As part of the process of starting this new site and melding it with my previous writing, coaching, and websites, I thought it would be fun to share some older but relevant posts with you. Think of it as a bit of “Throwback Thursday” feature.
There are times when holding back on what you know is necessary – surprises, maybe something that would make someone feel bad, or maybe a friend asks you to keep a secret. But there are also times when you hold back and “play dumb” when we really do have something to say.
In today’s post, I have 5 steps to help you stop “Dumbing it Down”, figure out why it’s happening, and chose an alternative approach to help you shine forward, with your true and authentic voice.
Do you ever “play dumb”?
There are many reasons you may resort to doing this, to dumbing it down when you really could help someone out. Sometimes you do it to not hurt another’s feelings, or because we feel that a “superior” may not like someone else knowing more information, or maybe you are afraid of your intelligence being taken as arrogant or “nerdy”. But no matter what or why our reason, one thing is true. When you play dumb, you start to lose your voice – the true authentic you.
These situations can come up quite often, especially when you are at work, in your relationships, or with your family. Anywhere that you might feel like you don’t want to step on toes or cause a rift, you may find you are dumbing it down and not stirring the pot.
Here are 5 Ways you might be “Playing Dumb” and what to do instead:
1) Say what you mean and mean what you say:
There are time when what you really want to say isn’t what you actually say. You pretend not to know something just to spare another persons feelings. You mean this with the best of intentions but in reality, you are making it harder for you and the other person involved.
When you are with someone at work, they might ask a question and you pretend like you don’t know the answer, even though you know a little bit and just don;t want them to feel bad. You side with them, saying “Oh yeah, this is confusing. I have no idea what to do!” just to make them feel better about it. Does this help? Nope. Instead, you could say what you mean and mean what you say. If someone asks a questions and you know a little you could say “Oh that. It can be really confusing, especially at first. I have used it a few times. Want some help?“. You mean it, you day it, and you help them out.
2) Let go of the Fear of being smart:
Smart is fun, smart is sassy, smart helps make the world go round. But smart can also be seen as “nerdy”, pompous or downright bitchy, Sometimes you might be hiding your smartness in order to not seem arrogant or an outcast.
Imagine you are on your first day at a new job, you attend a big meeting, your boss asks for ideas on a new project, and you have a fantastic idea that could launch the company to the next level. Instead of piping up, you hold back, you are new after all. The company ends up using a less fantastic idea, it slowly crumbles, and a year later you are all out of a job. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but get the picture? If you have a great idea or know something fantastic, its your duty to share it -otherwise you are doing everyone a disservice.
3) Stop underestimating others:
The person you might be playing dumb with might actually know what you are talking about or might be seeking your help. Instead of deciding what they want, offer to help if they need it.
What if you were at a local coffee shop, chatting with a friend about your favorite yoga class. A lady walks in who looks like yoga would be the last thing on her mind. You hear her ask the barista about any studios in town or where to find a good workout. Instead of sharing, you assume she wouldn’t be interested, or tell her about some other class you heard of that was just “ok”. A few weeks later, you find out she is a well-known teacher from another state who just moved into the area, and you missed out of the opportunity to have her at your favorite studio. If you had spoken your mind, things could have turned out much differently 😉
4) Be Authentic:
If you aren’t dumb, then playing dumb isn’t truthful. It’s not who you are, it’s not authentic, and it’s not real. If you are smart and you play dumb, you are basically lying to yourself and others. In order to be authentic and really be you, you have to use your true voice, even when you might know something that others do not.
What if you were at with your friends and they asked a question about how to bake a cake. You’ve been baking cakes your whole life and are freaking amazing at it, but you don;t want them to feel bad so you say, “Yeah, I have absolutely no idea. Don’t ask me anything about baking“. Then you get dubbed as the terrible baker, since you yourself deemed yourself an awful baker, and now every party you have to suffer through less than your best cakes. Not helpful to you or them. Instead be true. Say “I love baking! It’s definitely not alwasy easy, but I really enjoyed learnign how. Maybe I can give you a recipe sometime or bake a cake for you if you need one.” Boom – no feelings hurt, you don;t sound snotty, and you stay true to yourself.
5) Embrace your Intelligence – without being rude:
Offer your help, without making the other person feel bad It is easy to pretend you don’t know the answer, but it is even easier to give an answer and make someone feel like an idiot for not knowing. Perhaps you’ve been looking for a new item in the grocery store – one that you have never used before and you don’t really know what it looks like. If you asked the attendant, and they knew, but pretended not to so they could spare your feelings, that wouldn’t really help you out at all, would it? And what if you asked and they said “Yeah we have that, its right over there. Everyone knows that” while rolling their eyes. Also not helpful. If you asked about the item, and they said “We do have that. I can show you exactly where it is” they would not only be helping you, but you wouldn’t feel stupid and they would be authentically helpful.
Do you often find you “dumb it down”? When do you dumb it down the most and what step can you take to stay true to your voice in the future?
Say what you mean, mean what you say and let your voice shine forward from a place of truth.
PS If you want a video version of this, check it out here.