How to handle a Know-It-All

Know-It-Alls come in flavors from mildly obnoxious to aggressively intolerable.

But the one thing they inspire in others is a frantic need to get away, which is actually one of the best ways to cope with them:

  • According to F. Diane Barth, a clinical therapist quoted in, deciding to leave the conversation is something you can always do. You might have to be direct, saying, “I must go speak with some other people now. It was nice meeting you.”
  • But what if the Know-It-All sits with you at lunch every day or, worse, is a relative you must endure at holiday dinners.
  • The first thing to note is your reaction. Do you dislike the Know-It-All for his or her opinions or because the Know-It-All has trapped you in a one-sided, and therefore boring, conversation?
  • If you dislike his opinions, and you wish to stay in the conversation, recommends you master the ‘yes…but’ strategy.

Sometimes an acknowledgment plus a transition like ‘but’ can stop the steamroller.

Barth notes that, since Know-It-Alls are often insecure, they take most contrary statements as criticism. One possible way to converse with them is to form your own opinions into a question for them to answer.

You can’t shut them down with direct confrontation, says Simon Casey, a psychologist in San Clemente, California, and the author of Secrets to Emotional Wealth. They tend to be egocentrics with an inability to admit they’re ever wrong even if they have limited knowledge.

The Know-It-All differs from the Constant Talker. While both dominate the conversation and often hold their listeners hostage, the Know-It-All has a subject and needs to be right. The Constant Talker just needs to talk and will talk about any sort of trivia, even the most simplistic or personal details.


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One Comment

  1. Chris June 23, 2014 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Sadly this extends to people posting online too. Just look at criticism for TV shows or movies. SUBPAR WRITING, INCOMPETENT CHARACTERS. It’s nauseating. So many average Joes suddenly think they can spot actual bad writing when they have absolutely no clue what to look for. Why people continue to embarrass themselves thinking they do is beyond me. Likely the safety of Internet anonymity. We all know they’d suddenly shut up like good little sheep in a face to face chance to criticize these same things they are Einsteins at spotting when hiding behind a username.

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