Some of us remember a half-hour cartoon show years ago with animated animals. One of the segments involved one of the main characters doing a bit called “Mr. Know-It-All” in which he discussed a wide range of funny topics coming off as an expert on each. Of course it was tongue-in-cheek.
Nevertheless, how many of us have someone like this in our lives who really does think they, well, know it all? There isn’t any topic about which they don’t know something that makes them an expert or, more important, gives them the upper hand in the conversation. That’s really what it’s all about. If you think back on some of the conversations, this person will talk as if they either know the topic of conversation like the back of their hand or at least familiar enough with the topic to have some comment or more important, pass judgment.
Many of these people are harmless. They just seem to have an expanded sense of themselves. They may even be fun to have around at parties because you know they’ll get pretty involved and liven up the conversation.
Sometimes, though, these people can be real pains-in-the-neck. Some of these people will hold themselves out not just as know-it-alls, but experts in the current topic. They will thus give you advice, solicited or otherwise. They will talk like they are the final arbiters. The problem may be that you may actually know better—in fact you probably do because it’s your situation and you’ve probably done some research—but they are so cocksure of themselves that they may have you doubting yourself and ultimately make the wrong decision.
If they’re not giving advice, they may be commenting on some issue. Their opinion is probably different than yours. It may, in fact, be hard to have an intelligent conversation with these people especially if you’re passionate about something. When pressed to validate their information, they will twist the conversation elsewhere and avoid proof. They know; they don’t know—or care—how they know, but they just know. If you are passionate, get ready for some major frustration. Part of this scenario is that if you’re always right, you’re never wrong!
First of all, let’s understand our adversary. “Adversary” is probably not a fair or accurate word to use, but sometimes it feels like that. Obviously this is someone who’s insecure. They probably do have some valid knowledge about different things. They feel so inferior, however, that they have to embellish what they do know in order to feel like they’re respected. They are compensating for a poor self-image by affecting a superior knowledge base that they feel will have people in awe and respect. So perhaps a little tolerance is in order.
Resist the urge the follow their advice. These people are not necessarily talking from a valid knowledge base so if you haven’t already decided on a course of action, take their comments with a grain of salt and check it out. Depending on the person and their insecurity, their advice can come off like brainwashing. They can be relentless; it’s almost as if they are trying to convince themselves, too, that they are right.
Sometimes you may actually want to avoid the person completely. They may be the type that is always expressing their opinion about things and you may tire of being their audience. There are times when these people are really just talking at you and using you to be their audience. They really don’t want to hear your opinion; they just want to give you theirs. That is really your choice in abandoning the relationship if that’s a possibility.
Probably the way to mitigate this is to steer the conversation away from an intense topic or one of a decision-making nature to something lighter. Include that person in the conversation and continue to steer the conversation away from anything heavy or controversial if they come back to it. This way the conversation becomes lighter and more social, that person will relax more and perhaps the need to know everything will start to fade. Or the reinforcement of avoiding intense topics will catch on and relationship will improve. Or they may resist and continue to try to control the content. That’s when you may have to make a decision.
If this is someone very close to you, you may end up having to put up with it. You may have to make excuses to interrupt the conversation to attempt to stop the flow. Or, hey, you may be genuinely interested in what they’re saying for whatever reason. It’s, like always, up to you how you want to handle it.
Just keep tabs on how you’re feeling. If you start to feel real frustrated by the incessant chatter, take a time out—go to the bathroom or check on dinner. Then you’ll be fresh to deal with it.