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Why I Play Dumb - The Perks of Playing Dumb

The fine art of playing dumb gets way too much flack these days. What makes pretending to be smart such a good idea? Why is it so important to feign competence and control when more often than not, we lack both?

Don't get me wrong- I have plenty of reason to pretend that I know what I'm doing. Or at least, I apparently have grounds for pretending to be smart. I graduated salutatorian from high school, and graduated at the top of my class in business school. I even gave one of them fancy speeches at graduation, and they gave me a bunch of medals and a big shiny clock (the clock, by the way, runs slow, which is a perfect metaphor for my mental capacity).

If I'm smart, I'm only smart enough to know that I'm dumb. And that playing dumb is, on the whole, much more efficient and beneficial than being the know-it-all. To argue my case, I'll share with you the top benefits of playing dumb. After reading this article, you might find yourself playing the fool right along with me.

Fess up!

Playing Dumb Helps You Get Smart

I thought I'd start this out with a real zinger. Yep- I bet you never thought that playing dumb actually helps you become a more intelligent individual, but guess what: it totally does.

Let us observe this truth in a classroom setting. Student A likes to believe she's smart. And she would like her classmates to believe that she's smart as well. For this reason, she tries to hide her ignorance, and avoids asking what she sees to be dumb questions. The obvious problem with this approach is that her ignorance goes uncured.

Student B, on the other hand, is fine with playing dumb. Fully comfortable with playing the fool, Student B is perfectly happy to ask dumb questions should he not understand something being taught, and is therefore more likely to get a firm grasp on whatever concepts are being taught.

In the end, Student B is able to get more out of classes than Student A because he is willing to go the extra mile to resolve any gaps in understanding he might confront through the course of a lecture. Student B is even helping his fellow students out from time to time by asking questions (dumb and otherwise) as chances are that other students (including Student A) are wondering the same thing he is, but don't have the gumption to speak up.

Dumb down and nom on some humble pie!

Dumb down and nom on some humble pie!

Why Bother?

Playing Dumb Keeps You Humble

Another small problem with insisting on being the smart person in the room is it puts one at risk at getting a big head. On the other hand, when one plays dumb, one constantly reminds oneself that there is room to grow and room to learn from others.

I will admit that there is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes it is very important to play up one's strengths. But doing so constantly closes more doors than it opens. In addition to turning other people off, taking the smart angle all the time can close one's mind to new people, opportunities, perspectives, and ideas.

When one is humble, one is far more likely to have an open mind and to be willing to explore and accept new concepts and possibilities. To a full mind, the world is closed. Discrete. Finite. To a vacant, humble mind, the world is vast, mysterious, and open.

I would much rather be humble and dumb than smart, proud, and isolated. And playing dumb helps me to maintain that fresh perspective, no matter how much disdain or disillusionment I might be encouraged to harbor.

Playing Dumb Makes for an Excellent Poker Face

There are many sorts of poker faces- the straight one, where someone remains utterly constant and unreadable, the decoy one, where someone reveals a fake tell to manipulate your actions (think bleeding-eye-dude Le Chiffre in Casino Royale), and my personal favorite, the playing dumb fake.

The playing-dumb poker face only works once, but it still makes for an excellent upset if you can pull it off.

In the classic poker game scenario, it works thusly: the kids all invite you in on their poker night, and you bashfully agree to join in, not admitting that you're absolutely brilliant at the game, but rather saying that you're a total beginner and you hope they go easy on you. They guffaw, say they'll play nicely, and anticipate, with great relish, absolutely tearing you to pieces. Then, come poker night, you trounce them, mercilessly. It makes for an incredibly satisfying upset.

This exact same fake can be applied to pretty much anything. What's more, the playing-dumb-poker-fake is a great way for smarty pants to dip their feet into the playing dumb pool as, at least in the end, they still come away looking like a big fat smarty pants.

Guy with gun: Heheheh I got such a good deal - this fool knows NOTHING of negotiation Guy with hood: LOL. I just played dumb and got his horse in exchange for that cigarette he's smoking.

Guy with gun: Heheheh I got such a good deal - this fool knows NOTHING of negotiation Guy with hood: LOL. I just played dumb and got his horse in exchange for that cigarette he's smoking.

