The Specific Behavior That Makes People Listen To You, According To Research

Photo: Susannah Townsend | Canva 
woman showing her confidence in front of the camera

When you think about ways to gain influence at work, you probably think about working harder and hoping it is noticed to get a promotion.

 But science says you might want to focus less on your work and be pretentious by acting like you're smarter than them ... even when you're not.

That's right: act like you know more than you actually do. 

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A 2012 study published in the Journal of Personality And Social Psychology came to these conclusions by having MBA students work together for a semester to review a list of historical names and events.

Some of the things on the list, however, were completely fake, but students with a high level of confidence and who pretended to know the fake terms were also the ones who had more influence over their peers.

Some of the terms included Maximilien Robespierre, Lusitania, Wounded Knee, Pygmalion, and Doctor Faustus. Unbeknownst to the participants, some of the names were made up. The fake information included names like Bonnie Prince Lorenzo, Queen Shaddock, and Galileo Lovano.

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The researchers then deemed those who picked the most fake information the most overly confident because they believed they were more knowledgeable than they actually were.

They then held a survey at the end of the semester, and those same overly confident individuals (who said they had picked the fake information) were the most popular and had achieved high social status in their groups.

Basically, people trust overconfident idiots because they tend to be the loudest and most stubborn. How upsetting.

Don't be alarmed though, as the people who had achieved high status were thought to be good people. "This overconfidence did not come across as narcissistic,” says Cameron Anderson, the Lorraine Tyson Mitchell Chair in Leadership and Communication II at the Haas School. “The most overconfident people were considered the most beloved.”

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"This suggests that more overconfident individuals were perceived as more competent by their partners, as compared to individuals with more accurate self-perceptions. In fact, overconfidence had as strong a relationship with partner-rated competence as did actual ability," write the authors of the study.

You're probably wondering if other people will hate you if you start acting overconfident, but the results do show that people rate their overconfident peers higher.

“Our studies found that overconfidence helped people attain social status. People who believed they were better than others, even when they weren’t, were given a higher place on the social ladder. And the motive to attain higher social status thus spurred overconfidence,” explains Anderson.

So, want a chance at that next promotion? Fake it, be overconfident, and apply for that opening.

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Nicole Weaver is a senior writer for Showbiz Cheat Sheet whose work has been featured in New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and more.