Have you ever encountered a “know-it-all”? Someone who claims to know everything, likes to dominate conversations, and offer unsolicited advice?
Dealing with such a person can be quite difficult. Fortunately, the characteristics of a know-it-all are fairly easy to spot.
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What is a “know-it-all”?
A know-it-all can also be defined as someone who has an opinion about everything. They are very confident about their views, but they don’t really listen or consider other people’s points of view. They may also come off as overconfident, self-centered, egotistical, etc., but it all comes down to one thing – they have arrogant behavior because they think they know every topic there is!
Examples of Know-It-Alls
Whether you’re at home, in school, in the office, and in other social settings, you’re bound to encounter a know-it-all sooner or later. Here are some common examples:
A know-it-all could be your elderly aunt who has an opinion about everything. While you’re cooking dinner, she would be looking over your shoulder constantly, telling you the “right” way to prepare the food. If you’re having a casual discussion about music, she would complain about how today’s artists lack talent and don’t know how to compose excellent songs, like in the “good old days.”
In school, the know-it-all could be your History professor who refuses to accept ideas contrary to his own. It could also be your overachieving classmate who never gets tired of raising her hand in class – so much that even your teacher tries to ignore her and calls someone else instead.
In the office, the know-it-all could be a co-worker whom everyone tries to avoid because of her superior attitude. She loves telling others how to do their jobs but has trouble following commands or receiving feedback.
And yes, know-it-alls could be anybody. It could be you. It could be me. It could be anybody.
So, what are the telltale characteristics of a know-it-all? Let’s find out.
Known Characteristics of a Know-it-all
How can you recognize a know-it-all from everyone else? Here are some typical signs or characteristics of know-it-alls:
1) They lack good listening skills.
Know-it-alls like to talk and dominate conversations; however, they’re not too keen on listening and letting other people speak. They may pause and “pretend” to be interested in what you have to say, but deep inside, they are actually thinking about how to take over the discussion once again.
2) They love talking about themselves.
They tend to brag about their achievements, talents, and experiences. They are the kind of people who often offer unsolicited advice without considering how others would feel.
3) They think they’re always right.
When confronted by something new, know-it-alls immediately jump to conclusions, even if they know based on limited knowledge. For example, they might assume that there must be only one correct answer to any question. Or they might believe that they already know everything there is to know about a specific topic.
4) They often interrupt others.
When they feel threatened by another person’s opinions, they try to silence the other person by cutting them as they’re speaking. They might also make comments such as “You don’t understand…” or “I’m sure I told you this before….”
5) Know-it-alls love to offer unsolicited advice.
Know-it-alls simply love giving their “expert” advice and opinion – even if the situation doesn’t call for it. Imagine having a conversation with friends about your favorite restaurants. The know-it-all will most likely give a lecture about the dangers of eating restaurant food or try to convince everyone why their favorite restaurant is “the best.”
If you ask them for suggestions, they won’t hesitate to tell you precisely what you need to change. However, they rarely consider whether their recommendations will benefit you. Instead, they focus more on convincing you to follow their ways.
6) They refuse to admit mistakes.
It doesn’t matter how many times they make errors. They will insist that they did nothing wrong anyway. Even worse, they sometimes blame others for their failures.
If someone points out an error made by the know-it-all, the latter tends to ignore the criticism and instead focuses on proving that she was right all along.
7) They like to show off their intelligence.
The know-it-all likes to act smart. That’s why they go so much length just to prove that they’re knowledgeable. They even use big words with the sole purpose of impressing others. In worse cases, know-it-alls will exaggerate information so that nobody would question their statements.
8) Know-it-alls can be condescending.
Know-it-alls like to think they are the best, or at least better than most people in many things. A good example would be that classmate who often gets the highest marks but looks down on everybody else. Instead of trying to empathize or help someone struggling in school, the know-it-all would show off “superior” knowledge and skills instead.
Know-it-alls sometimes have an inflated sense of worth and would occasionally use sarcasm and putdowns to belittle others. If you oppose their point of view, they may accuse you of being stupid or ignorant.
9) They are usually argumentative.
Know-it-alls have strong feelings about almost anything. And because they want to prove that they are smarter than other people, they often resort to conflict.
They like to start arguments, even if the situation doesn’t call for a debate. This could be because know-it-alls like having the chance to prove their “superior” knowledge. Moreover, they always need to have the last word, regardless of how strong (or weak) their argument is.
10) Know-it-alls are often quick to judge.
Know-it-alls usually see their thoughts and opinions as “absolute truth.” So, when they see or hear a differing opinion, they immediately jump to conclusions. Instead of considering other people’s ideas and looking at the bigger picture, know-it-alls are too quick to judge.
11) Know-it-alls tend to be self-centered.