You Get Excellent Deals

Many people approach negotiations- financial and otherwise, by being exceedingly shrewd. But if two shrewd people enter a negotiation, the situation quickly reduces to a stalemate.

The best way around this is to still enter negotiations with a shrewd and sharp mindset, but to appear outwardly dumb or gullible. In this manner, your counterpart will have a less clear idea of what you're going for, or might even let his/her guard down, in which case you'll be free to manipulate negotiations in your favor.

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I have found that playing dumb while also feigning disinterest can really bring on the discounts. Another fun trick is to really do your research, play dumb, and then reveal just a hint of your extensive knowledge after your opponent has tried to pull a fast one on you. This really breaks him/her down, and may even encourage him/her to give up an aggressive stance altogether, as you have just demonstrated that you're much smarter than your counterpart thought you were.

Folks Take Care Of You

I play dumb a lot when I travel. Part of this is because I am legitimately extra dumb in foreign environments, however I also play up my stupidity when traveling alone because people are more likely to help me out.

Now, maybe it helps of you're a relatively young girl wearing little dresses and the like, but I have found that when any typical person comes across a genial, polite foreigner who is utterly clueless, one feels compelled to help out.

People have done the nicest things for me because of my apparent (and real) stupidity. I have done the nicest things for clueless people. Generally nice people just feel compelled to take newbies and other clueless folks under their wings. Hence playing dumb can be an excellent means of getting some extra help from time to time.

Play dumb to spare people from their own embarrassing mishaps

Play dumb to spare people from their own embarrassing mishaps

Playing Dumb Gives You (& Others) Plausible Deniability

Every day, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people play dumb in the pursuit of plausible deniability. I am by no means independent from this group, however when I play dumb in such cases, the plausible deniability I generate is for others and not myself.

Let me put it this way- I am a complete coward when it comes to relationships. That, and I am exceedingly picky (and Stormtroopers are hard to come by these days). So chances are if a guy has a thing for me, I have to find a way to turn him down.

Because I generally do not want to hurt feelings, I play dumb when guys start suggesting a more-than-friends friendship. This grants them plausible deniability and enables them to reverse their tactics without openly admitting they might have feelings for me, which spares their pride and saves them from any embarrassment. The clueless-to-special-feelings act also spares me the uncomfortable act of overtly rejecting anyone, which I suck at doing.

This tactic should be able to work for guys trying to lightly let down girls just as well as it works for me. It might even work better, since sometimes gals are a bit better at taking a hint. So if you're a coward, take this one for a spin!

Consider Your Friendships

You Can Boost Your Buddies' Egos

Everybody likes the occasional ego boost, and one of the most satisfying kind involves an ego boost regarding one's intellect.

Face it. You like it when you feel smarter than other people. It means you're in control; that you're in a position of power and greater status and greater overall fitness. The world, which is usually rather confusing and chaotic seems, at least for a moment, calm and ordered.

By playing dumb, you can be a nice person every now and then and let other people feel this nice ego boost from time to time. It takes very little effort, but can really make someone's day. If you're one of those jerks who always insists on being right, I strongly recommend this practice - you just might find that your friends find you slightly less irritating. You might even become more popular.

Just keep in mind that playing dumb to puff up your friends should be practiced in moderation. Do this too much and you'll come across as insincere and/or excessively stupid and/or a total sycophant.

You Get More Insider Info

When people think you're dumber than a bag o' hammers, they tend to let their guard down and say stuff around you that they might not otherwise say. Playing dumb has gotten me in on some rather interesting gossip, not to mention other stuff...

Unfortunately for me, I am pretty much socially retarded (in other words, I am as socially dumb as I appear- if not more so), so all that gossip and juicy stuff goes in one ear and out the other. But it doesn't have to be that way for you.

Just remember- if you decide to pass on any insider intel you hear, you'd better be sure nobody can trace it back to you, or else your cover is totally blown. Jus' sayin'.

Playing Dumb Offers More Flexibility

When I play dumb, I tend to have an open mind. Just as playing dumb allows one to ask stupid questions, feigning cluelessness stops one from shutting others down when they're explaining their personal points of view. This enables one to learn about different people, cultures, religious beliefs, and all sorts of things.

