You might come across know-it-alls regularly and wonder how to deal with them. We are here to help you successfully handle these. Every encounter with know-it-alls can be quite frustrating and annoying, to say the least.
Not only do they have an exaggerated view of themselves but they attempt to put you down in the process.
Hence the need to learn how to deal with know-it-alls.
Usually, we might meet these in the workplace, probably they are coworkers or someone in a superior position.
Picture the scenarios:
You recently found out a new fact or information on a project given to the team and you are excited to share this with your team members.
As you excitedly share your new findings with your team, many of them are surprised and happy to get this new update except one person who seems unfazed.
Looking at you with disdain as though you shouldn’t be excited over such “little” fact, he said: ‘I know this already”.
How would you feel? Especially when you are so sure the individual in question does not have all the facts on the subject.
It makes you feel disappointed and can cause you some form of discomfort around such a person.
This is just one example to show how know-it-alls behave, and why it is important to know how to deal with them.
Let us now give a proper definition of who know-it-alls are.
After that, we will consider what the identifying signs of know-it-alls are, to enable you quickly identify them as such.
Also, we will see how know-it-alls can negatively impact an organization and how you can deal with them.
How to Deal with Know-it-Alls – What are Know-It-Alls?
Just as the phrase sounds, know-it-alls are people that we refer to as such because of the way they always claim to know everything about everything.
When you call someone a know-it-all, you are being critical of them.
It stems from seeing know-it-alls constantly and consistently thinking and claiming they know more than other people.
Sometimes, this attitude is reflected in the responses they give when information is given to them as with the example in the introduction.
Also, a know-it-all might exhibit this trait in the way he/she takes corrections, usually not open to such and being defensive or deflective.
Someone who is a know-it-all simply believes that he/she is many steps ahead of everyone else and has better knowledge and/or understanding than others.
Hence, even before you introduce them to an idea, concept, information e.t.c, they cut you off, letting you understand that they know better.
They might even laugh at you cynically, just to leave an impression that they know better.
Having to deal with know-it-alls especially in the place of work can be a real headache.
This is because of the massive negative impacts they can have in the work environment as we would soon consider.
Before that though, let us see some of the signs that help us identify who a know-it-all is when we see one.
How to Deal with Know-it-Alls – Identifying Signs of Know-it-Alls
Sometimes, know-it-alls can also be people who have narcissistic and/or borderline personality traits.
This is simply because of their attitude when conversing or discussing with others.
Here are some of the obvious signs that one can use to identify know-it-alls and know how to deal with them:
They are Not Open to Contrary Viewpoints
While having conversations or discussions, it is usually best to express your views or opinions and allow the other party does the same.
However, some people prefer to do the whole talking and barely give other people an opportunity to express themselves.
Even when others share their views and opinions on certain subjects, the other person fails to consider the viewpoint.
Especially when the viewpoint of the other person contradicts theirs, know-it-alls are very defensive and not open to such viewpoints.
They Argue a Lot to Prove Their Points
Know-it-alls are also very argumentative.
They argue a lot about why their views or opinions are correct and/or why the other person’s own is not.
Even when substantial proof and evidence is given to support one’s claims, a know-it-all will insist on what he/she knows.
And that too with little or no facts to back it up.
Hence, when you see someone who is very argumentative especially on matters where different views and opinions are allowed, it could be a sign of know-it-all.
They Make Statements Without Leaving Rooms for Input
There are certain ways in which people make statements or express their views that show they are open to other opinions/views.
They might use such phrases as: “I feel we should…, or I think this…”.
When they use such qualifiers for their statements or opinions, it shows that it is not cast in stone.
Instead, the other person can give a different opinion or even give a counter-view to what has been said.
On the other hand, know-it-alls make definite statements like they are facts and nothing can change it.
They are not known to use such qualifiers that make the other party feel like they also have a say.
By so doing, they attempt to give the impression that they know it all, and whatever they say is final.
They Mock People for Their Views/Opinions
Because know-it-alls have an inflated view of themselves, they do not expect that others would lack knowledge in any areas.
