I'm pretty stupid. But I know how to look smart. So I'm going to share how I do it so that you can all succeed in looking smart with your significant others and their friends/family.
We think, to look intelligent, we need to be an expert on something. Maybe. But wouldn't it be better to be able to talk about anything at any time with anybody? How smart would you look then?
So, here it is:
It's better to learn a little bit about many things, than it is to learn a lot about a few things.
Have I ever proved the hypothesis? Of course! I go to sources like Wikipedia learning interesting factoids that can be applied anywhere.
My first girlfriend's dad was an architect. We had just learned about Ancient Rome in school when I went to meet him for the first time. I smoothly hit him with this line:
"So do you think that the arch was the most important architectural discovery to get us where we are today in Western architecture?"
This disarmed him, and gave him a chance to talk about his passion. It also made me look interested. Talking is a lot more fun than listening. When you empower someone to talk, you look like a good listener (even though most of the time we tune out and hear white noise).
You might get nervous about follow up questions. Me too! Like any good lie, you can't get in too deep. The best thing to do is to play dumb after scratching the surface. Suppose my ex-girflriend's dad came back with this after explaining the arch's role in Western Architecture:
"What would you say was the biggest development for Asian architecture?"
Simple. Apply another fact I've heard from random sources regarding the American education system:
"You know, sir, I'd love to learn more about Asian architecture, but unfortunately American school systems have dropped the ball when it comes to Asian studies. But, you tell me."
And he's talking again about his passion, thinking I'm smart still.
So, use my rule of just going for C's in high school/college meant that as long as I learned 75% of something, I could get by.
Before you meet parents, gather info on them from your boyfriend or girlfriend. Not only will this prepare your little range of facts you gather but you will look really interested in their parents-always a plus. But, whatever you do, don't learn anything that they won't be able to explain. You will make them feel stupid, and also might have to offer answers-NOT what you want to do.
Sometimes you can just turn your cluelessness over ONE WORD into something good.
Suppose your significant other's mom is in finance.
"You know, Mrs. Doe, I struggle with my finances. Would you have some time to help me strategize? Like, what is an IRA anyway?"
So, in reality, I'm stupid and lazy for not learning what an IRA is. I really don't care what an IRA is. But I've turned that into a positive.
Here are some facts I have at the ready for different people I need to impress:
Their Marine Biologist Parent
"Tell me, sir/m'am, why don't sharks don't get cancer?"
Their Pissed Off Teenage Sister Who Likes Punk Music
"Punk really took off in the late '70's. Those bands used to cut records in their garage. Check out the Misfits to get a sense for that dirty DIY production style. Have you thought about picking up guitar-punk is based on power chords, really easy to learn."
Their College Professor Friend who Has a PHD
"Tell me, Doctor, what is your interpretation of Kafka's "Metamorphosis"
NOTE: This one makes you look really smart and it's easy to achieve because that book is only 59 pages-ignore the 150 pages of analysis, leave that to whoever you are trying to impress.
Their Fashionista Sister
"Ah, you have Gwynneth's Fendi Python bag from Us Weekly. You wear it better." (Warning: This might make a guy look gay if he says it)
So don't waste your time learning about one thing and trying to look like an expert. Empower the expert of your choice by sparking conversation with them.
There are some important subjects to know well-sports, for example, is a good one to go in-depth with for dads/brothers. You can ignore politics altogether-chances are the last one they brought home was a jerk about politics anyway. You'll be a (smart) breath of fresh air if you leave out politics.
Do you think this works? Would using this strategy have helped when you met your significant other's parents/friends for the first time?
...or am I just a bullsh*t artist?