Think of an uncomfortable situation: a job interview, a blind date, meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, or being stuck in a long car ride with someone you hardly know. In all of these situations, you may find yourself struggling to keep up with a conversation about a topic you don't really understand! Well, next time you find yourself pretending to understand a topic when you’re under pressure, keep these tips in mind!
1. Up the Vocab
Basic, I know, but effective. Let’s pretend that you’re in the following awkward situation: You’re meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time, they are history buffs and introduce the topic of the War of 1812. In your mind, that’s vaguely familiar—maybe you heard it once a thousand years ago during 8th grade history—but basically you’re at a loss for words! In that case, make the words you do use intelligent! Speaking with elevated diction makes you sound like you’re more of a master on a topic than you actually are! However, make sure you don’t use the wrong words, or else you’ll sound even more foolish!
2. Engage the People around You
A simple side step to difficult questions is answering that question with another question! If they ask “How well do you think Madison dealt with the war?” and you scarcely remember who James Madison is, simply respond along the lines of “How well does any president deal with war?” You may even be able to coax out some laughs and make a good impression, all while dodging a conversational bullet!
3. Fake Confidence
The most noticeable sign of a lack of knowledge is a lack of confidence. When fielding questions and trying to participate in the conversation, don’t look nervous. Twirling your hair, excessively taking sips of your water, and glancing at the door are all dead giveaways of nerves. However, if you speak confidently, avoid hesitation, and stick to your opinions, the people around you won’t notice that you’re completely faking your confidence!
4. Refer to Other Sources
If you don’t know anything relating to your topic, but know of movies, books, and lectures relating to it, mention what you know! Simply dropping a title like “The War that Both Sides Won” (even if all you know about that book is the title you saw as you were walking through Barnes and Noble) can impress your boyfriend’s parents! They will believe that you’re a well-informed person!
5. Reference Your Own Experiences
This tool gets easier as the conversation progresses. After a while, you may get the gist of the war; it was a war between Britain and the U.S. that started with Britain kidnapping U.S. soldiers, and is now known as the “second war of independence”. If you can relate that to a previous relationship or friendship, where, after things were over, the other person wouldn’t stop pestering you, you’ll appear to have a stronger grasp on the topic and impress the people around you.
When worst comes to worst, nod. Avoid looking nervous, jump in when you can, but simply nod, and look like you’re being intellectually stimulated—even if you hate history!
7. Go off on a Tangent
The best thing about conversations is that they can take many different paths to dozens of different topics! But sometimes, you have to give the topic a little nudge and steer it in the right direction. When you’re struggling to understand an unfamiliar topic, simply change the topic! Take the conversation off on a tangent to something you really know.
It’s never any fun to feel like you’re in the dark on any topic! But sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got and just fake it until you make it! How do you pretend to understand a topic under pressure?