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Ask HN: How to talk smart?
111 points by youngtolearn on May 11, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments
I am always intrigued by people who talk smart. This could be James Bond, lead actor in 'the spy' movie ( forgot his name) or Kevin Spacey in HoC and many more... My current boss has somewhat similar quality about talking. All these people speak slowly and clearly, feels like they are doing calculated talk but always make lasting impression. Its not about winning or losing argument rather making the point, make other party think twice before they utter any word.

What can i do to aquire smart talk skill? Any books , podcasts I can listen to?

This skill is largely possessed by spys, diplomats, political leaders, executives but I cant find enough resouces to attain such skill and master it.

As always, obligatory thanks in advance for all responses!

Learn to control your own emotions. This may take many years of practice. Meditation, martial arts, or many kinds of sports and skills can be good for this. You will think better if you keep calm.

Listen very carefully to others. Maybe you will learn something, maybe they just confirm your initial impression. Often people speak to express their mood, not to convey information. Also, when people talk very passionately about their opinions of other people, they are often speaking indirectly about their feelings towards themselves.

Never interrupt. Never contradict, Never insult. These are low-value tactics in a verbal conflict. By not using them, you make it much harder for other people to use on you. If other people interrupt, contradict, or insult you, ignore it. By 'contradict' I mean don't say 'No, that's wrong...' Just say the correct thing and stop. So if someone says 'wheels are square, everybody knows that,' just say 'wheels are round,' and stop talking.

In general, it's a good idea to say as little as possible until the other person runs out of things to say, especially if they're angry.

Repeat what other people have told you. Ask simple questions, ideally with yes/no or very definite answers. It will be much easier to tell if the other person is lying. Also, ask questions that you already know the answer to, in order to get the other person to follow the direction you want in conversation. this is a technique trial lawyers use a lot.

When you use these techniques in an argument, it's like you step out of the way if someone tries to hit you. The other person swings his fist - you move aside. You can lead the person where you want to go by the way you move. They waste their energy expressing anger or saying foolish things. When you speak, you are very careful to say only things you are sure about.

Avoid trying to jump ahead of the conversation to guess what someone really means or what their secret motivation is or anything like that. Often such guesses are wrong, and in any case it often doesn't matter.

Smart people are never afraid to say 'I don't know' or 'I don't understand, please explain' or 'I'm confused about ______.' If you make a habit to be honest about this instead of pretending to understand something you don't, you'll find it's hard to for other people to lie to you.

What the parent comment said, plus there's a technique from Improv sometimes called "Agree and amplify", and when both conversation partners are good at it there is fun to be had:

If someone asks you if you enjoy looking at elephants in tutus and you reply with “no that’s stupid”. It really hinders the conversation and stops whatever momentum you have. If you don’t think it’s a really strong topic, try to accept what the person says and try to improve it. You can improve it by saying, “what about ninja’s in tutus? It would be a lot funnier to see them run around with pink tutus and trying to be stealth, don’t you think?


I don't think it's the best example, but the author isn't James Bond so I don't expect it to be.

Can't recommend improv classes highly enough. I only did the intro / 101 course, but it was great, and not just for learning to actually get on stage and "do" improv. A lot of the skills and drills you do in improv can help with general communication in any setting.

A drill we did, related to @meric's comment above, was called the "yes and" drill. It goes like this: A says something, and B follows on by going "Yes, $WHAT_A_SAID AND, $WHATEVER_B_HAS_TO_SAY".


A. Elephants in pink tutus are awsome.

B. Yes, elephants in pink tutus ARE awsome, and what's more, ninjas in pink tutus are also awesome when they are trying to be stealthy.

A. Yes, ninjas in pink tutus are awesome when they're trying to be stealthy, AND it's hilarious when they get caught anyway.

B. Yes, it's hilarious when ninjas in pink tutus get caught, AND it's very embarrassing when they have to explain where they got the pink tutus...

and so on and so on... these exchanges can get REALLY silly (hence the comic effect) but the idea of agreeing and then adding on to what the other person said can be used in many contexts to help keep things flowing.