What's more, playing dumb enables one to more easily go with the flow and try new things. I'm not suggesting you play dumb so well that you actually make stupid decisions or that you open your mind to bad memes, but consider isolating the skeptic in your mind and allowing it to have a dialogue with a more genial, try-anything-once dumb-ass.

Weigh in, kiddies!

Playing Dumb Leads to Serenity

I wrote in my guide to playing dumb that you really have to embrace your inner ignoramus to be effective. It is not enough to just play dumb. You have to be dumb.

Well, you know that saying about ignorance being bliss? It's totally true. The times in which I am most happy are times in which my mind is as vacant as.....

Mmmm.... where was I? Oh right. Playing dumb, and being dumb, leads to a wonderfully serene, relaxed state. It might not be particularly conducive to writing or working or taking over the world, but it sure does feel good, so if you're looking for a good way to wind down, just dumb down!

Now please excuse me... I've got some wall-staring to do.

Why do YOU play dumb?

gudangpoker on July 20, 2019:

can this place of gambling be trusted

sunny on January 16, 2015:

Ha-ha. This reminds me of the old 90's kid show of "Pinky and the Brain". Pinky is a genius, but he likes to play dumb for his own entertainment xD

Sid on December 07, 2014:

Way to let the cat out the bag

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on October 10, 2014:

As a substitute teacher I found a winning strategy for reviewing many topics with high school students. I would tell them it had been so long since I was in high school, that I had forgotten this topic. I would ask them to explain it to me.

It started out with an advanced algebra class. I think I slept through advanced algebra when I was in high school, so it wasn't like I could actually teach the kids anything that day.

It turned out to be a great strategy. The kids loved explaining it to their teacher, and there is no better way to review something than to teach it to someone else. Win-win!

Moon1970 on April 29, 2014:

It's stupid for a Women to play dumb in the first place. You make yourself look like an idiot. And it allows guys to treat you like you're dumb and talk about you to their friends about how dumb they think you are. Do you want guys to say "She's very smart." or do you want them to say "She's an airhead and there's nothing upstairs." Some women do claim to play stupid if they go out on dates with guys who might appear to be intimidated by them. I'm 38 yrs old. I don't care if a guy is intimidated by me. I'm not there to please him. And if he's intimidated then he should pick up some books and start reading.

UndercoverAgent19 on February 01, 2014:

I had many good laughs while reading this hub, and now I feel less self-conscious about not always being (or, at least not always acting) very bright.

Isabella Mukanda from Fort Myers on December 26, 2013:

Hi Simone, a very interesting and well written hub. I got attracted to the subject because I played dumb through my years in high school and college. In fact playing dumb was my ideal, I felt it helped me link with more people and, like you, learn from them than I otherwise would being smart. However, I learned very quickly that there are places where one can play dumb and get away with good results. In some places, you just cannot play dumb because it could be tantamount to social suicide. And I am referring to diverse cultural settings. In my country, I understood the culture, the people and the communication so well, I could do that without injuring myself. When I came to America, I would ask the dumbest questions, foremost because I wanted to learn and at other times because I wanted others and myself to know better. I figured it was also a good way of making myself vulnerable to other human beings so they would know that I was willing to learn from them. The truth I discovered was that, when you come to America from almost anywhere and especially from some places, you are considered naturally retarded. Asking dumb questions and feigning dumbness just puts you on the "do not recycle list." You can lose friends and opportunities pretty quick.

If you are a person of repute, respectable, holding a good job, living in a nice house, driving a good car and look successful in some sense of the word, you may get away with quite a large chunk of pretending to be dumb. If you do not have those things and look like a loser according to the social rating of some people, you need to prove that you are smart by matching up to others or doing things that others do not expect you to. I am not advocating for vanity or arrogance, just do not shut your mouth too much, be willing to speak as much and as far you can. That is my advice to some people. Playing dumb is not for everyone, it could hurt your reputation terribly and make you lose awesome opportunities. The reason is, you are already considered dumb anyway, the best you can do is prove that you are not. If you are in a class, answer the questions as far as you can and as often as you can. Do not pretend to be smart, know when to ask the dumb questions, but also do not resist an opportunity to share your knowledge and abilities, you will receive more respect.

