It’s great to have people around you who are willing to share their knowledge and advice about life when you need it, but not so much when it’s coming from a place of arrogance. Know-it-alls literally think they know it all, which they generally demonstrate through showy, one-sided, and obnoxious forms of delivery.
While we can’t ever totally control other people, we also don’t have to let them cross boundaries and drive us insane. When those obnoxious know-it-alls start rearing their bossy heads, we can shut them down. Here’s how.
1. Thank Them For Their Advice
Even if your blood is boiling and your inclination is to snap at the know-it-all in question, it’s usually better not to provide them with an emotional reaction to work with. As aggravating as it may be in the moment, simply thanking them for their advice is a decent way to end the conversation without coming across as a jerk yourself.
You probably don’t want to give them any credit for butting in on your life, but thanking them in order to move on doesn’t mean that you think their advice was worthwhile.
It’s more like “thank you for your time, I’ve got to move on to the appetizer table now.” If you hit them with a thank you and walk away, they can’t really complain.
2. Use The “Yes, But” Tactic
A lot of know-it-alls are narcissists plain and simple, whether that comes from a place of deep down insecurity or not. Instead of outright arguing with them, adopt the “yes, but” tactic, which won’t totally set them off, and allow you to get your own opinion heard as well.
“I see what you’re saying about careers in the arts, but here’s how I see it…” is one example. Know-it-alls don’t tend to be good listeners, but they do personally want to feel heard, so any way you can project that vibe without directly criticizing them works best.
3. Respond In Nonthreatening Ways
It might be tempting to respond to a know-it-all by telling them that they’re wrong, but that may just encourage them to argue their point further. (Even when they don’t actually have a clue about what they’re talking about.)
To respond without inciting them, state the facts like “Well, here’s what I’ve heard about that…” Speaking from your own experience will at least serve to slow them down a bit, since they can’t outright deny what you’ve heard or what you think even if they don’t agree with it.
4. Agree To Disagree
Sometimes you’ve just got to wrap up the conversation without finding any real middle ground, and in those situations it’s best to just agree to disagree. “Well, I guess we have different opinions about whether there’s a right age to have children, Aunt Sally!”
Keep it light, and keep it moving. Know-it-alls can be incredibly irritating, but that’s even more reason not to engage in their one-sided and stubborn thoughts. Real communication might be outside of their current scope, so save your energy for some situation where you might actually benefit from using it.
Instead of offering a “me versus you” perspective, you can also get them to consider how other people might think about the topic at hand. Go with something like “Hmm, we each have very different opinions about the best way to lose weight; I wonder how other people like professional nutritionists feel about whether or not the sugar in fruit makes you fat.”
This approach might be enough to remind them that they aren’t at the complete center of the universe, and some other ideas might exist…at least for the time being.
6. Start Asking Them Questions Instead
If you’re in a situation where a know-it-all is coming at you with the (true or false) facts, you can slow them down by asking them some follow up questions. Don’t pose the questions like you’re challenging the know-it-all in an attempt to take them down, but seriously ask them to explain if you do not understand something that they’re saying.
“Can you elaborate on where you learned so much about knitting, I didn’t know that you were actually a knitter yourself…”
The more specific and detailed your questions are, the more likely they are to realize that maybe they don’t have all their facts lined up after all.
7. Lead By Example
Sometimes you really have to engage with a know-it-all, like when it’s a coworker and you’re working on the same team. In those cases, sometimes you have to swallow your pride and lead by example in the hopes that they catch on.
Admitting that you don’t have all the answers can show them that it’s okay not to know everything, but still be confident and effective at what you’re doing. This isn’t likely to change their behavior overnight, but someone has to plant those seeds if they’re ever going to sprout.
8. Keep A Sense Of Humor
Whenever you can, keep your sense of humor while dealing with a know-it-all; it will release a lot of pressure for everyone. If they say something totally outrageous, you can always just laugh at the absurdity of it and carry on.
Even if they respond defiantly, you can just throw them a “got it” or “okay” and continue to enjoy your side of the conversation. Remind yourself that they’re totally harmless and that the annoyance of their behavior is not intended to personally drive you crazy.
9. Let It Go
The best way to make sure that a know-it-all doesn’t drive you insane is to find a way to just let it go. This may require you to utilize your inner monologue to calm yourself and regain your center, but it’s often a good way of detaching from the irritation of the moment.
If the know-it-all can’t get a rise out of you, they might actually get bored and move on to someone who will offer them a little more spice in a conversation. Stay calm regardless of what you’re feeling on the inside, walk away if you must, and then just let the conversation go.