Smile and Nod

Because nobody likes an arrogant asshole

Years ago I was in final rounds of an interview and sitting down with the Executive VP and desperately trying to prove myself and that I had in depth knowledge in the field.  Not realizing I was pitching an idea to someone more accomplished, experienced, and knowledgeable, I went all in.  I got the job but his response is something that has resonated with me since.

He said “The more you think you know, the less you know”.

It’s with this in mind that we thought that we would discuss one of the most underrated skills not only just in the workplace, but in young adult life… and that’s the ability to smile and nod.  In the age of the Internet, everyone is an expert, and we already dealing with people who think they know everything.  If you’ve realized that it’s time to win big, then we’ll assume that you’re an expert in at least one area.

What do you do when a peer or colleague is blatantly wrong or inaccurate with high conviction?

Well… we’ll tell you what you shouldn’t do.  You shouldn’t go out of your way to correct them and destroy their ego; there’s literally no upside to that.  You can try and help them and give them the right answer but most people have overconfidence in their ability or way of thinking and it won’t amount to any net gain to you.

The right move?

Smile and nod.


Building relationships in any business setting is crucial.  Since we’ve figured out that there’s minimal upside in correcting someone or they place their ego ahead of keeping an open mind and learning, it’s very clear what you need to do.  Smiling and nodding allows you to not only find humor in the nature of the situation but it also allows you to appease your peers or colleagues.  It also allows you to build relationships since we realize how ego driven individuals can be.

Let’s recap on some key points
  1. There’s no upside for you by destroying somebody’s ego in order to feed yours in determining who’s right about an opinionated topic
  2. There’s no upside in correcting someone unless they’re on your team and it will impact you directly.
  3. You know what’s worse than being wrong and knowing it? Someone not even caring enough to correct you.

Ask one of your friends or colleagues a question that you know they won’t know the answer to.  Watch them try and spew out a bullshit answer and then smile and nod at them.  It’s a beautiful thing.