Instead, they expect that whatever it is they know or claim to know should also be known by others.
Hence, it is common to see these mocking others when they give views that they feel are not right.
Even if those back up their views or opinions with facts, know-it-alls would rather give mocking reactions.
It is even worse when the other person admits to not knowing something or being ignorant of a subject.
Know-it-alls would not mind rubbing salt in the other person’s wound by making fun of them for this.
They Always Tag Contradictory Opinions as “Untrue” or “Fake”
Imagine the scenario: Someone just went on a lecture about how a particular soccer team is the best team in the world.
He went about defending his claims with all the facts he has and stands by them, even though others have contrary views.
Then someone else in the group presents contrary evidence to those claims perhaps by referring him to a published fact on that.
The first reaction of a know-it-all is to say that the other news publication or article’s information is “fake”.
That is their easy getaway when they get to hear contrary views and they are not ready to change their stance.
This is another common sign with people who are know-it-alls.
They Have No Iota of Self-Doubt At all
While this might sound like a good thing, being that no one loves to have self-doubt, it is more pronounced in know-it-alls.
While others might exhibit a certain level of self-doubt at some point while handling a project, know-it-alls don’t ever.
They believe that they not only know everything they need to know but also have all it takes to do anything.
Hence they take more risks, even when they are unsure of where it is going to end.
These simply trust that they will be successful, because why not? They know it all.
They Arrogantly Tell Others They Know More Than Them
Some know-it-alls that you need to learn how to deal with, do not make any attempt at hiding their arrogance and conviction that they are better than others.
As such, they do not shy away from telling others what they know and what the other person does not know.
While some might show the sign of being a know-it-all subtly, some are quite frontal in showing the signs.
And these are the ones who don’t mind saying upfront that they are better than others and know more than them.
They “Have a Solution” to Every Problem
Not only do know-it-alls claim to have better knowledge and information than others, but also solutions.
Know-it-alls believe that they already know everything they need to know about everything.
Hence, they feel the need to tell others what they feel is the solution to their problem even with little or no facts.
They have earned themselves a reputation as the one who has all the answers and comes up with solutions to all problems.
It doesn’t matter if their recommended approach or solution defies logic or has bad results, they give it anyway.
That is yet another sign to recognize know-it-alls.
How to Deal with Know-it-Alls – What You Can Do
While going through the signs that identify know-it-alls, did anyone come to your mind?
Perhaps at work, you know an individual who fits this category and you are already getting tired of that attitude.
Well, you do not need to leave your job because you need to deal with a know-it-all, neither should it affect your business if the person is an employee or customer.
There are effective ways to deal with know-it-alls wherever they might be found around you, and we will walk you through some of them now:
Try to Understand Why They Are Like That
When dealing with know-it-alls, one thing you need to know is that they don’t just become like that.
Rather, there must be an underlying reason why they behave as such.
For some of them, this is a personality disorder, as with other personality disorders, they have little control over it.
Some have an inferiority complex, and constantly need to be admired, hence the know-it-all attitude.
It might also be that they are just arrogant, and that is the underlying trait that makes them a know-it-all.
Whatever the reason, it is important to first figure out what makes them that way.
If you do, you tend to understand them better and be more empathetic to their situation.
Respect Their Opinions/Views
True, knowing that someone is a know-it-all might tempt you to want to disregard what they say even when they are on the right track.
If you are in the habit of this, you are only giving the person more reasons to drive home his point and be aggressive with this trait.
Respect, they say, begets respect.
Just as you would love other people to respect your views and opinions, even know-it-alls deserve that.
When you show that you respect what they have to say, even when you think they have a know-it-all attitude, it makes them less aggressive or forceful with their approach.
And what more? They might even be encouraged to also respect your own opinions in return.
You Do Not Have to Always Reply; Know When to Ignore
Sometimes, know-it-alls might exhibit this attitude by always having an input in your projects or tasks.
Even the most straightforward of projects, or one which you already have the expertise on might get frequent input from a know-it-all.