An extension of that drill was to go "Yes, AND" and then do one of three things:

1. Add something new to the scene (see above)

2. Explain how the "thing" makes you feel.

"Yes, elephants in pink tutus are awesome, and I get really excited when I see them coming down the street"

3. Actually, I forget what the third thing was. But take an improv class or read a book on improv, or Google it. :-)

I'm not sure this kind of yes-anding makes the speaker appear smart.

Isn't the purpose of yes-and to help ego to undercut alter's frame-setting through one-upmanhip? And isn't the purpose of the comic effect to divert the audience's attention away from alter's point, because because for some reason ego don't want that point to be discussed further?

To be sure, all of this can be effective in a jocular, conversational social setting, especially when the audience is not yet primed to detecting yes-anding, but I doubt it imparts the impression of intellectual superiority upon the listeners.

Yeah, it probably is particularly effective in a more jocular setting... but let me add that I'm not proposing to, in a non improv show setting, literally "yes and" everything somebody says. I'm just saying that the general principle of "agree, then add" is a useful tool in conversation, to avoid conflict, which can derail the conversation.

It isn't necessarily so much about "sounding smart" (which, in my mind, is not the real point anyway) but rather about controlling and guiding the conversation in such a way as to accomplish your end (whatever that may be).

If you go and take improv training, you have to be prepared to generalize from it and extract the useful principles, before applying them in other settings. Otherwise, you might wind up telling your boss that the reason the site is down is because a stealthy group of ninjas in pink tutus, riding elephants, stole the Postgres database!

Brilliant response above.

I consider talking and socializing key skills in life, it's a shame schools don't have classes specifically for these things.

In addition to the parent comment, there are many books to supplement the development of one's communication skills. Some that I've read and found useful include The Definitive Book of Body Language and How To Win Friends And Influence People.

There are some contradictions here:

> Repeat what other people have told you. Ask simple questions, ideally with yes/no or very definite answers.


> Smart people are never afraid to say 'I don't know' or 'I don't understand, please explain' or 'I'm confused about ______.'

My general advice is that people like talking, and 'being able to hold a conversation' often just means 'make the other person feel good by keeping them talking.' If I've been talking for more than a minute I'll try to dump the focus on someone else.

You're right, that bit wasn't very clear. I didn't mean that you should just repeat random interesting things that you have heard because they sounded good!

By 'repeat what other people have told you,' I meant to repeat briefly what you have just heard from the person you are conversing with, especially if you're disagreeing over something. this to make sure you've understood what they were telling you, and to show them that you were paying attention. One of the most frustrating things is to explain something and realize the other person hasn't really been listening, so I'll go to great lengths to make sure the other person knows they've been heard and got all their points across before I start trying to make any of my own.

Obviously it depends on context. If you're both talking about some objective factual matter you can throw facts back and forth and if you can't agree you can go to the book/google/whatever. But where subjective matters are concerned people can have honestly different interpretations of the same circumstances.

Could you expand on "If other people interrupt, contradict, or insult you, ignore it."

Do you mean if you're in mid-sentence and someone interrupts you that you should continue talking as if they had not interrupted? I have someone I have to deal with who does this a lot, and I really struggle with it. I have pointed out the interruptions, and need to do so again, but interested to hear your point of view (as I really liked your points above)

I let people interrupt me, up to a point. When I was young I had a terrible temper and I'm pretty quick verbally, so it was easy for a disagreement to escalate into a fight as I would try to keep getting the upper hand. Eventually I grew out of it. (Of course not every interruption is meant to be confrontational or aggressive - my post above was slanted a bit towards those situations, I think because of the James Bond reference :-) )

I'll let someone interrupt me 2 or 3 times. If it's with a question I can answer in a single sentence I'll do so and move on, if it's complex then I'll reply that 'I'm coming to that,' assuming of course that it's relevant. If they're just venting without saying anything, I'll just reply 'I see.' and move on. If a person persists in interrupting, I'll ask him (it's almost always a guy thing) 'are you finished?' and ask again if necessary. If they really can't help themselves, eventually I'll say 'look, I didn't interrupt you when you were talking. Please show me the same courtesy.' That's generally enough to make the point without raising the temperature. In a tense conversation I'll also make a deliberate effort to slow down my speech. It helps me stay calm and and it also gives my remarks more weight.