Because they often have a superior attitude, know-it-alls don’t care much about anyone except themselves. They only pay attention to those whom they deem worthy enough to listen to.
12) Know-it-alls like to be the center of attention.
When something is interesting going on around them, know-it-alls will do everything in their power just to get noticed. For instance, they might talk loudly, interrupt conversations, or play loud music. Or maybe they will pretend to look important while walking through crowded places. They may also try to draw attention away from others by making fun of them.
Top Reasons Why Some People Develop the Characteristics of a Know-it-all
When you encounter a know-it-all, you might think that the person is arrogant, self-centered, or just plain selfish. As a result, you’d rather stay away and try to avoid this difficult person as much as possible.
However, we should always try to give know-it-alls the benefit of the doubt. What if there’s a deeper explanation behind the person’s condescending attitude?
Below are some probable factors:
1. Deep inside, they feel insecure.
Despite their seemingly confident and outspoken nature, some know-it-alls may be hiding insecurities. In order to satisfy their need for validation, they constantly strive for improvement, which could explain their “superior” and dominating personality trait.
That’s why it can be hard to understand what motivates these individuals. It seems like they are so sure of themselves, yet deep down, they still harbor doubts. Nonetheless, they keep on trying to convince everyone else that they are right.
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2. They’re used to being the center of attention.
Some know-it-alls grew up in families where they were treated differently from other kids. Because of this, they develop an ego that makes them believe that they deserve special treatment. When someone disagrees with them, they automatically assume that the other person must be wrong. Even up to their teenage or adult years, they still expect to be lavished with praises and attention.
3. They have always had to compete for attention.
On the other hand, a know-it-all could be the “unnoticed” or “neglected” child in the family. Growing up, this person may have had to compete for attention alongside more talented or skilled siblings. Upon reaching adulthood, their overly “competitive” attitude may have remained. As a result, they may now find it challenging to accept corrections because of fear of losing face.
How to Deal with Know-It-Alls
Now that you know about the known characteristics of know-it-alls and the possible reasons behind their bad behavior, let’s focus on how to deal with them. Here are some suggestions:
1. Get to know them better.
The know-it-all’s behavior may put you off at first, and your initial reaction might be just to stay away from that person whenever you can. But before you make any decisions, consider getting to know them better first. By spending some time with them and learning a little more about their background and experiences, you will have a better idea of their personality.
As mentioned earlier, they might be hiding deep insecurity or unresolved issues stemming from childhood. If you get to know them well enough, you might even discover something positive about them. Particularly true when dealing with people who seem very self-assured but also possess hidden weaknesses. In such cases, you can help them overcome their fears and become stronger by understanding those vulnerabilities.
2. Try to ask probing questions.
Know-it-alls love dominating discussions when given a chance to speak. After all, this enables them to show off their breadth of knowledge.
One good way to deal with them is by asking detailed questions. If they are insisting on a particular argument, ask them to support their claims. Inquire about specific details and have them verify the credibility of their sources. By putting know-it-alls in this position, you are indirectly “teaching” them to check their facts and sources before sharing these with others.
3. Don’t take their behavior personally.
Being with a know-it-all can be pretty annoying and frustrating. Sometimes, they might even say something that offends you or challenges your authority. When this happens, try not to take it personally.
A simple discussion could turn into a full-blown argument and only worsen the situation if you lash out. Before saying anything you might regret later – take a deep breath, keep calm, and try not to let the person’s words get to you.
4. Offer constructive feedback.
Most know-it-alls are not aware of how their behavior affects others. Likely, they don’t see themselves as condescending, argumentative, or judgmental. Even when people try to avoid them, they usually fail to realize that their behavior could be the reason.
If the know-it-all happens to be your friend or co-worker, consider giving them some constructive feedback. Have a cup of coffee with the person so you can have a heart-to-heart talk. This would be the perfect time to “gently” offer your feedback and suggestions. Who knows? This could be the only thing missing to help them realize that there are better ways to behave than being rude and arrogant.
5. Be patient.
It takes time to change someone else’s mind. You cannot force anyone to do things differently unless they want to. So if you’re going to improve your relationship with a know-it-all, start by making small changes. For example, instead of arguing every single point, focus on one issue at a time. Instead of constantly correcting everything he says, allow him to correct himself. Also, keep in mind that no matter how much you argue back, nothing will ever convince a know-it-all to stop behaving like one.
6. Avoid getting into an argument.
When you find yourself in a heated debate with a know-it‑all, the chances are high that you won’t win. The best strategy here is to simply walk away. Do not engage in any kind of verbal battle because you’ll lose anyway. Besides, you’re probably wasting your energy fighting against a brick wall.
