How to outsmart people

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

How to outsmart people

It was during the winter that they learned of a possible invasion by a great foreign army approaching. It was during the middle ages somewhere in Western Europe and the tools that the armies had were a bit primitive to help any helpless nation to protect itself.

Tension was building up , as each opponent was preparing for the war. The leader of the army that was being attacked was speculating his loss. Speculating isn’t even the right word, it was very obvious that he was about to lose.

The army approaching was huge and much better equipped. Watching them approaching on their horses was horrendous, The leader was surely about to lose, until one of the people watching who seemed to be thinking for quite a while had an idea. He came up with a plan that he hoped it would work.

The power of planning

He told him that since the army was approaching, he should choose his battleground first, and make the enemy on horseback come to him where it is weakest, on the higher ground and the trees.

When the huge army arrived, it chose not to enter the bush and waited outside probably considering what to do. At the end of the day, they were a huge army and were very confident about wining and now they had to consider what to do.

Time was spent in silence and both armies waited for the other army to make a mistake. Tension grew, The leader started to worry again as he watched the other army patiently waiting outside. He was even about to give up and thought of initiating the fight and getting over with it since he was going to lose anyway.

Again this wise guy told him to wait and be patient because the advantage of time was put into consideration as the army doesn't have enough water supply to camp for long. He also told him to first use the best weapons that he had to fool the other army into thinking that they were also well equipped.

The army decided to enter the bush.

Who won?
No, not the big army with the weapons.
They decided to pull out of the war and go back since they didn’t have their horses nor enough energy levels to fight… considering the weapons they thought their opponent had.

The strategy won.

Essential attitude to outsmarting

No matter how much it seems to you that you are going to be outsmarted, you will only be outsmarted because you believed you will.

No matter how many resources or advantages the other people have, you can always use whatever you have if you think well enough about what you have.

First let’s look at the essential things that you must do in general to outsmart:

1) How to plan: You have already picked this up, no matter how hard the situation seems to be you can always find a way if you are patient enough.

Don’t waste your time thinking how horrible it is what happened to you or regret all the things you have or haven’t done. Instead keep your mind focused on solutions only. Why?

Because we have something in our brain called the Reticular Activating system (RAS).
This part of the brain ensures that it picks up information and shifts your attention to what you are focusing on. Remember when you bought a certain type of cell phone or a certain car, and suddenly you see many people owning it?

Well, they didn’t buy it because you did; your RAS started putting your attention to what you have currently focused on. This part of your brain will make sure it helps you find ideas and available resources that you can use when you focus on being solution-oriented. (see also How your beliefs and concerns affects your perception)

2) Why stay calm: When you react emotionally your brain messages stop at the limbic system (which is responsible for emotions) and doesn’t reach your cortex (which is the rational part of the brain). The calmer you are the more you will get smarter ideas on how to respond.

If you shift your attention from worry to finding a smart answer, you increase your chances of always finding a smart answer. Think of the many times that you thought “Ah! I should’ve said this! I should’ve said that!” after you left a certain situation.

The reason these answers didn’t come to you then even though many were actually pretty obvious was because your attention was then focused on worry of not on finding a response. Focus on the logic of the conversation and you will find an answer.(see also How to find creative solutions to your problems)

3)The power of questions: First before we even get into details, the person asking questions is more than often in a leading position.

If you feel that the person you are speaking to is being unfair there are two strategies to use with regards to questions.

First strategy is to drag them to your battlefield. Consider what you know well about the situation and start to lead the conversation there through questions. Do you know about this? Do you know what this did?

You are better off discussing in your battlefield where you have more information about something. This shifts the authority of the conversation and brings it back to you. This will give you time to focus on finding ideas to respond with, and you will if you focus.

Second strategy is to shake their confident ground. The devil lies in the details, right?

Use questions to get into details about what they are saying, because the more you get into details the more mistakes will appear. The more mistakes, the more you shake their confident ground and the more you show them that what they are confident about is not necessarily correct.

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