J on November 24, 2013:

I think playing dumb has it's perks but when it becomes a constant then eventually people will cotton on and wise up and then you'll be left behind looking dumb. That's the downside plus it breaks trust, it's no longer cute or funny. I've been on the receiving end of that nonsense and I just distanced myself from the person and eventually cut them off cause that's just manipulative and pathetic. Sorry

b on September 18, 2013:

Buddhism and white Lie, but be careful

marion langley from The Study on June 26, 2013:

I loved reading this "stop pretending you're not stupid" article. Made me laugh and let's face it...there's some descent wisdom in there. :-) p.s. isn't this part of Juno's lover's charm?

Stan Murphy from Kansas on June 26, 2013:

I find it useful to play dumb when I have forgotten to do something. I may have received an invitation to an event I didn't want to attend and afterwards I may act as if I got the dates confused. There definitely times when playing dumb is a good option. I agree!

Poon Poi Ming from Malaysia on June 23, 2013:

Wow, I didn't know there're so many benefits to playing dumb! Although I think being honest is better, especially for a man whose time is running out, I agree that there are times when we should play dumb in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts. A well-written up! Voted UABI!!!

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 23, 2013:

I think you need to be more gender specific. At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, playing dumb works better for females. It is actually considered charming, and a lot of men will go out of their way to assist a damsel in intellectual distress. On the other hand, us guys feel like we're under pressure to know everything and solve problems, so playing dumb makes us look weak. I know gender differences are not supposed to mean anything in this day and age, but unfortunately they still do. At any rate this was a very original hub and refreshing to read.

Ausseye on June 23, 2013:

Hi Mss Smith....quite unidentifiable :

Wait a minute…or hour…you saying dumb luck is

DUMB luck

Gee’s the casino in me makes the global wheel spin

Now is that smart?? Errrrr???

Loved the notion and have always been there

Dumb bum ……but now damn it

You have let others in on the secret, why…WHY???

LensMan999 from Trans-Neptunian region on June 23, 2013:

Many of the benefits of being dump is explained well in the hub. Some of them were not ever thought by me. Now it's time for me to try doing some of them.

The Reminder from Canada on June 22, 2013:

Great hub. I'm glad I read this as I never really thought about acting like this in some situations.

Amy L. Tarr from Home on June 21, 2013:

Ha! I'm glad I'm not the only one. I rated it "Awesome" because it was. :)

Carl Junior on June 21, 2013:

Playing dumb can be safe at times, so yeah, I am never afraid of playing dumb.

Nicole S Hanson from Minnesota on June 21, 2013:

Awesome hub. I can say that I've done this before too. People take better to others who don't act like they 'know it all' :)

Bala from India on June 20, 2013:

Terrific Hub!

I have done this a few times to get help, usually when I visit new places. I have to agree it totally works. And I can't believe that I was so dumb that it never occurred to me do an article out of it!

Great Stuff. Love you!

ud1093 from ? on June 08, 2013:

lovely hub Dumbness is in everyone but they try to hide it. this hub syas otherwise.

mikielikie from Texas on June 06, 2013:

Well done!! I really enjoyed this hub. Voted up and interesting. Great job!!

Jim Laughlin from Connecticut on June 06, 2013:

Good stuff! Made me giggle inside, very enjoyable.

Poetic Fool on June 05, 2013:

Your hub is great fun and has a certain amount of truth, Simone. I'll try not to take it too seriously as I think it was what you intended. At work, I like using a variant of the "poker face" you mention. You feign ignorance about a particular task, then when you come through with flying colors everyone is impressed with your adaptability and ability to learn. Used judiciously, it can be a great way to avoid undesirable tasks yet still keep yourself in consideration for those that do interest you. Thanks for the entertaining hub. Voted up!

Art Division from London on June 05, 2013:

The only time it's a good idea to play dumb is when you want to get out of tricky situations, make out you don't understand the details of the situation. Or if you want people to help you with something you're new to - in which case you're not playing, you are actually dumb in this area!

