Caregiver Wit

5 Ways to Outfox a Know-It-All
know-it-all

Know anyone who won't let you get a word in edgewise? Ever sit across a table from someone who lectured, rather than conversed? Or has it been impossible to discuss work, health issues, relationships "“ or, gee, just about any subject -- without a know-it-all in your life telling you you're wrong and there's a better way?

Know-it-alls can be as exhausting as they are annoying. The secret to outfoxing one, communication experts say, is to realize where they're coming from. Try these five tactics:

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1. Master the "yes, but . . . "

What that sounds like: "Yes, I see why you think that way, but can you see where I'm coming from?" "Point taken, but can you look at it from my perspective?" "Yes, I understand that you see it this way, but I see it another way."

Why it works: Acknowledging a know-it-all's views, then using a "but" transition to launch into your side of things, can stall some of his or her momentum. Do this with an "I" statement that starts with your perspective: "I see, but . . . " "I understand, but . . . " "I'll consider it, but . . . "

Know-it-alls are often narcissists -- people preoccupied with themselves, says psychotherapist Steve Sultanoff, an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University. "Their brain functions as 'my way is the right way,' even when there's no one right way," Sultanoff says.

Making noises of agreement, without agreeing, allows you to insert yourself and share your disagreement, slowing the onslaught.

2. Present your facts in a nonthreatening way.

What that sounds like: "Well, here's what I know." "Let me tell you what I learned about it." "This is what I've heard."

Why it works: You can't shut this personality type down with direct confrontation, says Simon Casey, a psychologist in San Clemente, California, and the author of Secrets to Emotional Wealth. "Know-it-alls tend to be grandiose egocentrics with an inability to admit they're ever wrong. If you challenge them directly, that's where they thrive -- they'll argue relentlessly to prove their point. "

In fact, he adds, they tend to argue relentlessly to prove a point even if they actually have limited knowledge about the subject at hand.

So saying, "You're wrong!" or "I've heard enough already!" backfires. It's like throwing oil on out-of-control flames.

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3. Ask about alternatives.

What that sounds like: "I know you see it that way. How might others in the same situation see it?" "Are there any other alternatives you can think of?" "You do it this way and I do it that way; are there other ways?"

Why it works: By inviting the know-it-all to consider alternative views, you nudge him to adopt a broader perspective. That can sometimes shift him out of the "me-me-me" mode that's so wearisome to hear.

To some extent, this tactic depends on your relationship and how well you know Mr. or Ms. Smarter-Than-You. Some steamrollers will just say, "No, my way is the only right way," whereas others will at least share what they think about a wider range of views.

The know-it-all may still be insufferable, but at least you've moved him or her to wider turf.

4. Initiate a closing without pushing for an apology or a concession.

What that sounds like: "We just see things differently." "I'm afraid we have to agree to disagree." "That's interesting, but I'm not going to change what I do."

Why it works: These pedantic pests are secretly running scared of being exposed as the insecure beings they are -- so admitting their inferior knowledge isn't gonna happen. Rather than pushing for consensus or an admission of error, just call it a stalemate. If you wait for concessions from the know-it-all, you'll be waiting a long time.

The psychological makeup of a know-it-all means they have a difficult time with humility. "They don't feel good about themselves, so they wear a mask that they love themselves -- they're as good as or better than you, as evidenced by their knowledge," Casey says. "The most important thing to them is to be right."

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5. Chalk up any continued pontificating to personality -- and realize you have a choice about how much to take.

What that sounds like (said to yourself): "There goes Bob again, monopolizing the conversation -- he can't help himself. " "This is not worth arguing over, but I know my ideas are better." "She and I just see things differently; that doesn't mean I'm wrong."

Why it works: Another way to respond to a know-it-all happens internally: You mentally let it go. Basically this means telling yourself, "This may not be pleasant for me, but the poor guy is doing what he needs to do to get his needs met." Combine this internal empathy (which, admittedly, isn't easy with a bombast) with self-reminders that a know-it-all's lecture-at-you style doesn't have anything to do with you as a person or your own level of knowledge.

At root, it's about them: Conversation-monopolists often literally can't help themselves. "If they can impress you with something you didn't know, they feel good momentarily," Casey says. "They can't help doing this over and over, because their egos are insatiable."