Although I talked about many situations involving verbal conflict, I'd like to stress that I don't see it as a matter of winning and losing. Often disagreements arise because people want to express their frustration but can't see a constructive path to resolve differences of opinion or interest. De-escalating the situation is a way to let the air out of the balloon slowly instead of with a bang, and reduce people's stress level. Books on mediation have lots of good techniques on this, and you can find mediation classes in many major cities - going to a professional mediator is often cheaper and more effective than getting into a lawsuit, so courts often encourage it.

I wouldn't claim to be some sort of conversational amster who never turns a hair. I frequently yell at inanimate objects, my phone and so on :-)

Yip, I think I just need to say something, he's actually a great guy, it's just he gets interested in conversations and always has something to say. It's not a dominance thing, just an interrupting thing.

I have become better at these sorts of conversations, but still struggle with confrontation. One book I found _excellet_ was Crucial Conversations, really really good.

If they do it repeatedly and it's making it impossible for you to communicate, a simple "excuse me" will do. If they absolutely will not stop interrupting, just excuse yourself from the conversation.

by repeatedly excusing yourself from the conversations, it's likely you let the a*holes and rude ones dominate the situation and let them exert more influence in work places or other social avenues.

I have been struggling to find out better solutions, if they are out there.

On the other-side, be careful about talking whenever you are angry or having strong feeling. Most probably you will say things which you never meant or will regret saying. Simply your emotions takes hold of you over your reason. Overall beautiful response, can't agree more.

> Learn to control your own emotions.

THIS. When this topic comes up, you can read everything you want about tactics and take to heart the entirety of "How to make friends and influence people", but none of it means anything if you can't keep your cool. All the people you mentioned keep an air of amused mastery about them. Having an irrational confidence in yourself helps with that. It's like they're amused at the idea that any particular situation, person or statement could possibly make their martini taste bad.

Thanks mate. This was helpful.

Haven't been born with wit and so I make it a point to observe those who have it..

i am not a smart speaker, but what helps me is to take notes of the main point of argument; this helps me to focus and to address the issues that have been raised.


And actually pay attention.

It's astounding how much people suck at this simple task. Lately I'm beginning to feel like most of my conversations go like this: I'll begin talking with someone about a certain topic (that I clearly thought was important enough to share), and about two sentences into my discourse, the phone in their pocket buzzes. So of course they pull it out and start typing.

I pause.

"Go on, I'm listening," they'll say, waving their hand up at me from their phone. Doubtful, I continue speaking. But then some car outside honks and of course they have to turn around to see what all the commotion was about. Then they notice a cute dog walking by. "Oh! Look at that terrier! My friend has one just like it. I think I might get a dog soon." Then they go back to typing on their phone.

Again, I pause.

Realizing they're not going to prompt me to resume this time, I take the initiative upon myself and continue where I left off. After a few more sentences, I finish making my point and stop talking. And wait.

Then... nothing.

"...sooo?" I inquire.

"Uhh.. so what?" They stare back at me blankly.

"Sooo... what do you think about all that?" (along with an implied "I wouldn't have wasted my breath speaking if I didn't value your input and seek your feedback. Why else would I vocalize in your direction?")

"Um, uhh... I don't know. I guess you're probably right. Oh, by the way, do you want go to [random sports event] this weekend? Me and a few friends are probably going to go, and we can get tickets cheaper if we pay by Tuesday."

I worry that in a few more years I'll just quit speaking altogether.

Another important thing is to know what is more engaging than a text message to your conversation partner. (If the answer is nothing, then maybe stop talking to that person.)

This doesn't work if the conversation is important to you but not to them, such as if you need their input on something.

If you need their input, you tell them to put the phone down and please focus. I've had to do this with my friend. I love him to death, but he can't keep his hands off his phone during a conversation.

A calm, steady "hey, I'd really like your focus right now" works wonders.

A lot of this comes down to value. When someone you're talking to pulls their phone out mid-conversation, they are devaluing you over whatever idiotic notification they got. If it's a one-on-one conversation with them, depending on the situation you can start doing something of value to you and put them on hold until you're ready to talk again. However if this happens at a party or something, you can just leave and talk to another set of people. Don't get too hung up on trying to prove a point or have a passionate talk with someone who just isn't there. Move on and have the conversation (or another one!) with someone else.

There are 7 billion people on Earth. If one of them is being an ass with their phone, move on to the next person. If you are already invested in that person, let them know you want their focus.

