To play dumb has been defined as, “To pretend to be slow-witted or lacking in specific knowledge, usually in order to avoid responsibility or gain some advantage.” While anyone can play dumb in any number of circumstances, it’s a tactic that’s often been ascribed to women, especially in regard to our relationships with men. To be fair, the reason some women exhibit this behavior has also been explained as an effort to bolster men’s egos. Whatever the reason, it’s not smart.
Females have traditionally been known to sacrifice our self-respect, as well as our potential, for the sake of a relationship. While this practice is less prevalent today than it has been in recent history, it still exists, as well as the negative consequences. This can apply to relationships between two women as well as between a man and a woman.
If someone we’ve been deceiving with our mental inferiority becomes a marital partner, this could mean keeping up the hoax for a lifetime—a sad waste of intellect, not to mention energy, resources we could better spend developing a relationship based on mutual respect, a process that’s more enjoyable and more empowering.
In regard to men in particular, no matter the reason a woman hides her intelligence, it’s not good enough. If a man is so insecure that he needs a stupid woman to make him look good, he’s not worth the effort it takes to provide him with the illusion that he’s the smarter partner. Besides, when he decides he’s superior—maybe even too good for her—she’s created a monster, and the relationship is doomed. But to a confident male, an intelligent woman is actually more attractive. She’s not dependent or needy, and she can uphold her end of a conversation. She communicates more confidence, too—a very sexy trait. (We can imagine two women in the same scenario.)
Clearly when you’re unattached you have plenty of time to discover your best partner, based on qualities besides physical attraction. It’s best to be realistic rather than overly modest about your assets, and it’s crucial to establish your values in selecting a future mate who’s in fact your equal. Plus it’s fair for you to expect that the man or woman in question is one who will allow you to grow and self-actualize. To learn whether a potential love interest shares similar standards, you can simply ask questions— not in an in your face sort of way, but with friendliness, even playfulness, so no one is embarrassed, including you. On the other hand, if you’re in a rush toward commitment, maybe it’s time to ease up and slow down. Authentic happiness is worth the time it takes to achieve it.
Emotional intelligence—at least as valuable to an individual as bookish smarts—is an attribute distinguished by social responsibility, interpersonal skills, tolerance to stress and impulse control. But a lack of assertiveness in applying these aptitudes can be viewed as a weakness. It’s crucial to balance assertiveness with your other emotional strengths in order to advocate yourself and develop your self-esteem.
Let your intelligence shine. If you want to become brainier, read more, take classes, discuss topics with friends. You can become an expert in an area that interests you. Go for career you’ve always dreamed of. Stay single. Or be a stay-at-home mom. But keep your mind active, and don’t hide that beautiful brain of yours under a rock.
By the way, skilled negotiators are never perceived as needy. If you think negotiation is reserved for high-powered careers, it’s time to think again. Marriage is a lifetime of negotiation, at least when it’s done right. And all successful relationships are based on negotiation, cooperation, and a little compromise, so that both parties win.
One caveat—no one likes a know-it-all. But there’s a huge difference between 1) being aggressive in your arrogance and, 2) knowing how to communicate your intelligence with subtlety, kindness, and charm.