In dealing with these types of know-it-alls, it might be best to simply ignore their endless suggestions most of the time.
Instead of having a long back and forth conversation on why their opinion might not be needed, you can simply let it slide.
You can politely appreciate them for giving their input, and then proceed to do what you have to do.
That way, you are not getting into an unnecessary back and forth conversation that is not productive.
And you are also not allowing the know-it-all to rub his/her condescending attitude in your face.
Open Them to The Opinions of Others, Aside You Two
Most times, know-it-alls want the conversations where they show their dominance to be a “You vs Me” situation.
That is where they get their strength, and nothing will satisfy them than seeing that they defeat you in a battle of words and ideas.
In such situations, you can adapt the tactics of showing them alternative opinions and ideas that are not yours.
This might involve letting them know what other people think about the subject in question.
While doing this, you can even use experts in that area as a reference point.
This should remind the know-it-all that there are other opinions available outside those of the both of you, and they are worth considering.
It could be a way to help them also slow down on the ego, and start to think of others’ views as well.
How to Deal with Know-it-Alls – Learn to Say “I Don’t Know”
This is an effective tactic especially if you are the employer or manager and you have a know-it-all subordinate or staff.
Usually, knowing or unknowingly, many people in leadership positions give off the idea that one should know everything.
They want to provide answers to every question raised in group meetings or proffer solutions to every problem encountered.
If you do this, you are giving your employees the feeling that it is possible to be all-knowing and can encourage know-it-alls.
Hence, you can lead by example, by admitting that you are not exactly an all-knowing expert in every field or industry.
So sometimes, learn to say “I don’t know, I will do some research on that”.
That way, the know-it-alls you have in your office might also start to slow down on their attitude, and know that it is fine to not know sometimes.
Talk to Them About It
There are situations whereby the behavior of know-it-alls, especially in the workplace might start to threaten the unity at work.
It might also be affecting your job performance, efficiency, or relationship with a particular coworker or employee.
If that happens, it might be best to give this feedback on that.
Endeavor to make this meeting a relaxed setting and constructive.
Remember that most know-it-alls suffer from an inferiority complex and might need their ego stroke for them to understand your point.
Hence, try to let them know how important their input is and why it is necessary to have such in the workplace.
Then, calmly let them know why it is also important to consider the viewpoint of others and how it contributes to a more united workforce.
Your good approach for this would go a long way in helping you change the view of the know-it-all and with time see some changes.
Have Your Facts
It is easy to allow know-it-alls to take over conversations and force you into submission or silence when you lack facts.
Even the know-it-alls might not have substantial facts themselves but have a way of pushing their views through.
Therefore, if you do not have enough facts about what is being discussed, you might fail to properly deal with the know-it-all.
On the other hand, when you have your facts and cross-check them to be accurate, you are more confident in handling know-it-alls.
Regardless of how daring or confident, they are, with your facts, you can gain the upper hand and get your opinions across uninterrupted.
Accept Their Perspective Before Offering Your View
Trivial as it sounds, sometimes the only thing that know-it-alls want is for you to accept their opinion or view.
They might just want to hear the word “Yes” from you to show that they are on the right track.
If the one you have to deal with is this way, you can deploy the “yes, but…” technique.
This is you accept what they say, and then offer your angle or side to it.
Doing this will soften the impact of your next words, and not make it sound like a counterargument or criticism.
When they feel that you are not directly criticizing them, they are more receptive and open to your ideas.
How to Deal with Know-it-Alls – Conclusion
Know-it-alls are everywhere, and you will come across some of them in your daily activities or at work.
Remember that these are not necessarily bad individuals, but might just be exhibiting this trait due to underlying reasons.
Such reasons like a personality disorder, lack of self-esteem, or inferiority complex.
They might also be doing this to gain more recognition and admiration and make their voices heard.
Knowing this should prompt you to engage with them from an empathetic place and understand them.
Then, you can also apply the calm approaches so far discussed in helping you get their audience or change their stance.
And this can help you successfully and effectively deal with know-it-alls.