Know-it-alls often create problems in personal or professional relationships. Their way of acting irritates us. Perhaps they have more knowledge and experience than others, but this doesn’t give them the right to go around acting as if they kn0w everything and as if they always have reason on their side. This is what can be really irritating about them.
In the workplace, most employees encounter at least one colleague or know-it-all boss at some point in their career. Working with someone with this attitude can become a tortuous task that can hinder our professional development and even make us quit the job.
Keys to dealing with know-it-alls
When dealing with know-it-alls, the following strategies can help:
1- Try to be understanding
This person may be irritating, but remember that their attitude is likely to be based on a lack of trust or a deeper personal problem. Instead of getting angry, don’t look for confrontation no matter how great the temptation is. Instead, try to be empathetic. If you show them that this type of attitude doesn’t lead to their desired result, it will be the other person who ultimately stops behaving that way.
2- Choose your battles
Dealing with a know-it-all can be exhausting and there are times when the best thing you can do is ignore their “useful” advice. Therefore, divert their comments with a simple “thanks for the suggestion” instead of beginning a long argument.
3- Lead by example
A leader or boss, in particular, has to learn that in many circumstances it’s good not to know everything. Saying “I don’t know, but we can look for some answers or some good ideas” shows that you’re flexible and open to other opinions. Saying “I don’t know” can also generate trust by showing openness, vulnerability, and honesty.
4- Arm yourself with arguments
If you’re making a presentation, selling an idea, or speaking during a meeting, have confidence in your arguments. Check your sources and verify the facts. The more knowledge you have, the more difficult it will be for a know-it-all to try to put you down.
When you’re in a meeting, stick to a program, which you should give out in advance, and provide a specific amount of time for each item. Arrive prepared with data and statistics in writing, so if the know-it-all interrupts you, you have something in writing to share with the team. The better prepared you are, the less room there will be for the know-it-all to try to take over.
The positive thing is that if you’re able to stop them in their tracks two or three times, the know-it-all will likely stop behaving like that with you. Remember that people don’t usually repeat behaviors that haven’t been successful.
5- Keep your sense of humor
Know-it-all people can be very defensive and sometimes even aggressive. The last thing you want to do is force them into a corner. Therefore, although it’s very tempting to use sarcasm with a know-it-all, it would certainly be counterproductive.
Instead, take a deep breath and say: “I didn’t know that. How weird!” Try to laugh off the behavior and keep in mind that, at the end of the day, their behavior is harmless and doesn’t mean anything. A friendly expression or comment can alleviate any tension.
6- Ask detailed questions
Be respectful, but ask detailed questions to “peel the layers” of a know-it-all. Ask why they think something is true or what their sources are. Asking direct questions about specific details can teach a know-it-all they should think before speaking.
7- Offer constructive criticism to the person about their behavior
Recognize that it’s possible that know-it-alls may have no idea about the actual effect of their attitude on others. If you suspect this is the case, consider addressing it carefully and tactfully during a private conversation. The important thing is that the other person feels motivated to analyze their attitude and not feel personally attacked. In that case, you could hurt the other person or even get the opposite effect, making them intensify their “unbearable” way of relating to others.
Keep in mind that know-it-alls can be very insecure, so this could be a blow to their ego. Remind them how important they are to the team, but, even more important, remind them how important it is for others to have a chance to contribute.
8- Avoid involving the boss as long as know-it-alls are not a big threat to the quality of work
If you have no choice, keep a positive tone and, instead of complaining about the person, focus on what you’re willing to do to make sure the work is well done. If the situation becomes really unbearable, talk about it with your boss and let them know how the behavior of the know-it-all is affecting the team and the work environment.
These are just some of the strategies that can help. However, dealing with know-it-alls is first and foremost an exercise in patience in which our emotional intelligence and communication skills come into play.