Working with the Person Who Thinks They Know Everything
There are two types of know-it-alls: the person who is very brilliant and knows everything about his field and the person who only thinks he does. It’s not easy to deal with either one of these people, but let’s focus our attention on how to deal with the one who thinks he knows everything.
How can you recognize a know-it-all? Do you know someone at work that fits the following descriptions? 1. The know-it-all thinks they are smarter and know more than anyone else. Even though know-it-alls may not be smarter, more creative, or quicker than their colleagues, they think they are. These people can be very difficult to deal with at work, because they don’t take suggestions, won’t ask for help, and try to bluff their way through difficult tasks. They may make mistakes, but it might be a while before anyone finds out about them.
2. The know-it-all acts like they are in charge. If the know-it-all’s boss is out of the office, he may very well act like he is in charge and try to handle situations he doesn’t have authority to. In these cases, it sometimes takes time for the boss to realize what has happened, but eventually, the truth comes out.
3. The know-it-all is a bully. A bully is really a very insecure person whose aggression toward others makes them think they are above them. They try to hide their insecurities any way they can. They may be very loud, get very close to the person they are arguing with, and be generally obnoxious. They do not want to be found out!
4. The know-it-all is the type of person that usually can’t be counted on to make objective assessments. It is difficult for this person to talk about anything objectively; they always feel as though they need to be the center of attention. Rather than describing an event in terms of actions that occurred, they tend to include themselves and say things like, “I did this,” or “I did that.”
5. The know-it-all frequently intrudes or interrupts others. Even when this person doesn’t understand how to handle a situation, they are right in there trying to solve it for someone else. They don’t realize that they overstep their boundaries.
6. The know-it-all tends to exaggerate about almost everything. They are smart enough to know a little bit about a lot of things and try to make it seem like they know everything about a subject. What happens is that they begin a story and don’t know when to stop. They exaggerate to the point of lying and everyone around them knows it. Trying to tell them they're wrong isn't easy!
7. The know-it-all is only open to their ideas; no one else's. Let’s say a colleague of yours has been with the company for a long time and has been working in the same department for most of his years there. He is very familiar with the way things are done, and probably thinks he knows everything there is to know about the company and its products.
If a know-it-all is participating in a meeting and a member of his team makes a suggestion or has a new idea, he may become very upset and aggressive. A suggestion or idea from someone other than himself makes him feel challenged. The only way he knows how to handle this is with aggressive confrontation. It is their insecurities that drive them to behave this way.
Strategies you can try to handle a know-it-all There are two basic strategies you will want to incorporate when dealing with a know-it-all: compassion and patience. I know this is easy to say, but very difficult to do!
Let's take a look at these two strategies in detail: 1. Try to feel compassion as much as possible .The person who thinks they know everything may be really insecure inside. They may often feel that they have to put on a show and try to hide how they really feel. You will want to avoid confronting this type of person directly, because it will only result in very unpleasant situations. Try to make them feel good about themselves by acknowledging their accomplishments or giving them a compliment about themselves that you really mean. For example, if the person has given an update on a project and has done a good job, compliment him on that. You could say something like, "Good job John."
2. Be patient as much as possible. If you handle the know-it-all the right way, you can successfully get around his personality and unacceptable behavior and feel good about it. Direct confrontation will only lead to more resentment. Because the know-it-all resents others’ opinions, and sees them as threats, it is best to approach any suggestion you need to make in the form of a question. This eliminates direct confrontation, as well as any perception of a threat. Look at the following examples:
What if we were to consider____?
What are your thoughts about_____?
I was wondering if __________?
How about ____________ ? What do you think about that?
Please keep in mind that not every strategy works with every difficult person. There will always be the person who does't change, no matter what strategies we apply! Also, remember that changes will not occur overnight. Hopefully, the suggestions provided here will give you some success with difficult people.