MysticMoonlight on June 04, 2013:

This is just too wonderful! I do play dumb from time to time, usually to not hurt someone else's feelings or to not have to point out something completely obvious to someone, which in turn, if I didn't they'd be completely humiliated, etc. This Hub really has me thinking that just maybe I don't play dumb often enough! :) Voted Awesome, Useful, and Funny!

H C Palting from East Coast on June 04, 2013:

Sometimes people erroneously treat you as dumb from their very first glances at you. In these situations I may play dumb to avoid these very irritating people and certain conversations with people that I likely won't ever see again. The only downside is that they're not around for me to see the look on their faces when I've accomplished something they'd never thought I was capable of :)

MarketNewbie2 on June 04, 2013:

I'll just go right ahead and say it, great hub!

EJ Lambert from Chicago, IL on June 04, 2013:

The perks of playing dumb are that people don't bother you with useless questions you don't want to answer. Playing dumb keeps you out of conversations that can never end well.

Aaron Seitler from Manchester, United Kingdom on June 04, 2013:

Interesting point of view I must say...

Maybe I'll incorporate some of your ideas into my routine.I sighed when I began reading this hub but now I've actually got a knowing smile on my face.

John David from Middle America on June 04, 2013:

Haha! Nice hub, oh and of course I have played dumb for other people's benefit. Mainly my kid..

Sid Kemp from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach) on June 04, 2013:

Simone, as always, hilarious, wonderful, creative, and so much on target! I survived in childhood by playing smart (teacher's pet). But, in college, I realized that, if I spoke in a seminar, I learned nothing. If I listened, I learned something. I began to see that it's not about being right or wrong. Outside of math and engineering, it's not about finding the one right answer. People have different perspectives and a lot to offer - and if I shut up and play dumb, I come out ahead!

Marilyn L Davis from Georgia on June 04, 2013:

Not a judgment call – but, - and we know what follows that – playing dumb is just manipulation. If I’m too dumb to understand how to do something, then obviously someone else will have to do it for me; or explain it to me, or feel sorry for me, fix it for me, or the list goes on.

In the woman’s recovery home I opened, we referred to this as “Selective Stupidity” because it is a choice in some situations to consciously play stupid or dumb. I have a hub devoted to manipulation that describes it in better detail.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we are all ignorant or badly informed about some things; mine tend to be mechanical, like how to change a tire. But what I know about me is that if knowing about lug nuts and tire irons were going to improve my life, I’d either be asking questions to learn or researching, without caring how inept I looked.

Now, if I can pay to have the service performed, I can stay ignorant and still get what I want. If I can’t pay for the service, I either have to stand there looking ditzy and hope someone stops to help, or roll up the sleeves and get busy.

Playing dumb is time sensitive also. It’s one thing to be 25, cute, and vacuous; it doesn’t age well to be 65, not so cute, and empty-headed.

vibesites from United States on May 28, 2013:

I'm glad I'm not that smart (or I don't appear to be hehehehe).

Aurora on May 23, 2013:

A person who has an opinion on everything doesn't appeal to me, but neither does someone who usually plays dumb.

What is being praised here as dumb is being deceitful and spinning it as a shrewd and smart quality. It the same as culture accepting the word spin as a clever skill instead of what it is which is lying. It might work for awhile or sometimes, but people eventually find out if their smart. And if your playing dumb how do you feel about people playing dumb with you. Do you consider them a quality person you would feel good about. People do this playing dumb now a days about the most basic things, its as if they they have no concern for others.

HubPages from San Francisco, CA on February 01, 2013:

Excellent! Carry on with pride, Hendrika!

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on January 24, 2013:

OK now I now I can carry on playing dumb!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 24, 2013:

Very true, John. I'm glad you mentioned that caveat!

John on January 23, 2013:

This is a great article and very true. However, you have to be very careful about how you approach personal relationships with this behavior. There are certain people who can see right through "playing dumb". It doesn't work in the real world with intelligent people. It really only works with ignorant subjects who dont know the game and dont play it well. In a nutshell, this type of behavior can do more damage to your personal and professional life than you probably want. Not to mention your relationships.

