They’re that person who ALWAYS has the answers.
They’re full of all the facts and stats, and can’t help but spew them out as if they got punched in the “random facts jejunum” (Jackie Moon reference anyone?)
If you know someone like this, or even if this person is YOU, today’s quick hitter episode explains the different reasons why people may act this way, and how we can better manage our conversations with them.
Keep in mind that these are very general strategies. At the end of the day, we want to help you learn HOW to think – not WHAT to think. So as you utilize these tools, be sure to consider all the details of your context.
The more specific the situation, the better strategy you’ll create.
Relevant AOC Resources:
- What Drives You? – Drives Assessment Quiz
- Drives (AOC Podcast E130)
- Power Dynamics (AOC Podcast E63)
- Influence Tactics (AOC Podcast E202)
- Context (AOC Podcast E95)
Our 1-on-1 mentoring and live Apprenticeship workshops both offer you the opportunity to gain experience having hard conversations, be coached and evaluated, and walk away prepared to have more successful interactions. If you love learning right along side other growth minded individuals, you can see our 2023 Apprenticeship schedule and Sign Up Here for your destination of choice.
However, if you prefer a more 1-on-1 coaching approach, take just a few minutes to fill out this form, and we will get back with you within 48 hours to schedule a free discovery session to find out how we can best add value to your career and life!
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Brett Bartholomew 00:01
One of the most frustrating things you can deal with as a leader, or as a human being, is simply how to deal with a Know-It-All. Now, I’m doing this episode, and it’s going to be a quick one, in relative terms, because this is a question that I got today. And I thought, You know what we’ve done podcast episodes that touch on this, we certainly teach a lot about it in our clinics and our workshops. But what if I did something just bite size on the podcast? Is this something that people could use and share with other colleagues or family members? So want to do it quickly?
Now, first things first, whenever you’re dealing with a certain communication issue, or you’re dealing with a certain personality, or archetype or anything like that, you always have to think broad first. So I always tell people, if you’re going to ask me a question like what how do I deal with a Know-it-all, you better come armed with some other contextual information.
I want to know the nature of the interaction. I want to know more about the people involved and and I’ll get all the details. What were their ages? You know, what, what jobs do they work in? What was the environment in which the conversation took place in? Did this happen at work? Is this in their personal life? What’s the history between these people, this is where the world typically gets things wrong, we focus on the issue, not the context, you cannot just focus on the issue without the context, because it’s the interaction between things.
Brett Bartholomew 01:22
And remember, we say this all the time, the baseline of all communication, is misunderstanding. Since we cannot read one another’s minds, you have to realize and not be so frustrated when you feel like you have a conflict with an individual, whether it’s a Know-it-all, or otherwise. Because what’s really going on is human beings have needs.
And the majority of them don’t know how to express their needs, their wants, their desires. So this is one of the prevailing communication frameworks out there in the social sciences, CMM, it just says, Hey, this is why we have the tool of communication to begin with. Because since we are imperfect beings that don’t know how to express ourselves, and we can’t read one another’s minds, you are going to have to get in, you know, interactions with people to try to figure this stuff out.
And people saw communication as that skeleton key as that tool to sharpen, because when they go out in the world, they’re inevitably going to deal with misunderstandings, they would take the training of it a lot more seriously. So we’re going to keep this really simple. I’m not going to nerd out too much on you just remember, context matters. So if we’re dealing with a No at all, if you’re dealing with a Know-it-all, the first thing you want to think about is what might be their base desire.
Now, we asked somebody that came to one of our workshops, who is a self proclaimed, they said, Hey, I can’t tell you how many times somebody has said, I come off like a Know-it-all. And this really woke me up this being the role playing that we did. And I said, Well, tell me, what would you go back and tell yourself? Or how would have you? How would you have coached yourself out of those tendencies? And they said, Well, in my circumstance, what was happening is I just really wanted to help, I was insecure about some things professionally, I wanted to be sure that I was seen as a helpful person that provided value.
And my mistake was that I jumped into almost every conversation. And I thought that if I could just add facts or research or an interesting point that somebody might, you know, just appreciate that they might see me as the difference maker I was trying to be. So we asked them, you know, well, that’s funny, what was your drives quiz results.
And if you guys don’t know what I’m talking about, go to artofcoaching.com/drives right now, it’s a free quiz, we recommend you take it three times throughout the year in different emotional states. And you know, you’re gonna see kind of what your predominant drive is, we have a whole episode on it, just take it.