And also, please don't be that person. If someone is talking to you and your phone buzzes, ignore it. Life goes on. Trust me. If you're expecting a call you need to take, preface any conversation with "Hey I might need to take a call soon." Common sense manners and politeness go a long way.

> I worry that in a few more years I'll just quit speaking altogether.

Why would you worry about that? It can actually be quite liberating. The CEO will email me and ask if I would like to joint the rest of his staff in a pow-wow. I email back: "No". I haven't gotten to the point where I have stopped calling customers or investors back, but in general, this has been working out better for everyone involved.

I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume; but in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, "I would prefer not to."

I agree with you (overall).

Somewhat sad that you pulled sports into the equation as a part of the negative persona. Also, kind of ironic that you didn't pay attention to the sports event they invited you to. :)

(End sportsball shaming!)

It was just an example haha. (I was actually a D1 athlete myself, so I certainly have nothing against sports!)

Consider that those fictional characters have professional writers doing all their lines. It helps a lot.

You don't say whether or not you're a native English speaker, but...

    I am intrigued by erudite speakers. This could be Sean Connery portraying
    James Bond, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, or many others both
    real and fictional, including my current manager. They speak slowly and
    clearly, with carefully chosen words that feel calculated, but they always
    manage to make a lasting impression.

    I'd love to be able to engage my manager in a style of speaking similar to
    his. How can I improve my skills in this area? Are there particular books
    I could read, or podcasts to which I could listen? And, as always, thank
    you in advance for your advice!
My advice:

    1. Spellcheck.
    2. Read what you write out loud to yourself, and edit anything that doesn't
    feel 'natural.'
    3. Brevity.
    4. Read more.
    5. Write more. 
    6. Try taking public speaking courses. Maybe check
    out your local Toastmasters group:

  > I am intrigued by erudite speakers. This could be Sean Connery portraying
  > James Bond, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards, or many others both
  > real and fictional, including my current manager. They speak slowly and
  > clearly, with carefully chosen words that feel calculated, but they always
  > manage to make a lasting impression.
  > I'd love to be able to engage my manager in a style of speaking similar to
  > his. How can I improve my skills in this area? Are there particular books
  > I could read, or podcasts to which I could listen? And, as always, thank
  > you in advance for your advice!
Don't take this the wrong way, but that doesn't sound smart to me. It sounds like someone trying to sound smart.

I don't know... the only bit of that which struck me as "artificial" or "try hard" was using the word "erudite". The word "erudite" feels a bit pretentious. But the rest of your version sounds pretty reasonable to me.

That's why I say, "vocabulary is important" but that it's not about using "big" or "fancy" words. I believe that they key point in using vocabulary well is precision. If you are using words like "stuff" other filler, where there are more precise words that could be used (in the appropriate context) I think you're better off going for the more precise version, IF you can do it without sounding pretentious.

You're right, it sounds forced – very unnatural.

It's not a topic that lends itself well to what you're asking for. Fix some typos; delete some unnecessary sentences; pepper it with an SAT word or two. What else can you do?

Perception is reality. It sounded like the OP wants to more effectively deliver what he has to say. I notice sometimes when I closely listen to people like he's talking about they just having a way of speaking that makes them seem more authoritative.

Kind of related to the Dunn-Kruger effect where you hear people talk about something who aren't really that knowledgeable but have a confidence about it, while those further up the curve can sometimes have impostor syndrome and know they need to work on the delivery of the message.

Listen more, speak less. I can't say I have mastered it myself either. But what I learned in watching others that have that trait is they listen intensely and then respond appropriately with as few words as needed. I am working on the as few words as needed, but that's my two cents.

As for what to look for. Honestly, there are probably some books, but I don't have any recommendations. Instead I'd say, try speaking less, listen more and only say something when you have a point or a reason to speak. And try to be concise and to the point. That is probably 90% of the entire thing you are seeking.

Its about 2 things - content and delivery.

Content - this is similar to what davismwfi said i.e what you're saying actually has to be smart, and directly address the topic very well. Don't beat around the bush, laser focus and say exactly what is required.

Delivery - This is about confidence. Speak slowly, calmly and clearly, keep an upright, open posture and directly look at the other person. Expect that the other person will listen because you have something valuable to say (and the content should match this caliber). Speaking slowly, taking up space with your body, eye contact - all of these things signal assertiveness/confidence.

