The Know-It-All Discussion

There was a post on the blog Search Engine Journal titled Get Rid Of Villains In Social Media Infographic that had this really large image based on an article written by another guy named Todd Helm, of the same blog, titled 8 Villains Of Social Media. It was an interesting take on the type of people who basically irritate most of us because they’re not really trying to be social, but trying to get on our nerves. What he did was identify types, then write his suggestions for how to handle these folks.

I don’t want to list all 8 types, because I think you might enjoy reading the article, and there’s some humor there as well, but I did want to take on one of the types because, oddly enough, I wrote about the type in my book on management and leadership, Embrace The Lead, which you see over there to the left.

That one type is called the know-it-all, and Helm states this:

The Know-it-all rarely comments unless it’s to disagree with or correct the content producer or another user’s comment. They’re generally great fact checkers and revel in correcting a specific fact, but would rather argue about opinions. They also love to point out grammatical errors.”

In my book, I wrote this:

…this person, unfortunately, is usually one of your worst nightmares rather than your biggest helper. If they don’t really know it all, it doesn’t stop them from telling you that they fully understand when they don’t. They’re also the first ones to try to help someone else understand how to do something, and invariably it’s incorrect because they didn’t fully understand it themselves. Of course there’s the know-it-all who really does know a large bit of it, and they want to take every opportunity to show people that they indeed know it all, to the point that they end up taking over and intimidating other employees. Know-it-all’s also are always interrupting you; they can destroy the flow of a meeting if not handled properly.”

So, we have a minor disagreements in how know-it-all’s act, because I’ve never known a know-it-all who isn’t always sharing an opinion or trying to correct someone, even if they’re wrong. As a matter of fact, I have someone in mind right now that I did a consulting assignment with, who would throw out all these “facts” that often I had to counter, and when I’d counter them he’d change up and say something like “oh, I was talking about _____, but you’re right, in that instance you’d do what you said to do.” Please! lol

Then Helm gave this thought to beating a know-it-all:

Strong (yet modest) arguments. It’s nearly impossible to change the mind of the Know-it-all. Your best bet is to respond to them with rational arguments that present a strong case in a modest tone. Let their arrogance and opinionated argument work against them making you look like the rational, impartial one to everyone else.”

That’s not bad, but as a point of comparison I wrote this:

There are a few ways to deal with this type of individual, but the best is to let them have their say, regardless of the situation; at least initially. If they’re the type that’s always wrong, your employees will see this person for what they are and recognize that they’re not as smart as they feel they are. At some point they won’t waste their time going to this person for assistance. Also, this gives you a great opportunity to correct them in a group setting in such a manner that they won’t see it as your trying to show them up, unless you intend to do that, and people will generally benefit because some of them had probably thought along the same lines themselves, but were going to stay silent.”

I actually wrote a lot more than that, but this is enough for comparison’s sake. In this case, we kind of agree on the strategy of letting them hang themselves in spouting information that’s incorrect and then telling everyone what the truth really is. Sure, they might come back for a second round, but most people are rational enough to see when a know-it-all is scrambling to save some of their self respect.

Of course, I do acknowledge that Helm and I are writing for different audiences here, since he’s writing to blogging folks and I’m writing to managers, but the concept is still the same overall. I’m not going to lie; I’d love being a know-it-all. I just know that I don’t know it all, and sometimes these days I feel like I’ve forgotten more than I used to know; scary. But the one thing I hope separates me from a true know-it-all is that, except for this blog, I don’t have the yearn to show it off all the time. Sure, there are times when I’ve gotten what my wife says is a little bit mean spirited and crushed someone who irked me, but in general I like to think that, unless it’s an egregious error, I’ll let stuff slide (of course, Sire’s going to come back and say I’m always pointing out errors on his blog, but he does it for me as well).

What are your thoughts on know-it-all’s in general? And please, make sure you check out both the infographic and Helm’s post as well.

Trivial Pursuit Bet You Know It Edition

Trivial Pursuit – Bet You Know It Edition

12 thoughts on “The Know-It-All Discussion”

  1. The Know-It-All is one of my least favorite types of people. One of the problems I’ve always had in dealing with them is that the minute you admit that you don’t know everything and are somewhere in the learning process, they see that as an open invitation to barge in, take over, and enlighten you. I occasionally have this creepy feeling that I may have come across as a Know-It-All myself. When that happens, I immediately feel the need to apologize, then go take a shower.

  2. Hi Mitch,

    People who think they know everything are really annoying to people like me who really do!

    (big grin)

    Like you, however, I feel like I’m forgetting a lot of what I used to know, especially related to management and programming computers.

    And, I just don’t run into too many know-it-alls while sitting on my porch and watching the hummingbirds. 😉

    All the best,


  3. That is too funny Mitch. As far as blogging is concerned I have had one particular person who commented and told me the style of poem I wrote in, was NOT what I said it was and proceeded to give me an explanation of the difference. Now life in general, I love being a know it all, but I know when I can pull it off.

    1. I think those people who have to break things down that far really have no life at all. But it seems you took it well.

  4. I went to the post you mention- love the pictorial explanation.

    In my opinion, most people that claim to know it all really know very little.

    1. I think you’re right to a degree, Carolee. Last week I was in Florida and went to a casino to play poker. This one guy at the table was a major sports gambler; I didn’t know it was legal in Florida, and it might not be. Anyway, he seemed to know everything about every sport going back at least 35 years or so, and for awhile I thought it was pretty amazing, hearing some of the things he came up with. That is, until he got to Syracuse football. Suddenly, I noticed he was missing it on a couple of things, and I realized that he might know a lot, but certainly not everything. But he sounded good.

  5. Mitch,

    After reading your article, I can’t help but feel that I could have written it better. Below is a list of ways that it could improve…

    Just kidding 🙂

    Luckily I have not had too much experience working with know-it-alls, but I like your suggestion to just let them have their way, and it will all work itself out. It seems like a good way to handle any sort of person who is hard to deal with. I will keep your strategy in mind for the future.

    1. It’s not a bad strategy, Keith, but as I said, there are times when you just have to say something. Luckily, those times don’t come up all that often.

  6. There are a lot of know-it-alls in this world, Mitch, and you are right, things will work out better if we will just let them have their say. However, I also believe that if you something in mind which might be better, speak it out…know-it-alls most often do NOT know it all.

    Cool post. Thanks.

    – Wes –

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Wes. We can’t always stay silent, but we can gauge things here and there and act at the right times when needed.

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