And she says, Well, you know, my predominant drive to that point was significance, you know, and that makes sense. Because I do want to make a difference. I think a lot of my life, I felt like I was in jobs where I was taken for granted. Or, you know, I’d get on the internet and see a lot of people, you know, talking about things that I felt like they didn’t really do the research on and it seemed like, they weren’t really being authentic or straightforward with people.
So I armed myself with all this information and all the skills, but the reality is, I probably didn’t control this, this impulse that I have to jump in. It’s like, I want to solve everybody’s problems. And so I thought that was an interesting point. And that’s the point that we try to make when we teach our workshops is you have to think seven layers deeper when you deal with these people.
And that’s why even if you’ve read my book, Conscious Coaching, the archetypes weren’t enough. An archetype is a typical model of behavior. Now, it like but you still have to understand the underlying drives, and he needs to know more about the environment.
So I’ll give another example. We had somebody that came off as a Know-it-all or unconscious coaching parlance Royal. They kind of felt like hey, I’ve had some success, in previous situations, I do know a good bit, I want to be helpful. And when we asked them, we said, well, you know what helped you recognize this? And they said, Well, it all happened when I lost my job. I lost a job. And I remember at some of the performance reviews, I just gotten told that I bulldoze certain employees. And while they appreciated my enthusiasm, it felt like I was above the team, they felt like I was demonstrating behaviors that I you know, I didn’t think the team’s ideas are valuable and important.
And that wasn’t true at all. And I said, well, there has to be some truth to these things. And they said, Well, here’s the real deal. I found myself when I got into certain environments, where somebody was stating something with almost absolute certainty. It was a real trigger or annoyance for me, because and I said, Well, why was that? And they said, Well, I just think that sometimes when people state things as if they have a V, one answer, it makes me almost want to prove them wrong, because I know that’s not the case in life.
Brett Bartholomew 06:03
And so whenever I was around somebody that seemed a little bit cocky, or self assured, or really confident, I felt like I had to challenge that and push back, when in reality, I was just trying to get them to, to think more deeply, or I was trying to just make people say, hey, maybe we shouldn’t be so cocky about this, maybe we should examine it a different way. And I thought that was interesting. But then there’s this other kind of Know-it-all. And there’s many different kinds of this, that really just are not self aware people.
And most people aren’t self aware, but I’m talking about these people are really on the other end of that spectrum, they really do have this better than average effect to them, where they see themselves as smarter, more virtuous, whatever. And are they Dunning Kruger where maybe, maybe these types of Know-it-all, and this is a special type, they have a lot of book smarts, or maybe they’ve listened to a lot of podcasts. And they think, oh, you know, I got this, and they don’t realize that they haven’t really operated enough in the real world.
And we see this a lot at our workshops is, you know, inevitably we’ll get somebody that’s read the work of Daniel Kahneman, or some other researchers. And so on day one, when we’re going over a lot of theory about decision making and human nature, they want to recite all these things. But then day two, when we do the role playing, they tend to get lost, or when it’s their turn to teach something to another member of the group, they struggle.
And that’s because they live in this world of exposure, they have all this information, but they don’t have a lot of experience. And you know, then they can get really frustrated, because they’ll try to save face if they struggle. And so we always try to let them know, hey, like, first of all, it’s, it’s okay to fail, it’s way better to fail and admit that mistake, and jump back on it than it is to just act like you’re above it all.
Brett Bartholomew 07:50
And there’s so many people that will avoid putting skin in the game because of that. But you know, there’s also an aspect of, of Know-it-alls, where a lot of times they just want to be validated. And you heard that in the previous examples. So let me break this down clearly, and I’m speaking generally here, alright, remember, if you’re dealing with a Know-it- all in your life, don’t just think that these things immediately all apply to them. Right? break these things down. T
his is why we put our courses out there, we want you to learn how to think not what to think people are incredibly complex. They’re incredibly complex. But generally, if you have a Know-it-all, they want to be seen, and they want to be validated. So one thing you can do, and one thing I do is I get them involved early, I give them an opportunity to share their knowledge, kind of scratch that itch, so to speak. Right, and I’ll thank them for that. I’ll thank them for that and make sure they are seen. They’re heard their opinion matters, and it’s validated. Then if they try to bulldoze in another interaction.
And remember, we teach a lot of clinics. So we’ll have people that are just really enthusiastic and want to jump in. And let’s say this person’s name, Shawn, just for the sake of example, I’ll say, hey, Shawn, I’ll get to you in a moment, you had a killer point in the first part of this lecture. I want to hear some other opinions here.