Remember, too, that suffering through a one-sided conversation is a choice, Sultanoff says. "Tell yourself, 'I don't have to be here, but I've chosen to listen,'" he says. Then you can use the above tools to avoid feeling resentful or ignorant. And if you do get overwhelmed despite your careful responses -- and really, who can blame you? -- then it's your choice to say, "Excuse me, that was interesting, but now I have to go."


about 1 month ago, said...

I work with a know it all. She is uneducated and full of herself. Not open to suggestions of any kind. Takes everything i say personally. She is a real pain in the ass. When i first started i had no experience and she made me feel so inadequate. After my first week she said i did well but then said "well you were all over the place the first week" Then she went onto say ( just to soften the blow) " Well i would have been the same" but she had already pulled the rug from under my feet. First a compliment then the opposite. i can see through her she afraid of upsetting the manager because she was suposed to train me for the past 3 weeks..Instead ive just been taking notes and doing my own thing i just hate asking her for help because she belittles everything i do and never agrees with anything i have to say.


over 1 year ago, said...

I have tried these tactis and more. My husband always has a comment I cannot win.my daughtet is the same way. I feel I have expressed how I feel, understand how they feel. Yet they always knock me in the dirt and I feel, I lost. If anything you can suggest to help me defeat them. Plesse let me know.


over 1 year ago, said...

in this complicated society it is difficult to know how to handle people who are damaged. Good to have your tips on how to firmly but kindly in these situations.


over 1 year ago, said...

Excuse me, But, "you" sound like the know it all!


over 1 year ago, said...

People who think they know everything annoy the hell out of those of us who actually do.


over 1 year ago, said...

So, to stump a know it all, you have to pretend to be a know it all?


almost 2 years ago, said...

Wow! That is really good stuff thank you. sigh....what if I am married to the know it all? my wife.


almost 2 years ago, said...

I am in love with you


about 2 years ago, said...

I like all the tips in the article. Sometimes though, it's too much energy to deal with this type of person, so you cut them out of your "herd" of friends.


about 2 years ago, said...

Generally the article was spot-on for dealing with others but when your know-it-all is your husband you need better tactics. And I admit I don't know what those are. He has "facts" on any and every topic. He attempts to look like he's listening to my point of view when in fact he is thinking out his next point. He comes from a family of teachers - he is not a teacher - so I'm guessing that lectures are natural to him. I don't think he is egotistical or narcissistic, though. I do appreciate what was said about mentally letting it go and the reminder that have anything to do with me as a person or my own level of knowledge. My coping mechanism has been to have mastered the "uh-huh" and "oh, yeah?" without really listening.


about 2 years ago, said...

As a writer whose frequent subject these days is my friend Kitty, now in late stage Alz, I notice a wide range of responses to her condition. Often the people with the least amount of actual experience and information on this illness (and with her) want to expound the most. My group includes concerned neighbors, Kitty's caregivers at the home, passersby, and the fool at the coffee shop (see my last entry). I try and use humor to de-fuse a situation, but of course, sometimes you'd like to give that wiseacre a good, swift kick. Depending on the situation and my mood at the moment, I may respond, "Well, I can understand how you might think/feel that way, but her Doctor has said.." Or, "I know this woman for twenty years and my history with her suggests that.." Annoying? No doubt about it.


about 2 years ago, said...

Thank you, Paula Spencer Scott.


about 2 years ago, said...

AH... I just read most comments... I was snarky about Asperger's Syndrome. Yes, autistic disorders can be extremely difficult. I have Temple Grandin's books; she is a Hero and a survivor. She proved that childhood governed by a very caring adult as well as becoming an "expert" can overcome awful odds. Which brings me back to the article on "Knowitalls" We (Americans) live in a "knowledge-centered" social order. Other cultures that I have experienced seem to be less "individuation-centered" as well as being inclined to give weight to age, experience, background, ethical orientations and personal qualities. In America, we are tending to consider only "facts" and "information" as politically correct. That is, we work to avoid acknowledging age, race, gender, experience...etc. Also, we work toward positive thinking rather than being able to say, "I don't like what you're saying and I am leaving." Of course, that's often not possible to accomplish. But I once stood up in a Jury room and shut 10 people up...carefully... in order to stop their bullying the juror sitting beside me who was pregnant and young and unwilling to go with the other 11 of us ... in a murder trial. I quietly over and over explained to the woman the facts in the case and why we all felt the way we felt about our decision. She listened and listened and finally came along. (I still don't know if I did the right thing for ALL Time... but it was right for all of us at THAT time!) I guess I mean to say that SOMEtimes ... WE do know what to has to be done. Especially caretaking and at moments of responsibility. And much of the time it's good to just let the Blah Blah go Bye Bye if you can. good luck