You can work on delivery all the time, but don't expect to come off like Bond all the time because you have to know exactly what you're talking about, AND the other person has to believe that (very hard in subjective matters unless you've already established a great reputation) to pull that off. I think the delivery should match your confidence about the content - for example, if you sound super confident when you dont know what youre talking about people will eventually peg you as a bullshitter.

Knowledge speaks.

There is no trick to become smart talker. Just attain knowledge in the domain you work or want to become "smart talker".

Once you know enough things about the topic you are discussing you thoughts will be clear and concise.

So your question should be: "How do I become an expert in xyz field so that everyone get a good impression when I talk?".


There is no substitute for knowledge. Just look at Brendan Eich, if you listen to some of his interviews he exhibits few of those attributes the OP poster listed. But after listening to Brendan no one would doubt he is a lot smarter than you or me (at least on technical matters).

Something I haven't seen mentioned here yet:


Write essays, write long blog posts, write 500+ words a day.

Writing helps you learn to clarify, organize, and structure your thoughts. Writing helps you think better.

(And, conversely, read! Read good writers. Read writers who write for the joy of using language. Then work on making your own writing more playful! And, sleep with a thesaurus under your pillow.)

One of the most straight forward things you can do to improve speaking, is to simply speak more slowly. Now I do not mean careful pronouncing every word, but instead focus on completing an entire thought before talking.

If you feel yourself beginning to ramble or becoming nervous. Simply pause, it might seem counter intuitive, but know that you are not pausing for a long as you think you are. And pausing is always better than 'umming' or 'aaahing'.

Also broaden your vocabulary, the best way is simply to read more books. So that next time when you as 'how to talk smart' you instead say 'how do I speak more cohesively'

On exception to the not saying "ummm" rule is when many other people want to speak and you need to say "umm" to keep from losing your slot.

To add to that last point, the most important thing to keep in mind when expanding your vocabulary is knowing when and when not to show it off. Few things come across more poorly than using a "smart" word when a simple one will do just as well.

I think, personally, it's important to realize that there are anti-patterns which people use to seem smart, yet which actually waste time, damage relationships, and make you an asshole.

Focusing on being technically correct, when it's not germane to the issue at hand. Don't use minor mistakes people make to try to "score points," by being correct about some fiddly little detail. Being intelligent is not about getting the high score on a technicality. It's about the real issues.

Another example: Don't mansplain. Talk to people as if there are equals, not as if you are the ultimate authority, and engage with them. Talk to people, not at people. The person you are talking to may well know more than you. Even if they don't, they are worthy of respect, and giving them that respect will make it easier to communicate with them, and your goal in opening your mouth should be communicating, not enjoying the sound of your own voice.

This is especially important to watch for, because of largely unconscious biases that culture gives us, when you talk to women, non native english speakers, and cultural and ethnic minorities, even if cultural minority means: "person who isn't from my state," or "guy who is older and in a suit," That person who isn't from your state may be a celebrated professor in Ohio doing ground breaking research. That old person may have been there when they invented what you are talking about.

see http://tim.dreamwidth.org/1890351.html for more.

3 simple tricks to be more charismatic. Are you ready?

Step 1. Breathe in and breathe out before you speak. The pause makes you more composed. Plus the speaker will think you are a good listener.

Step 2. Don't nod you head more than once per sentence when listening to other people. Too much head movement reflects insecurity and immaturity.

Step 3. Don't rise your inflection at the end of a sentence. Makes you sound like an insecure valley girl.



Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie[1], never mind the title. Written in 1936 and still relevant today. I've recommended to many friends who come back feeling like they have superpowers, it's that good. Personally, I've read it a few times now and still can't wait to read it again.


One of the best pieces of advice I have heard - and admittedly this is in the context of a presentation - is, "state what you will present, present, and state what you presented".

The traditional way of putting it is, "tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em, tell 'em, then tell 'em what you told 'em." It's an awful lot older than Powerpoint. It was probably old before Carnegie got hold of it.

I'm going to waffle a bit and say that it's not technique; it's an effect.