Brett Bartholomew 09:08
So me letting Shawn know, I’m not just shutting you down, I will come back to you. That tends to check the box of the security drive. And remember, go to artofcoaching.com/drives. Or check the show notes for the episode on drives. We, we talk a whole lot about this stuff, and it’s on our newsletter as well.
But in, in general, that security drive is people that just want they want certainty. They want to know Hey, what’s coming up in the agenda, or what’s the plan for this weekend? Facts are really important to them, it gives them this comfort blanket. So letting a Know-it-all know, like hey, I’m not gonna give you that chance to chat right now. You’ve already had your time, but it’ll also come again and we’ll have you jump in on the back end. But now we’re getting to somebody else.
Because otherwise they’re just kind of waiting and they have all this information and remember, a lot of all a lot of them just give him the benefit of the doubt because people aren’t perfect they’re just excited. And I think about this, if you guys are parents, you know this, if we don’t give our son who’s going to be three in December, attention, he doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough attention, he’ll start doing something dangerous. They’ll either climb up on the table, or, you know, have something that he knows in his hands that he shouldn’t have.
And he’s really just trying to say, Hey, Dad, and mom, I would like you to notice me. And while I’m not trying to be demeaning, you do need to think of it like that, because it’s, it’s a regulating behavior. And it’s a it’s a self awareness. And, and sometimes it can be an emotional maturity thing. But why don’t want you to throw stones. And I want you to think deeper as all of you, including myself have these moments as well. Where we want to contribute, we want to be seen, we want to be heard, we want to be acknowledged. So it happens to everybody.
Brett Bartholomew 10:50
And if you want to know how to deal with a jerk, Know-it-all, you know that we’ll have some tips in there too. But you can’t just assume everybody that comes off like a Know-it-all, isn’t like trying to be a jerk. They’re just not some of them. Just want to be heard and seen. Some of them want certainty. Some of them, you know, just don’t have a lot of emotional regulation.
So I’m going to repeat those things again and again and again. Some websites will tell you a lot of Know-it-all are narcissists. Plain and simple. I don’t agree with that.
Are there Know-it-all? are people that come off like Know-it-alls that are narcissists, for sure. But not all of them are. Narcissism is a stable personality trait, meaning you’re gonna if somebody is a true narcissist, you’re gonna see that across many contexts, no matter what they always think they’re right about everything. But if you see somebody that is displaying Know-it-all tendencies or traits, and it’s situational, well, these are just behaviors, you know that that doesn’t make them a narcissist. They don’t think they’re the best in every situation. And I just think that’s too simplistic. It’s one thing to call somebody a Know-it-all, in general. And some people do display those behaviors. But to say all know, it alls, are narcissists is not right.
But one thing you don’t want to do is just are you with them? You know, if you are you with them, you’re just picking that scab even more, because remember, there’s an insecurity there. This is what I’ve said the whole episode. So far, there’s an insecurity of wanting to be validated, wanting to be seen as useful, wanting to be recognized. So if you are you with them, and you battle back, because you have your own insecurities, all you’re doing is amplifying that behavior. So that is not helpful. You want to respond in non threatening ways.
If you just tell them they’re wrong, right? That’s, that’s not gonna help either insecurity. So I might say, hey, Becca, you’re not wrong there. But there’s something else that I want you to kind of think about in this. Right? So that’s kind of saying, hey, it’s not quite right, what you’re contributing is not quite right. But I also love that you’re getting the wheels turning, let’s lock and load.
Brett Bartholomew 12:55
So and even if they’re like, Well, no, these are the facts. And this is that then Okay, say, hey, well, thank you again for that. Here’s what I’ve heard, though, or can you take a devil’s advocate approach? Or where might that not be the case? And if they’re like, well, that’s always the case, just say, okay, even if you think that, and even if it’s true, let’s just have an experiment of where it might not be the case, even if you just want to imagine it, whatever, right and see what’s going on.
And, and remember, you’re gonna have some struggles with this, expect that I taught a workshop once where three members of the audience were self, they had told me, one of them was autistic. Another one they had said was on the spectrum. So there were some concepts where they just flat out like did not, it did not get through. And so I tried to work on some other concepts. And I brought them into it and said, Well, why don’t you try to? Why don’t you explain it to the group? Or why don’t you kind of take us through your thoughts on this.
And that brings me my next tip is get like get them involved, not only in terms of sharing these things, but have them teach something, if they can to the group, because a lot of these people remember what I said, they have exposure to ideas and facts and information, but they may not have experience in the real world applying it.
