How not to be stupid

Normal people can behave stupidly even though they have average intelligence or better. It's usually because of a few simple reasons:

  • They have the wrong idea of what's going on
  • They aren't aware of relevant information
  • They were armed with the wrong information
  • They miscalculated or misjudged something
From nursing my own bruises--physical and mental--I've come up with a few rules that have helped me avoid most of the dumb mistakes that make me look stupid. They either attempt to prevent one of the above shortcomings, or provide a better way of coping with them.
  1. Shut your trap
    Or: Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Choose to say things deliberately, and if the moment passes then the moment passes
  2. Pay attention
    Stop and look around you. Listen. Ask people to repeat themselves if you feel like you didn't get them the first time
  3. Ask lots of questions
    Get in the habit of asking at least one clarifying question before you answer any complex question. Get in the habit of asking questions when someone gives you an assignment
  4. Learn how to play it cool in different situations
    Learn how to react intelligently to being caught in the wrong, being caught in a compromising position, having someone lose their temper with you, not getting what you want, failing to see the obvious until it's pointed out to you, and so-on. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has hard luck, but stupid people flip-out, invent lame and poorly-thought excuses on the spot, or try to scream and shout themselves back into favor. Doesn't work. They just end up here. Train yourself to use a phrase like "Aw, shucks" or "Well, shit" spoken in deadpan when you get caught in the wrong, followed with the habit of immediately diving into what the truth is and how you could have made the mistake in the first place

If all else fails

  1. People respect confidence more than correctness
    Arrogant people run the world, and the meek are still waiting to inherit it. So what's the trick to greatness? Behave like you know what you're doing, but don't do too much. Let other people do most things for you