Further, it's not always an effect with a reasonable cause. Have a $5 billion exit, for instance, and I will listen in rapt attention to anything you say that's not asinine. Perhaps not if you write it to the public of HN, but in a private conversation? I'd be impressed, flattered, etc., not necessarily because of what was said or how it was said, but because of who said it. There's a reinforcing effect here where the more leeway the listener gives you, the more rhetorical risks you'll feel like you can take.

Which brings me to my next point: be less accurate. This is a habit (good? bad?) that hackers can pick up because we deal with computers that do care about accuracy and don't care about rhetorical effect.

The harder part here is sacrificing your self-image of someone who doesn't bullshit.

Be comfortable with silence.

Listen, and appear to be listening. (You may in fact be preparing your response on the inside, but your face and body should show that you are listening.)

When the other finishes speaking, pause to reflect. Whether you reflect or not is up to you, you might just be practicing your Clint Eastwood stare.

After a pause, acknowledge what was said, briefly (without paraphrasing or rehashing, unless you want to be a politician), then speak, making your point briefly. Pause while you speak, speak slowly (but not so much more slowly than the general flow of conversation that it becomes noticeable in and of itself).

These tips will give the appearance of consideration and engagement.

The rest is up to you. Have something to say. If you don't, say nothing. Remember the Lesser Known Walken Principle: When I don't know what to do, I do nothing.

(The Better Known Walken Principle is More cowbell. FYI.)

The single best piece of advice I've been given is "in conversation, always wait two seconds before responding."

It gives you time to think (and avoid saying something stupid), and also makes everything you say seem thoughtful, even when it isn't. You'll also instantly become "a great listener"

"Talk smart" is not exactly a good way to describe this.

You should be able to improve by simply slowing down and considering what you want to say before you say it.

I think this is the best advice, and combine it with don't say anything if you don't have anything to add.

A lot of this comes down to confidence. How comfortable are you with yourself? A lot of our communication is non verbal. How slow and steady you talk. How your body opens up to or turns away from others. Do you lean in, or are you leaning away? Are your eyes bugging with excitement or are they half open and disinterested?

A lot of the people who "talk smart" are actually moving smart. Chin slightly up, shoulders back, arms uncrossed, slightly leaning back. This all projects confidence, and if you are exuding confidence, people listen to you. That's assuming you have something interesting to say =].

Another thing you can do to project confidence is to actually be confident. This is earned by accomplishing hard things in your life, and putting in a lot of spiritual work to be happy with who you are as a person. You can lean back and hold your head up as much as you want, but if you're insecure or unsure of yourself, you will come across as a phony.

Be the person you want to be. Be the person who is exactly where you are supposed to be right now both in mind and spirit. Confidence will follow. And so will conversation.

Another thing you can do is to just be a great listener. Don't just wait for your chance to speak. If you have a really great point you want to bring up but the conversation diverges, take a breath, and let it go. Slow your mind and be present.

Charm and wit take practice. So if you want to be good, go to a lot of parties with different types of people and talk to everyone you can. Practice, practice, practice. Nobody ever got good at this stuff by sitting at home listening to podcasts. Get out there are start conversations with people. Learn to intuit people's moods. Is this person sad? Maybe they lost someone recently. Talk about loss. Relate to them. Is this person happy? Bring up a cool experience you had and see if they'll share one they had. This kind of intuition comes from practice, from learning to read bodies and faces and moods.

Keep in mind I'm not an expert, but as an introvert I've been working on all this for a long, long time.

Good luck =].

Great question, thanks for asking this! Love the responses so far.

This doesn't answer the question, but this video gives great perspective on how one can be perceived depending on his body language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk_SMBIW1mg

It's not always about words, body language is very important in making the impression.

Great insight. There's also a very good class about body language on Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/body-language-for-entrepreneurs/). Body language has a huge impact in the way other people perceive us.

A cool exercise is having a conversation only by listening very attentively to what the other person is saying (never, ever, breaking eye contact, being present all the time) and just making different facial expressions without saying a single word.

> All these people speak slowly and clearly

Perhaps, you too, should speak slowly and clearly. Use adjectives. Add a bit of color and side-story.

Our brains have a speed limit. It's mostly the same for pretty much everybody, but some of us have learned the skill of slowing down the conversation.

If you slow the conversation down, you have more time to think and come up with something witty to say.