about 2 years ago, said...

My "know-it-all" calls her affliction "Asperger's" which is a term that has given weight to a lot of this nuisance behaviour. Also, I have to deal with it in a court of law... and try to find a way to make her hang herself before a judge...


about 2 years ago, said...

Considering ways to deal with ultimate conflicts was helpful.


about 2 years ago, said...

Our neighbor is an ex professor and simply LOVES to put his smart aleck-shnozzola in, even when it is clearly ill-timed, not asked for, or just wide of the mark. Often, he is simply a jerk. As many people know, I married for the first time at the age of 60. And Ric is a sweetheart: hardworking, level headed, honest - he also has a wonderful, quick sense of humor. So, there we were sitting at breakfast in the coffee shop, the day after our wedding. I'm admiring my gold band ring. In strolls 'Mr. Expertise" who opens with "Hey, congrats, you two. But I'm surprised..you know, at your age..how come you got married? Why didn't you just shack up?" Ric eyed him over his orange juice and said with a smile, "We thought it would look better when the baby came.." Know-All was mortified, and beat a hasty retreat. HaHaHa..!!


about 2 years ago, said...

This describes my husband perfectly. What I have learned to do is treat the situation as I do when working with those with dementia. Listen and be there for them 100% and respond with huumm, ah, oh, really!?, uha. It is hard to argue with that and it conserves the recipients energy.


about 2 years ago, said...

DEFINITELY NEED TO REMEMBER ALL THIS AND TRY IT WHEN I WIND UP IN THIS SITUATION AGAIN :-) THANK YOU MUCH FOR THE INFORMATION!


about 2 years ago, said...

Thanks so much that is really good to say when you're in a know-it-all situation. Thank you.


over 2 years ago, said...

My best friend became this way as his life got worse. He needs more advice than I,do. I am really sick of him and feel that he thinks he is superior. Wish I could be honest with him.


about 3 years ago, said...

That was such an eye opener! Thank you SO much! The subject is such a large one & you put it all in a organized group, I am amazed and thankful!


about 3 years ago, said...

This is just what I needed -- well organized, carefully thought out, with supporting research that validates the conclusions drawn. Well done!


about 3 years ago, said...

Ralphoo, if we categorize, my personal opinion is that most people are just obnoxious and monopolize conversations because polite people let them. The suggestions in this article are great for dealing with them, but probably wouldn't make any difference to someone suffering from Asbergers, as the nature of their condition makes communication pure hell. It certainly wouldn't faze the NPDs, who love the sound of their own voice and don't care if you're going to miss an appointment with your oncologist because of their endless monologue. The Asbergers merely want to impart info and their disorder makes it difficult to do so in a socially-acceptable way. Once an NPD has the stage, grab a chair or leave. NPDs are the ones who don't care if you're passing by with a baby on one hip and a forty pound laundry basket on the other: if they've got something to say (and always do), stop your life and listen or be prepared to deal with them pouting a week. Another person listed the incredible demands the NPDs make on everyone around them, until they no longer have anyone near them. The best example I can give is that after 30 years of marriage, our family vacation photos rarely show the kids, and never showed me. The camera always had to be on him. After getting my life back in my 50s, I don't have time for people who want to waste it. NPDs are very different from Aspergers folks and general big-mouths. It's up to each person to react as they choose, enabling, listening or driving off in their car. This IS a great article for handling big mouths at work or family reunions.


about 3 years ago, said...

enjoy this conversation


about 3 years ago, said...

This is a very interesting discussion. Is the consensus that the "know-it-all" is most likely to have NPD, or would it be Asbergers? Or something else?