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How to appear more competent in 6 steps

Sometimes, even the most competent persons can feel inadequate, if the work environment becomes challenging. For those situations, remembering a few tricks might help.

Business Insider made a list containing creative strategies backed up by scientific research for making yourself appear more competent and confident.

1. Speak quickly

If you have something to say, say it fast. In a study from 1975 published in the journal Language and Speech, Brigham Young University researchers told 28 university students to listen to recordings of six people whose voices had been manipulated to sound slower or faster than usual. The students then rated the speakers most competent when their voices had been sped up and least competent when their voices had been slowed down. Furthermore, speaking quickly also helps when you want to win an argument, as people will have less time to critically assess your point of view, according to a 1991 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

2. Ask for advice

Asking for advice can make you seem more competent, as opposed to what you might think, as a 2015 research from Harvard Business School published in the Journal Management Science proves. In an experiment, 170 university students worked on a series of computer tasks. They were told they would be matched with a partner who had to complete the same tasks (the partner was actually a computer simulation). When they finished the tasks, their partners told them either “I hope it went well” or “I hope it went well. Do you have any advice?” The students who were asked for advice rated their partner as being more competent.

3. Act a little cold

People who seem to be too warm might be considered unprofessional, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Experimental Social Psychology and led by Belgian and American psychologists. For the study, 80 undergrads at an American university read descriptions of two different groups. As the Independent reports, every group fell into one of four categories: high on competence and high on warmth, high on competence and low on warmth, low on competence and high on warmth or low on competence and low on warmth. The undergrads were not told the groups were competent or warm and were only given descriptions of each group that implied the traits mentioned. As it turns out, high-competence groups were perceived as more competent if they were low on warmth.

4. Post a profile photo taken from a distance

When choosing a Facebook or LinkedIn picture, try selecting one where you’re standing a few feet away from the camera, as a 2012 research published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests. Following several experiments with hundreds of participants, researchers found that a group of 18 white men were considered more competent, trustworthy and attractive when they were photographed from 4.5 feet away instead of 1.5 feet away.

5. Don’t send professional emails with smiling emoticons

A 2017 study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science advises against using emoticons in emails that are meant to be formal. After conducting experiments on more than 500 participants from 29 countries, the researchers found out that hypothetical employees who included smiling emoticons in professional emails were perceived as less competent than those who didn’t use smiley faces. Participants perceived the smiling emoticons as inappropriate in professional contexts.

6. Tell a joke if it is appropriate

According to a 2016 study from the Wharton School and Harvard Business School published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that telling a successful, appropriate joke at work can make you seem more competent, while inappropriate jokes achieve the opposite result. In an experiment, researchers asked 274 participants to imagine a job candidate with a manager that asks him “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. The candidate gives one of two responses: “Continuing to work in this field in a role like this one” (serious) or “Celebrating the fifth anniversary of you asking me this question” (joke). Some of the participants read that the manager laughs, while others that the manager sits in silence. As it turns out, the candidate who told a joke – even one that fails – was perceived as more competent and confident.

 

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