So, speak slowly, add adjectives, add color and side-stories, metaphors, I can go on, but you get the picture.

Do not add stupidity like "like", "you know", "uhmmm", etc.

That's your brain freezing up because you're moving too fast and it is trying to compensate by inserting noise to slow down the conversation. Slow down the conversation deliberately and clearly by adding context.

> Do not add stupidity like "like"...

Ironic, is it?

My attempt at humor.

There are many factors. Mostly I would say it has to do with first acquiring the necessary self-confidence and then practicing a lot (which is also a big part of acquiring a lot of confidence).

A very good book, with lots of exercises (that you should practice often if you really want to get better) is The Charisma Myth (http://www.amazon.com/Charisma-Myth-Science-Personal-Magneti...).

Good luck in your learning journey!

Ad populum, ad hominem, ad personam... Those are argumentations that make you lose all credibilty so try not using them.

The most important part after this is being honest, things must come out naturally just as shown by lies detectors. When you try to lie your brain makes a lot more effort so don't do it and your speech will be way smoother and won't tend to contradict itself.

It counts for extrapolation too, be honest about your knowledge or you will make a fool of yourself

Most comments seem a bit too focused on the content. What I'd do is just get some sound clips that you like, put them into something Adobe Audition. Record yourself trying to mimic them, compare the relevant graphs (pitch/time/loudness one being the most relevant probably), you should quickly develop an understanding of what vocally makes them sound the way they do. I did that a bit to examine accents in different languages.

My impression is that there is (a) smart and (b) appearing smart. There are many tactics to win the popularity contest: conning people into believing you are smart, but if asked they couldn't put their finger on why they vote you as smartest in the room.

So, many of the tactics listed by others in this thread are to con others, and maybe that has more value since the interest may be in climbing the social ladder in a corporate culture.

I'm tempted to say, take acting lessons and hire good screenwriters.

Less flippantly: start by knowing what you have to say. Eliminate the trivia in favor of the main points. Come back to the main points more than once. One of my brother's law school professors suggested watching televangelists. I know I learned something from my brother's quotations of his instructors at Officer Candidate School.

It's mentioned offhand in some of the replies here, but one simple thing that will do a lot for you:

Eliminate "umm" (and all filler words) from your speech.

It's a devil of a habit to break, and for most people takes great focus & the cooperation of your peers (to point out to you when you slip) but it makes you sound sharper and forces you to think more carefully about what you say.

I wish I could eliminate 'like' from my conversation. I do try and make a conscious effort to reduce 'umm' and 'err' but someone 'like' keeps slipping into casual conversation.

I'm much better in professional settings and I have a tendency to pause when stuck, rather than fill in with filler words. Casually and socially I'm much more likely to fall back on useless terms.

It is a very tricky habit to escape. I wonder if you could build an all for that, that listened to your speech and buzzed when it picked up filler words?

Find a few friends who also would like to quit using filler words. Monitor each other. Have some keyword you say when somebody just said a filler word.

One effective technique is to speak less often. I fail dramatically on this one, but it is something I have been trying to work on. A technique used by Japanese businessmen is to have one of their juniors do all their talking at a meeting. They just sit and observe and occasionally whisper one or two words to their colleague.

The answer varies depending on cultural context. i.e. Long silences are OK in eastern cultures and reflects deep thought and contemplation but awkward in Western. Name dropping enhances the speaker's reputation to an extend in western cultures but too "showy" in eastern cultures.

I am surprised no one else has mentioned: know what you are talking about.

The smartest people I have ever met speak well because they know the subject matter. They are also comfortable admitting what they do not know.

And as others have mentioned: read a great deal of well written books or plays and attend some writing classes.

Audible has a few lecture series from the "Great courses" which I found helpful in this subject: Effective communication skills, How conversation works: 6 lessons for better communication, Influence: Mastering life's most powerful skill

Talk to yourself often. Have loud arguments with yourself. It improves coherence, because you can easily tell if you are babbling or stalling. This practice is enough to to set you on the path to 'talk smart'.

I think generally reading, learning & connecting with more people will help you to link ideas from very different aspects of life. The more you know, the more interesting conversations you can have. Just my 2 cents

This TED Talk by Julian Treasure is a great starting point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIho2S0ZahI

Speak slower. I once read that the slower someone talks the more people believe them, the more mature and thoughtful they sound, and belief in their accuracy was improved.