Sanjida Alam from Bangladesh on April 29, 2012:

Ha ha ha, and I thought only I used that technique! Don't know why our teachers love dumb-looking students :-P I've always used that opportunity ;-)

And yes, I do that with my boyfriend so often ;-) I act stupid in all the tech-related discussions between us and he loves lecturing me and I love the way he spends hours trying to make me understand everything :-D

4Real on March 19, 2012:

The best part about acting dumb is that you get to learn more!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on November 07, 2011:

I had some teachers who did that and it made learning a lot more fun- why not address academic challenges with a sense of humor that also challenges students to think for themselves? Smart move, missolive!

Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on November 04, 2011:

Playing dumb is actually a great teaching strategy - I've had some awesome explanations from my students when they think I'm confused or clueless....hehe

After a while they figure out I'm just messing with them....or do they???

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 16, 2011:

Oh, never thought of that!

victoria from Hamilton On. on May 11, 2011:

Also a good thing to do when trying to get a loan or returning something without a cash register slip.

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on May 05, 2011:

Hehee glad you like that choice, Knightheart. It's the one I chose!

Knightheart from MIssouri, USA on May 04, 2011: is PLAYING dumb? LOL To me, it comes naturally!

Interesting article and will have to read it over and over to get all the info. in my head! ;)

Oh, and I just LOVE the 3rd choice on the Fess Up poll!!! ROFL

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 30, 2011:

I'm much obliged by the compliment, good sir! Hmm... I should start putting more related Hubs into groups.

But to respond to your query: MENTAL! No question about that.

Winsome from Southern California by way of Texas on April 29, 2011:

Oh it helps to get background. Now I understand the "dumb" women article better. I'm really enjoying your writing lately thus all the reading. Bear with me. =:)

Let me ask you this question about relationships...which is scarier for you the prospect of physical expectations or the prospect of mental ones and does playing dumb help?

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 27, 2011:

You're so right, M. Everest! It does make people really happy to explain things to others and feel like they're something of an expert. And it is rather fun to give people an opportunity to teach us something! Wins abound. Thanks for reading!

M. Everest from Northern California on April 27, 2011:

The one thing that I have learned that has made the biggest difference in my life is to stop feeling like I have to know everything! People LOVE to explain, so now I let them. I have learned way more being interested and curious than I ever did trying to impress. And I think I'm more likeable now, too! I really connected with this hub. :)

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 26, 2011:

Hey, any combo of the two makes for fun times. It's like choosing between chocolate covered eclairs and chocolate-filled cream puffs.

George Stephens from Colorado on April 26, 2011:

Woah woah woah! Way too much information all at once! Let me get this straight... Play smart, but be dumb? No wait... Had it backwards, didn't I? LOL! Be dumb, but play smart! Um, how is that better? I gotta think this one over... I'm sure this was a great hub if I could just understand it! ;-)

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 25, 2011:

Thanks ripplemaker! I'm too dumb right now to give a witty response XD

Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on April 25, 2011:

Simone, I'm too dumb right now to say anything smart! LOL I enjoyed reading your hub and I was thinking "I never thought of that! That's true! That's another way of thinking about being dumb!" Voted up!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 25, 2011:

LOL thanks livelonger! I l can hazing the smarts.

Great point about calling it 'acting naive', drbj. That's exactly what I'm describing- though it looks like more people are out Googling 'playing dumb' so I decided to call it that instead :D Though 'acting naive' sounds far less... ditsy- and generally more honorable, too!

And thank you Wesman Todd Shaw! You know you've made it when they're calling you a smart mofo. I envy you! And isn't it funny how younger people tend to think they know MORE? There seems to be a sort of arc... the very young and the very old seem to be the biggest know-it-alls. Now where was I? I don't know. But I think I shall go have some pudding.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on April 24, 2011:

I'm a classic case of someone who was told that he was smart far too often when he was young. Just yesterday I had company over that said at least ten times, "I know you are a smart mofo."

It's gotten to where I ask people, "if I'm so smart, then look around you - what have I accomplished?"