7. Pick your battles wisely.
Know-it-alls tend to pick fights whenever they feel threatened. They may challenge you over trivial issues such as grammar mistakes or spelling errors. But if you choose to respond, make sure that you address the real problem first. Otherwise, you risk losing control of the conversation and end up having a pointless fight.
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8. Agree to disagree, and move on.
If you get “trapped” in a heated debate with a know-it-all, then perhaps it is better to “agree to disagree” and move on. Engaging in further debate would only prolong the discussion and waste your time. You could say something like, “Well, it appears that we simply have different opinions about this matter, so let’s just agree to disagree.”
That’s it! End of discussion.
9. Be a good role model.
Sometimes, the best approach to dealing with know-it-alls is to lead by example. For instance, in the workplace, you could show them the importance of good listening skills and being a team player.
By being honest about your range of knowledge and skills, you could show them that it’s okay to make mistakes and that “knowing everything” is not the end goal. You could encourage your colleagues, including the know-it-alls, to do the same by setting a good example.
10. Keep your sense of humor.
Having a know-it-all at home or in the workplace can be emotionally exhausting at times, especially if you don’t like participating in their seemingly endless debates and one-sided discussions.
In any situation, remember to keep your cool, as well as your sense of humor. Don’t take things seriously, and try to see the bright and fun side of things. Who knows? You just might be able to bring out a know-it-all’s fun side, too!
How to Avoid Becoming a Know-it-all
It may not be apparent to you, but there may be times when others see you as a know-it-all. There could be situations where you’re the one who likes to start arguments, dominate discussions, and prove your “superior” knowledge.
To avoid becoming a know-it-all, here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Take time for reflection and self-assessment.
Take some quiet time alone, without distractions. Sit down and think deeply about what makes you behave like a know-it-all.
What triggers you to speak before thinking? Do you often interrupt people in a conversation? Is it hard for you to listen carefully?
These questions should help you reexamine your behavior. Once you identify the factors that influence your behavior, you can work toward changing them.
2. Practice active listening.
Being attentive to what other people say is an integral part of active listening. It also involves asking open-ended questions, reiterating what was said, and summarizing key points. Maintaining an open mind is also crucial in order to allow yourself to hear both sides of the story.
If you get caught up in your thoughts, stop and ask yourself whether you’ve been actively listening. If not, go back to the simple steps above and make a conscious effort to truly listen to others.
3. Stop trying to win every argument.
Arguments that arise from trivial topics cause unnecessary tension and rifts between friends. They usually lead nowhere productive. Instead, focus on finding common ground. Try to find something positive that you can share even if you disagree with another person. When you do all these, you won’t have to worry so much about winning over everyone around you.
4. Think twice before jumping into conversations.
Before starting a conversation, pause for a moment and assess whether you’ll benefit from having it. Will it give you or your friends some valuable insights? Will it provide you with helpful advice?
If no, then let it pass. Not all conversations are worth pursuing. Some can only waste your precious energy.
5. Don’t take criticism personally.
Don’t get upset at comments made against you. Remember that most people aren’t out to hurt anyone. They may just be expressing themselves honestly. And sometimes, they might even mean well.
No matter who says it, it’s not always a good idea to respond negatively. So think it through before assuming or acting out on anything.
6. Never assume anything.
Never jump to conclusions based on limited information. Even though it seems obvious, many people still fail to see things clearly. Always keep an open mind and consider alternative explanations. Or simply ask other people for clarification.
7. Seek the advice of your friends and family members.
If you suspect that you’re starting to act like a know-it-all, ask trustworthy people, like your friends and family members, for advice. It always pays to seek outside opinions since you don’t know everything. Your loved ones would happily tell you if you start misbehaving. But make sure you choose trustworthy people. Otherwise, their words could come across as harsh criticisms and may not help you get to where you want to go.
10. Remember that there is a proper time for everything.
Even if you genuinely know your stuff – you’re an expert on a subject or skilled in a particular line of work – remember that there is a proper time for everything. There is a time to step up and “flaunt” your expertise; and a time to be silent and let other people shine. More importantly, there is always a time to learn, improve, and change what needs to be changed.
So, whenever you feel excited about sharing what you know, wait until the right occasion comes along. Then, do so without being too pushy. Instead, offer helpful suggestions and show interest in learning new things yourself. This way, you won’t end up annoying everyone around you.
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As you can see, there is more to know-it-alls than just “knowing it all.” They may exhibit certain signs and characteristics, but remember that past experiences and motivations could drive these. Ultimately, the important thing is to learn how to deal with know-it-alls and avoid becoming one.
As long as you continue to grow, develop, and mature as a person, you should never worry about losing your ability to listen and communicate. The best thing to do is to remain humble and avoid thinking of yourself as superior to others. After all, knowledge is more than just power; it’s something you can share with others when they need it.
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