Why would do you want to talk differently? I think you should forget about the whole thing. People who try to effect others in a particular way end up looking silly.

I'm going to assume (hope) that the mistakes in your comment are intended to be ironic.

That's just wrong though. It can be incredibly useful to think about how you communicate and try to change. Trying to ape someone else's communication might be doomed to failure, but you should reflect on your own communication, on specific cases where you felt interaction went especially well or poorly, and see what you can learn from them. If you think about it often enough, eventually you'll just start using the ideas you come up with in your regular communication naturally.

Take voice lessons. They are relatively cheap and very effective at allowing you to "sound impressive".

What are voice lessons? Where would I be able to find them?

'Voice lessons' are what actors, politicians, etc. take to make themselves sound authoritative - teaching cadence, intonation, vocal range, emphasis, accents, etc. You should be able to find them at acting schools or local community colleges, but there are a lot of freelance coaches out there. You might also find them under "voice coach" or "vocal instruction". Actually, taking acting lessons may be worth it as well.

Only express ideas which you understand thoroughly and clearly, and do it in the simplest way possible.

A few thoughts:

1. Improv classes (see discussion elsewhere in this thread)

2. Vocabulary - sounding "smart" doesn't necessarily mean "using lots of big words", but vocabulary does matter. If your speech is littered with too many "filler" words like "stuff" and other vague terms, you sound less informed than if you use more precise terminology. Having comprehensive domain knowledge in the field your discussing and knowing the vernacular, can help a lot.

3. I think you can learn a lot by listening to, or reading, speeches and essays by great orators and communicators. You can almost think of this as "modeling" in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming, not Natural Language Processing) terms. If you think Obama, or Bill Clinton, or Martin Luther King, or Elon Musk, or Vladimir Putin, whoever, is a great communicator, search out and listen to and read their speeches. Winston Churchill is somebody interesting in this regard, because there's quite a bit of his stuff available online for free.



4. "It's not what you say, it's how you say it." This quote is used a lot in the "pickup artist" scene, and there's a lot of truth to it. Delivery is crucial. This means tonality, volume, cadence, body language, everything. Something as simple as your posture effects how you communicate with other people. There is a lot of material out there on this, but a popular source is something called the "Alexander Technique". There are also a lot of books on body language. And there are voice coaches who can help fix quirks with your voice itself.

5. There's an old saying "the best way to learn to write well is to write a lot and read a lot" (paraphrased slightly). I think the same thing holds if you transform it to "the best way to learn to speak well is to speak a lot and read and listen a lot". Join Toastmasters (or find some other venue where you can speak in public) and start preparing and giving talks and speeches. Then turn around and consume as many talks and speeches as you can, and pay attention to the details of how the people who impress you speak. You can probably find some great TED talks and the like online to model from.

6. It sounds like an outdated idea, and it may offend the sensibilities of some reading this, but your physical appearance matters as well. If you look physically imposing, people have a tendency to be (at least slightly) more deferential and pay more attention to you. There was a book, I think by Bo Dietl, where the author made the point that "You always get more respect when it appears that you could kick the ass of anybody at the table". I'm not saying you need to get Arnold Schwarzenegger huge, but being physically fit has a lot of benefits. Lifting a few weights here and there might be a bad idea. Broad, strong shoulders, muscular arms, a thick neck, decent chest, etc., that give of an appearance of vitality and strength are probably good things to have.

7. Another thing to consider: If you find people have a tendency to cut you off and start talking over you, do not be afraid to make a little gesture (hold up a hand with your index finger, or index and middle fingers, pointing upward) and/or simply say "Hang on, I'm not finished yet" or "please let me finish making my point".

8. To revisit the NLP thing a moment... there's a LOT of material out there on using very specific speech patterns and linguistic constructs to help get your point across, effect other people's mental states, manage conversations, etc. There's book after book on this, but for starters, I'd look for "Sleight of Mouth" by Robert Dilts, "Reframing" by Richard Bandler, "The Persuasion Skills Black Book" by Rintu Basu, and "Pitching Anything" by Oren Klaff.





Talk with smart people. Get off your computer.

Hm, as a professional spy, I don't know... it just comes naturally.


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