Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

How Did You Get So Smart?

To Improve Your Credibility, Cite Your References

• Most serious conversations are peppered with opinions, ideas and general thoughts, but rarely with verbal footnotes.  

• Most casual conversations are about interests and activities but rarely include even a hint about how the participants learn anything new–if they do.

• At work, we are often quick to say how things should be done or done differently, but we don’t cite anything to support our suggestions.

• We start on a new project or are given a new assignment and anyone hearing us talk about it would assume we are learning by doing, not by studying or researching.

• We’re interviewed for a job, promotion or in-house assignment change and we answer questions without referring to the training, reading, researching or self-initiated experience we used as a basis for our responses.  So, for all the interviewers know, we just pulled the answers out of our hats–or elsewhere.

Let Others Know How You Know What You Know

All of those situations are reasons why we should keep ourselves informed, aware and knowledgeable–and let others know about our efforts when it’s appropriate to do so. You don’t have to drop book titles and college classes in every conversation, but you certainly can let people know, now and then, that you keep yourself informed. Let them know you are continually expanding your perspectives.  At the very least, introduce some new topics into your conversations.

Some ideas:

“I just started (or finished or are reading) a really interesting book about ____ .”

“I’ve talked to four or five other supervisors to help me figure out the best way to deal with this.”

“I wanted to refresh my thinking on this subject and I saw they were going to do a show about it on TV, so I watched it.”

“I had been hearing about _______and I did some Internet research on it. It was a lot of new information for me.”

“We were taught that technique in training a few months ago so I tried it and it worked!”  

“I know that ________suggests handling this in a different way, but I’ve given it a lot of thought and read as much as I could on it, and I think we should ____.” 

“Over the years I’ve watched how supervisors like ___, ____ and____ have handled conflicts. I’ve developed responses that I think combines the best of all them.”

Those kind of attributions and acknowledgements may not present you as the genius who thought of everything yourself, but they let people know you are aware of the need to keep learning and to apply what you’ve learned. That’s even better!

March 13th, 2011 Posted by | Assessment Centers and Interviews, Personal and Professional Development, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 6 comments


  1. Excellent advice! In interviews I listen for references such as you suggest. Another way to cite a reference in conversations is to replace “They say” with an actual name or resource. If the name can’t be remembered at least cite the type of information, such as an anti-this or pro-that document. You might like to know that I quote YOU in discussions!

    Comment by Careerist | March 14, 2011

  2. So, I tested this in a meeting with some city employees in Greeley today. I found a way to mention that I’m reading Predicably Irrational (which I think you would like.) We talked about it so much the meeting coordinator had to stop us and get going on the meeting! Afterwards three people asked me the name of the book. It was awesome! Thanks!

    Comment by P.B. | March 14, 2011

  3. After I wrote may comment I got a text from someone else in the meeting asking me for the title! Amazing!

    Comment by P.B. | March 14, 2011

  4. Tina says: Thank you, Careerist, for your comment. I like that idea about giving the type of reference. I also like thinking you quote me, but sometimes that might not be a good thing!

    P.B., based on your recommendation I’ll get the book. I just looked at a review and it looks interesting! Thanks to both of you for commenting. It makes me feel loved! 🙂

    Comment by TLR | March 14, 2011

  5. Gee, I’m sorry I haven’t been commenting lately, if that’s what it takes for you to feel loved! I’ve never had anyone ask me how I got so smart but I’ve had a few ask me that when smart was just the first part of the word! LOL

    Comment by wiseacre | March 15, 2011

  6. Tina says: Wiseacre, I’m now heavy sighing. I do enjoy comments though and hope you’ll keep reading and letting me know your opinions and ideas. Seriously!

    Comment by TLR | March 15, 2011

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