4 Tips to Manage Know-It-All Personalities
We all want to be better at something, after all self-improvement is necessary to grow as a person, but some people believe we live in a “me” world where everyone’s own opinion is the right opinion. I have met lots of people that will fight tooth-and-nail to make sure their opinion is the right one. Have we really become a society of know-it-alls?
Do you work with someone who always tries to make you feel like you were born a hundred years ago? If you haven’t encountered that condescending person, you will eventually. It’s almost unavoidable, and it’s how you handle these know-it-alls that make all the difference. What’s perhaps most annoying about know-it-all people is that they usually know about as much as you do (or less), but try to pass themselves off as the office expert. A master of any environment.
So what should you do when you have to deal with a condescending co-worker/person? Here are a few basic tips that may be helpful:
- After many years of practice, before you correct someone, ask yourself what will stand to be gained by risking offending someone. Will correcting them actually be helping them, or will it just give you the satisfaction of being right? If someone is trying to teach you something you already know, you can be polite about letting them know. Don’t cut people off or lecture them, this comes across as arrogance. If it’s something that may affect their school or job performance, be nice about it. “Oh, that’s interesting. Let me show/tell you how I learned to do that…” Don’t insist that your way is the right way, even if it is. Most people would rather learn for themselves.
- We are all hardwired for imitation, If you put your face right in front of a young baby and stick out your tongue, the baby will stick out his or her tongue too. This happens from a very young age (even as young as two months old). So? What does this have to do with know-it-alls? It’s an example of the built-in, wired-into-our-brain capacity we have for imitation. When you encounter this type of personality, “walk away” and try to recognize this behavior — especially since we are collectively prone to imitations and may cause bigger issues in our work environments.
- Figure out what’s worth ignoring. The know-it-all coworker could be saying condescending things all day long, he or she isn’t going to change overnight, if ever. You’ll have to decide which comments to ignore and which comments to confront. Avoid directly challenging a know-it-all’s facts or interpretation of the facts. Instead, pose a question that can open their thinking. An example of what NOT to say: “Your data from last quarter can’t be right.” Better: “What are the sources of that data?” Better still: “What do you think we can do to make sure our quarterly data is accurate and relevant?”
- Read the book, Managing Creativity and Innovation (Harvard Business Essentials), which discusses how know-it-alls must be controlled and how hurtful they are to organizations.