Coping With the Know-it-all
In last week’s column I began a discussion of the know-it-all personality. That kind of person’s attitude often leads him to be narrow-minded and less willing to learn from experience. A boss or close family member like this can be especially difficult to deal with.
The first thing to remember is that it is highly unlikely that you can change the know-it-all. Setting this goal for yourself can be very frustrating, so your challenge is to learn how to deal with the person in ways that reduce conflict and communication difficulties.
Next, when dealing with a know-it-all personality, abstain from taking his or her behavior personally. Such a person’s behavior pattern is consistent with most anyone with whom he or she interacts.
Basically, there are two know-it-all types. One is the individual who thinks he knows it all but actually knows very little. The second type is the one who does, in fact, know a great deal about the subject at hand.
You have to cope with each type differently.
If you are dealing with a person who knows little or nothing, you should soon learn to separate out any information he gives you. Develop a separate means for assessing the validity and reliability of his input.
This kind of person may possess a deficient ego and will attempt to use authoritative statements to bolster a poor self-concept.
Compassionate understanding goes a long way in coping with the know-it-all who knows little. Listening and letting him know you appreciate his comments may be helpful. You, of course, will keep in mind the source of your information.
Dealing with the know-it-all who does know a lot about a topic requires a different strategy. If you intend to refute or question this individual, be prepared to do your homework.
Actually, this person can be a valuable asset to your organization. He is usually ambitious and wants to carve a niche for himself. Your role will be to guide him into an area where he can be an authority who will bring strength to your group.
One strategy that can be useful with this person is to focus on “what” and “how” rather than “why” questions.
Why questions may be perceived as challenging the wisdom and knowledge of the know-it-all.
Finally, remember to be nice to know-it-alls. Giving them a simple thank you to their sometimes obnoxious behavior can be a good way to stem it.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright ©2012