A wise person learns from those who are older than him or her. That isn't to say that those younger don't have something to offer. When I was a twenty something working fool. . .I KNEW I was smarter than anyone else, and so the older men that I worked with showed me that that just wasn't so, and they never had to say or act in a way that led me to think that they were smarter than me.

The proof is in the pudding. . . . .at least that's what Jimmy Page, (led zeppelin) said one time. . .

Playing dumb is far and away the best strategy for a huge number of situations. I absolutely play dumb when someone is pretending to be a younger version of me.

I think that I meant to say, "great hub!"

drbj and sherry from south Florida on April 23, 2011:

Some excellent thoughts here, Simone, most of which have merit. I would, however, change the notion of 'playing dumb' to 'acting naïve.' I have coached many emerging managers in interpersonal skills and try to impress them that being silent when listening to info, some of which they may already know, provides new gains for the most part and elicits more information. Acting naïve does pay off.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on April 23, 2011:

GREAT Hub! It takes a really smart person to play dumb effectively. :)

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 23, 2011:

Ooooh, smart move, Hyphenbird!

And Aya Katz, you're sharp! I think the only somewhat functioning social skills I have developed have been used for Machiavellian purposes. As for playing dumb to get ahead- well, sometimes it's just necessary, though I've found that in cool startup environments where I have worked (and where I currently work, e.g. HubPages) there's no point in doing so, since there is so little politicking and ego doesn't get in the way like it does in other environments. Ironically enough, I have found that playing dumb has gotten me ahead the very most in academic environments. And corporate ones.

And you're totally right- being honest off the bat is both kinder and more efficient. But I'm a coward ;)

Way to go, Sustainable Sue! You provide some excellent examples in which playing dumb is not the best choice. You're very right to point out that playing dumb isn't always the best option.

And you're right Peggy W - dumb questions should be asked freely long after school ends :D

And LOL @Stephanie Henkel XD

Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 23, 2011:

There are definitely times when playing dumb can make you smarter! I think that other people, especially the ones who know how smart you really are, appreciate it when you play dumb and let them be the smarties sometimes.

Hmmm...Honey, could you show me how this vacuum cleaner works, I don't think I understand...

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2011:

It has been a long time since my school days but you are correct in that not asking questions to appear smart when you really don't understand something is the dumbest of dumb. This goes on in life even after formal school has ended, because just living life is a school of its own. Useful tips and scenarios of the "perks of playing dumb." Here is to all the dummies out there!

Sustainable Sue from Altadena CA, USA on April 22, 2011:

At some point or other I've done all of these. But I've been changing that recently, in favor of honesty with diplomacy (something I had to learn). Now I'm focusing on learning how to create the kind of life I want and sometimes I have to be firm about it, which is hard. It's hard, because a big part of playing dumb has to do with pleasing people. And sometimes I have to stand my ground, both for myself and the people around me.

Two examples:

1) At work when they're making a big mistake and I'm trying to prevent it.

2) When there's something I need to do that will actually make life easier or more pleasant for my friends or family (like make money writing) in future, but which makes them uncomfortable right now.

Aya Katz from The Ozarks on April 22, 2011:

Simone, I've been following your recent hubs, including the one about how great it is to be an introvert. Being sort of an introvert myself, I thought at the time that I wasn't sure if this label described you, as I tend to stereotype introverts as being also people with poor social skills. Your social skills appear to be just fine, and this new hub proves it. However, you may be an introverted person with machiavellian social abilities. I'm not counting that possibility out.

You are shrewd to hide your light under a bushel in today's business environment, but... it does not speak well of your employers if this kind of subterfuge is required. Is it possible that our economy is in such dire straits because all the smart people are playing dumb in order not to arouse the envy of their supervisors and co-workers?

In the matter of playing coy, I suggest that your strategy might backfire. If a guy thinks you really are so stupid as not to understand his interest in you, he might feel forced to make his message more explicit, thereby setting himself for big embarrassment. Instead of pretending not to understand, you could cut him off long before he finishes the thought, by letting him know that you understood, but there's no chance.

Sometimes being honest is kinder.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on April 22, 2011:

I sometimes play dumb, it gets me out of a long drownout discussion of something really dumb. Thanks for the great Hub.

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