Dealing with Know-It-Alls
There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a know-it-all. OK, that’s not true. There’s plenty that’s worse. But when you’re on the receiving end, it can feel like the worst thing, because this is a person who won’t let the facts stand in the way of an unsolicited opinion—and a lengthy one, at that.
Some know-it-alls spout facts and factoids with an astonishing level of confidence and, often, a condescending tone of voice. Some have a compulsive need to correct other people. Make a trivial error of fact, or even grammar or pronunciation, and this type of know-it-all is ready to pounce.
By contrast, some know-it-alls just know a lot and want you to hear it all. Maybe they were ignored as kids and are making up for it by seeking an audience anywhere they can. In their defense, I’ve met some knowledgeable know-it-alls who spew forth because they’re eager to share their knowledge. Whether or not you’re interested is secondary; they assume you’ll relish the opportunity to know what they know.
If you can’t easily extract yourself from the interaction (or it’s a superior who gets to sound off at will), try to acknowledge the person’s point of view. You don’t have to agree with it. Sometimes, acknowledging the viewpoint gives the person what he or she needs. Of course, there’s the risk that in doing so, you’ll encourage more of the same. But leading with respect may make it possible to reason with the person. If not, maybe you can at least take your mind elsewhere until the person ceases to spout.
With a know-it-all who’s condescending or constantly correcting others, it may be worth taking the person aside and explaining in a constructive and caring manner that this type of behavior isn’t welcome. If done empathetically, you may make some headway. Some people just don’t realize how they come across; in the absence of helpful feedback, there’s nothing to stop them from continuing to do what they’ve always done.
In dealing with a know-it-all, it’s important to choose your battles; you can’t change the person’s personality, so sometimes it’s easiest just to put up with it—or to respond, “Great suggestion, thanks!” and rush off to a nonexistent meeting. If too many of your buttons get pushed in dealing with know-it-alls, be proactive and stand up to them. You can be sure you’re not the only one coping with this annoying behavior, so maybe everyone else who’s gotten trapped on the receiving end will applaud you.