Brett Bartholomew 14:11
And this is where I will go, I mean, I will go to my grave defending the value of role playing. Because as I said earlier, when we get people and we say, alright, well try that solution in real time. And we’ll match them up with a role playing partner at our apprenticeship. And inevitably, some part of it is not going to go like they thought it would. And then they’re going to have to reflect on that.
So I guess what I’m saying here, is, there’s only so much you can say to Know-it-all, but like Bruce Lee Yeah, he had that quote where the teacher appears when the student is ready. Nothing teaches people more effectively than experience and just sometimes even failure in real time. Life will teach you these lessons. So that’s another point to just remember. A
lot of times Anybody that’s a Know-it-all does not have a lot of hands on experience, or their experience if they do, because you might be like, Ah, I don’t know, I know a guy named Jim. And he’s been, you know, a pretty solid engineer for 30 years. Well then ask yourself, is Jim’s experience pretty isolated? Is he a subject matter expert, or has he had a lot of success in one specific domain, because remember, this stuff is situational. And the more knowledgeable somebody is, or the more experienced they are, it’s typically because they’ve learned through failure and hands on stuff, there’s a difference between being like smart, and wise, right? You can be smart, you can read all you want.
And again, I encourage reading, I’m working on another book, don’t you should not take that away from this. But you know, there’s people that are smart. And then there’s people that are wise, and wise people are rarely know it alls. Because they’ve just seen too many times in life where certain things they thought to hold true, don’t hold true. So we’ve talked about getting them involved in different ways. We’ve talked about making sure they know that they’ll get their time addressing that security drive, even if they try to dominate a conversation. We’ve talked about responding in non threatening ways. We’ve talked about getting what I just talked about getting them involved.
Brett Bartholomew 16:16
Another thing you can do is just remember, you’re not trying to win, like a war with these people. So there’s sometimes you just got to wrap up the conversation. And you may not get to that middle ground or common ground right there. So that’s okay. Just be like, Hey, I’m actually not sure that I agree with this, but I need to think on it a little bit. And I appreciate you sharing your opinion on that. You know, like, just think about that.
Because if you’re like, Well, you know what, I just have a different opinion than you. And, you know, I don’t think you’re right. And tomorrow, I’m going to come with a bunch of research, and no, it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work. Another piece that I’ll tell you, and I’m gonna give you as many general tips as I can, just because there’s so many applications to this, there’s so many applications. And remember, you want to be the more specific the situation, the better the strategy you’re going to get.
But one time we had somebody come to our workshop, and it was actually two people. And they were a husband and wife duo. And they could just not see eye to eye. And they were both kind of butting in and kind of speaking over each other and, and all these things. And really what I had to do is isolate them, I had to isolate, I might have to get them in different groups, they kept trying to roleplay with each other. Everything was like, well, we’re in this business together, we’d really feel comfortable just doing it together. And I said, I hear you, you’ll get that opportunity. But there’s a lot of people here that also could benefit from your perspective. So I’m gonna separate you a little bit.
And you’ve got to break them up, you’ve got to break them up. So they have the opportunity to get feedback from other people, and not just be so isolated in their perspective. Now, if you’re like, Well, hey,
Brett Bartholomew 17:54
I hear you, but I can’t really isolate them. And I can’t do this. And I can’t do that. Well, I’m gonna ask you to think about some of these things, then what would you do? If you can’t isolate them? And you have two people now that are know it alls, and they’re constantly joined at the hip, what are some options, you know, now you got to change the activity, you know, maybe you have to change the drill.
And then you have to say, hey, in this in this version of it, you partner one are going to be in charge partner two no feedback, your job is just to go along with it lock in comply do as they say, and maybe the activity is one. And we’ve done this before, where we put people that just they love giving feedback, they love helping, they don’t know how to kind of create boundaries, they don’t know how to, what’s the word I’m looking for, they just want to help so much, they don’t know how to regulate it, I’ll just say, hey, it’s an exercise in that like, not every situation requires more of you.
Not every situation requires more of you. So just take a step back, take a moment, you’ll get your turn to lead in the next round, make it so they actually lose in that game. If they give in to their base desires. You have to do that. You have to do that. You know, and then you know, another another one. That’s pretty obvious. But and I don’t know that I agree with that all the time, because it’s just tricky. And I always try to scour the internet to see what other advice people are giving.
Brett Bartholomew 19:18
Because I think sometimes that’s valuable, too. There is a popular way of dealing with this where people will be like, Oh, best way to deal with a Know-it-all, is ask them a bunch of questions. You know, if no one else is coming at you with just a bunch of facts or what they perceive to be as facts or what they asserted as facts, slow them down by just asking them questions.
