits of playing dumb. After reading this article, you might find yourself playing the fool right along with me.
Have you ever been afraid to ask a question?
Playing Dumb Helps You Get Smart
I thought I'd start this out with a real zinger. Yep- I bet you never thought that playing dumb actually helps you become a more intelligent individual, but guess what: it totally does.
Let us observe this truth in a classroom setting. Student A likes to believe she's smart. And she would like her classmates to believe that she's smart as well. For this reason, she tries to hide her ignorance, and avoids asking what she sees to be dumb questions. The obvious problem with this approach is that her ignorance goes uncured.
Student B, on the other hand, is fine with playing dumb. Fully comfortable with playing the fool, Student B is perfectly happy to ask dumb questions should he not understand something being taught, and is therefore more likely to get a firm grasp on whatever concepts are being taught.
In the end, Student B is able to get more out of classes than Student A because he is willing to go the extra mile to resolve any gaps in understanding he might confront through the course of a lecture. Student B is even helping his fellow students out from time to time by asking questions (dumb and otherwise) as chances are that other students (including Student A) are wondering the same thing he is, but don't have the gumption to speak up.
Why would you want people to think you're smart?
Playing Dumb Keeps You Humble
Another small problem with insisting on being the smart person in the room is it puts one at risk at getting a big head. On the other hand, when one plays dumb, one constantly reminds oneself that there is room to grow and room to learn from others.
I will admit that there is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes it is very important to play up one's strengths. But doing so constantly closes more doors than it opens. In addition to turning other people off, taking the smart angle all the time can close one's mind to new people, opportunities, perspectives, and ideas.
When one is humble, one is far more likely to have an open mind and to be willing to explore and accept new concepts and possibilities. To a full mind, the world is closed. Discrete. Finite. To a vacant, humble mind, the world is vast, mysterious, and open.
I would much rather be humble and dumb than smart, proud, and isolated. And playing dumb helps me to maintain that fresh perspective, no matter how much disdain or disillusionment I might be encouraged to harbor.
Playing Dumb Makes for an Excellent Poker Face
There are many sorts of poker faces- the straight one, where someone remains utterly constant and unreadable, the decoy one, where someone reveals a fake tell to manipulate your actions (think bleeding-eye-dude Le Chiffre in Casino Royale), and my personal favorite, the playing dumb fake.
The playing-dumb poker face only works once, but it still makes for an excellent upset if you can pull it off.
In the classic poker game scenario, it works thusly: the kids all invite you in on their poker night, and you bashfully agree to join in, not admitting that you're absolutely brilliant at the game, but rather saying that you're a total beginner and you hope they go easy on you. They guffaw, say they'll play nicely, and anticipate, with great relish, absolutely tearing you to pieces. Then, come poker night, you trounce them, mercilessly. It makes for an incredibly satisfying upset.
This exact same fake can be applied to pretty much anything. What's more, the playing-dumb-poker-fake is a great way for smarty pants to dip their feet into the playing dumb pool as, at least in the end, they still come away looking like a big fat smarty pants.
You Get Excellent Deals
Many people approach negotiations- financial and otherwise, by being exceedingly shrewd. But if two shrewd people enter a negotiation, the situation quickly reduces to a stalemate.
The best way around this is to still enter negotiations with a shrewd and sharp mindset, but to appear outwardly dumb or gullible. In this manner, your counterpart will have a less clear idea of what you're going for, or might even let his/her guard down, in which case you'll be free to manipulate negotiations in your favor.
I have found that playing dumb while also feigning disinterest can really bring on the discounts. Another fun trick is to really do your research, play dumb, and then reveal just a hint of your extensive knowledge after your opponent has tried to pull a fast one on you. This really breaks him/her down, and may even encourage him/her to give up an aggressive stance altogether, as you have just demonstrated that you're much smarter than your counterpart thought you were.
Folks Take Care Of You
I play dumb a lot when I travel. Part of this is because I am legitimately extra dumb in foreign environments, however I also play up my stupidity when traveling alone because people are more likely to help me out.
