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Difficult People: How to Deal with the Know-It-All

February 20th, 2010 3:56 PM by Lehel S.

*** Article: Difficult People: How to Deal with the Know-It-All - By Mark Tyrrell ***
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An old tale has it that a man went to have a lion tattooed onto his back. "Ouch!" he screamed to the tattooist. "What are you doing?"

"I'm drawing the lion's mane," replied the tattooist.

"We don't need a mane on this lion!"

A little later the man shouted again and on being told that now the tail was being drawn onto his back, ordered that "a lion doesn't need a tail!" This continued until, of course, the frustrated tattooist ordered the opinionated man out of his shop.

You may not have the option of ordering the know-it-all in your life 'out of the shop'. Maybe you work or even live with them. But there are things you can do to better deal with the 'expert' on everything; if there's a subject, they have an opinion on it -- and it's better than yours. Or that's what they like to think. So what can you do?

Tip 1 -- Don't take it personally

Know-it-alls can put others down by implication. After all, if they are constantly 'putting you right' and they know 'everything' then, by implication, you know nothing. Being around people like this can flatten your self-esteem.

But know-it-alls can't help themselves and chances are they like to put everyone straight. They feel they are doing you a favour (and sometimes they might be) by telling you how 'it is'. So keep calm and, like water off a duck's back, don't take it as a personal affront. It's not that they think you are stupid; it's just that they don't think much about you at all. They haven't yet learned the difference between opinion and fact.

Tip 2 -- Flatter the know-it-all as a 'way in'

Know-it-alls thrive on a sense of self-importance. So to get them to listen (which tends not to come naturally), you can use their need for status as sugar coating to get them to swallow something new (your take on things). For example you might say: "I have an idea I'd value your opinion on..." This sets them up to listen because you've appealed to a primary motivation -- the importance of their opinion.

Tip 3 -- Use their contrariness judo-style

A know-it-all will often feel compelled to say the opposite of whatever you say. You say "black", they say "white". Their need to hold an opposing point of view is more compelling for them than the need to find the truth of a situation. So you could say: "I'm sure you are going to think this is a bad idea; in fact I'm certain you will think it's silly...but..." Now the know-it-all is in the position of having to agree with your idea by first disagreeing with your opener that they are bound to think it silly.

Reverse psychology. I have used this and it works wonders.

Tip 4 -- Use truisms to pre-empt their know-it-all-ism

You can drop into conversation statements like: "Only a narrow-minded fool thinks they know everything but I was wondering if anyone knows..." This kind of statement can have an effect almost below the level of consciousness. And if they do proffer their opinion after you've seeded such a statement, then it's likely to be more moderate; less dictatorial. Other statements you could use include:

• "Well if we are open-minded about it, we could look at it this way..."
• "None of us knows everything but together we can work this out..."
• "I'm surprised to hear you say that; I'd have thought you'd think differently." This can apply a mild shock and get them to actually question their own opinion (and temporarily halt their transmission) without contradicting them directly. A statement like this focuses their attention because it's about them.

Continually peppering your language with statements like this conditions the know-it-all's behavior, all below conscious awareness. They all convey the pattern of open-minded discourse without directly challenging the know-it-all's self-proclaimed authority.

Tip 5 -- Use the 'broken record technique'

Sometimes the only way to get through to the know-it-all is to repeat your own position over and over. This tactic requires resilience on your part. The secret is to avoid getting dragged into the content of their arguments.

For example, if you have planned to play golf this weekend on a particular course and they are telling you that you should play on another one because "it's better," your 'broken record' conversation may go something like this:

Know-it-all: "No, you should play at the Hollingbury golf course; it's miles better, you know!"

You: "Maybe, but I want to play on this course!"

Know-it-all: "The Hollingbury course is much nearer, you know!"

You: "I don't care. I want to play on this course!"

Know-it-all: "The Hollingbury course is cheaper, you know!"

You: "I don't care. I just want to play on this other course!"

Know-it-all: "The Hollingbury course is much more scenic!"

You: "I don't care. I just want to play on this other course!"

Know-it-all: "The Hollingbury course has a better clubhouse!"

You: (laughs) "Have you got shares in the Hollingbury golf club? The fact is I just want to play on this other course!"

It can be impossible to out-argue the know-it-all logically, but just stating your opinion and sticking to it no matter what they say can: A) make them do all the work and B) eventually exhaust them so they can let you be right for a change.

And I can think of no better way to end this (but I may be wrong) than to quote an anonymous wise person:

"No man knows less than the man who knows it all."
** To comment on this article or to read comments about this article, go here.

About the Author:
Mark Tyrrell, the SelfGrowth.com Official Guide to General Self Help, is the author of a Self Help Audio and Articles website where you'll find a whole section on Dealing with Difficult People.

Posted in:General
Posted by Lehel S. on February 20th, 2010 3:56 PM

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