No. No, I think about a time this happened in thanksgiving, this happened I was at somebody’s house for Thanksgiving. And there was one of these people at the table. And one of the people just kept asking them questions and it just led to this person talking the entire time and getting even more assertive about the things they know. And oh, well, you know, yeah. And if you would have read this and if you would have done that No.
And the idea I think, is well intentioned, because it’s like of utilize Socratic reasoning, you may get them to kind of question themselves, I’m going to tell you, again, role playing or putting them in situations where they’ve got to take the lead, they’ve got to teach, they’ve got to kind of be faced with the possibility of their own inadequacies, or the possibility that their strategy may not work.
Putting them in real life scenarios is always going to be better. It just is, you’re generally not going to win. Dealing with a Know-it-all with Socratic reasoning, you’re just not, you know, and, and where I tell you guys moving on to another piece of how to deal with them is, just make sure you’re leading by example. You know, you might see somebody that is a Know-it-all and that may want you like, you may want to now engage and show them that they’re not a Know-it-all.
And then you understand the reality that do you by default, kind of become the Know-it-all. You’re not swallowing your pride. You know, you’re you’re trying to get on them to show them that they don’t have all the answers.
Brett Bartholomew 21:01
But now here you come, overwhelming the situation and trying to do that, you know, their behavior is not going to change overnight. It’s just not. So it’s not your job to try to save it. So I think just what I’d tell you again, because we can give Tips and Tips and Tips, and you’re not going to like it is you have to think like Sherlock Holmes. Oh, you’re dealing with a Know-it-all. Tell me more about this. What’s their age? What’s the nature of the conversation, give me spell it out.
For me, I want to be able to smell the air in the room. I want to know what the history was of these individuals. And you have to literally think like if you guys are taking a new job, and they ask you like, hey, we really need you to turn things around here, you’re going to ask everything you can about that organization, aren’t you, you’re gonna try to know who worked here, what went wrong in the past, you’re going to try to assess all these things that you need to do it here.
We’ve said it in the past. So if you’re a doctor, you don’t just prescribe meds, oh, I got a cough. That’s as general as Oh, there’s this Know-it-all? No, no family history, all that. The more you know about the power dynamics at play, the more you know about the influence tactics, that individual tried using both the Know-it-all. And the person trying to deal with the know it all. The more you know about the situation and stakeholders and context as a whole, the better you can lock in.
But I promise, some of the examples that I gave you gate will give you a great starting point. If it doesn’t, and you’re like Nope. Then Alright, take this. Where might you be the issue? You say you’re dealing with a Know-it-all, you say they’re the problem? Where might you be the issue? How might you be empowering it? How might you be or enabling it? Either one? How might you be exacerbating the issue? How might like what like, assess yourself? Because remember, it’s not always other people, like you are doing something, or you know, you’re not doing anything. And by by default, you’re doing something there. You know, but you’ve got to assess where might you be the issue.
You can also look at our influence tactics, we have a whole episode on that, I’ll put that in the show notes as well. But better yet, you know what I’m going to tell you get to one of our workshops and work on these things in real time. We use these archetypes to put you in situations, think of people you meet with in your life, people that are causing you a lot of struggle and strain, we will put you in situations where you actually have to roleplay against somebody with that trait, that tendency that behavior, and you’re gonna get a lot of practice. And you’re gonna learn a lot of tips, almost think of it as like jujitsu for communication, right? It’s true social agility.
We want people to come that say, Hey, I have a problem dealing with these kinds of people or these kinds of situations, and we’re gonna put you in them. And the nice thing is, is you’re around a bunch of other people who want to solve problems, who have experiences of their own, who are not insecure about role playing, and they want to help you. Because my question is, this is, how else are you going to get feedback on your approach? How else are you going to practice for these things? Because you can say life is the best teacher. But if you have the opportunity to rehearse and refine for those situations when you do it. You know, I don’t know a football player that just says yeah, just get better by playing the game. They practice. They scrimmage. So we’ll put you in those situations and you lock it in.
Brett Bartholomew 24:36
We love answering these types of questions. You know, and I hope you guys rather you feel like they’re general or not. Just remember our goal is to give you tips and strategies, some things are going to be general, we try to keep these episodes, some of them under 30 minutes.
If you really want to get your hands dirty, you want highly specific strategies, check out our events at artofcoaching.com/events. Check out our courses on artofcoaching.com/courses. Check out our other work we’re determined to help we hope this gave you value.
We’ll talk to you soon
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