Now, maybe it helps of you're a relatively young girl wearing little dresses and the like, but I have found that when any typical person comes across a genial, polite foreigner who is utterly clueless, one feels compelled to help out.
People have done the nicest things for me because of my apparent (and real) stupidity. I have done the nicest things for clueless people. Generally nice people just feel compelled to take newbies and other clueless folks under their wings. Hence playing dumb can be an excellent means of getting some extra help from time to time.
Playing Dumb Gives You (& Others) Plausible Deniability
Every day, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people play dumb in the pursuit of plausible deniability. I am by no means independent from this group, however when I play dumb in such cases, the plausible deniability I generate is for others and not myself.
Let me put it this way- I am a complete coward when it comes to relationships. That, and I am exceedingly picky (and Stormtroopers are hard to come by these days). So chances are if a guy has a thing for me, I have to find a way to turn him down.
Because I generally do not want to hurt feelings, I play dumb when guys start suggesting a more-than-friends friendship. This grants them plausible deniability and enables them to reverse their tactics without openly admitting they might have feelings for me, which spares their pride and saves them from any embarrassment. The clueless-to-special-feelings act also spares me the uncomfortable act of overtly rejecting anyone, which I suck at doing.
This tactic should be able to work for guys trying to lightly let down girls just as well as it works for me. It might even work better, since sometimes gals are a bit better at taking a hint. So if you're a coward, take this one for a spin!
Consider Your Friendships
Have you played dumb do boost your friends' egos?
You Can Boost Your Buddies' Egos
Everybody likes the occasional ego boost, and one of the most satisfying kind involves an ego boost regarding one's intellect.
Face it. You like it when you feel smarter than other people. It means you're in control; that you're in a position of power and greater status and greater overall fitness. The world, which is usually rather confusing and chaotic seems, at least for a moment, calm and ordered.
By playing dumb, you can be a nice person every now and then and let other people feel this nice ego boost from time to time. It takes very little effort, but can really make someone's day. If you're one of those jerks who always insists on being right, I strongly recommend this practice - you just might find that your friends find you slightly less irritating. You might even become more popular.
Just keep in mind that playing dumb to puff up your friends should be practiced in moderation. Do this too much and you'll come across as insincere and/or excessively stupid and/or a total sycophant.
You Get More Insider Info
When people think you're dumber than a bag o' hammers, they tend to let their guard down and say stuff around you that they might not otherwise say. Playing dumb has gotten me in on some rather interesting gossip, not to mention other stuff...
Unfortunately for me, I am pretty much socially retarded (in other words, I am as socially dumb as I appear- if not more so), so all that gossip and juicy stuff goes in one ear and out the other. But it doesn't have to be that way for you.
Just remember- if you decide to pass on any insider intel you hear, you'd better be sure nobody can trace it back to you, or else your cover is totally blown. Jus' sayin'.
Playing Dumb Offers More Flexibility
When I play dumb, I tend to have an open mind. Just as playing dumb allows one to ask stupid questions, feigning cluelessness stops one from shutting others down when they're explaining their personal points of view. This enables one to learn about different people, cultures, religious beliefs, and all sorts of things.
What's more, playing dumb enables one to more easily go with the flow and try new things. I'm not suggesting you play dumb so well that you actually make stupid decisions or that you open your mind to bad memes, but consider isolating the skeptic in your mind and allowing it to have a dialogue with a more genial, try-anything-once dumb-ass.
Weigh in, kiddies!
Playing Dumb Leads to Serenity
I wrote in my guide to playing dumb that you really have to embrace your inner ignoramus to be effective. It is not enough to just play dumb. You have to be dumb.
Well, you know that saying about ignorance being bliss? It's totally true. The times in which I am most happy are times in which my mind is as vacant as.....
Mmmm.... where was I? Oh right. Playing dumb, and being dumb, leads to a wonderfully serene, relaxed state. It might not be particularly conducive to writing or working or taking over the world, but it sure does feel good, so if you're looking for a good way to wind down, just dumb down!
Now please excuse me... I've got some wall-staring to do.