How to Handle the Know-It-All In Your Life

How to Handle the Know-It-All In Your Life

Anatomy of a Know-It-All

An online dictionary defines a know-it-all as, “a person who acts as though he or she knows everything and who dismisses the opinions, comments, or suggestions of others.” And just about every know-it-all chooses a smart-ass delivery for their message. It’s as if they sense that their knowledge would be accepted better if delivered in a joking manner.

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Witty Repartee

Not only does the smart-ass know-it-all want you to believe they’re the only one who is right, they’d also like everyone else to feel stupid. (Isn’t that special?) Therefore, most know-it-alls come equipped with the gift of “witty repartee,” also known as a smart-ass comeback to any argument, rebuttal or challenge to their insight.

Control Freaks

Know-it-alls are basically control freaks who can’t be controlled. You can’t really beat them at their own game, so as the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Handle the know-it-all in your life by doing exactly what they would do to counteract snarky, know-it-all sarcasm aimed at them:

Suggestion No. 1: Laugh

As mentioned earlier, know-it-alls can be dismissive and what better way to dismiss someone then to laugh in their face. By doing this you’re basically scoffing at their notion of being right—ouch. Of course this means war, but it is an option if you’re prepared for battle.

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Suggestion No. 2: Ignore

Ignoring someone can be as equally dismissive as laughing at them; it’s just more passive-aggressive. Again, this suggestion may elicit a not-so-nice response. After all, you are lowering yourself to the know-it-all’s level, so you have to be prepared for anything that comes your way. Game on?

Suggestion No. 3: Agree

Agreeing with your know-it-all is more of a win-win alternative. If you just agree with them then you 1) save yourself the trouble of having to come up with a counteraction, and 2) they get their way, rendering them (temporarily) speechless. Know-it-alls are out to prove a point, but what can they possibly say once you’ve agreed with them. Uh … nothing. Of course, if they are proven right, you may never hear the end of it. However if proven wrong, the joy of seeing a know-it-all knocked down a peg or two is something you can quietly relish like a fine wine.

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It Takes One to Know One

You may be asking yourself how I know so much about dealing with know-it-alls. Well, as that other famous saying goes: “It takes one to know one,” although, I consider myself more of a smart-ass than a know-it-all. All of us at one time or another feel sure we know more than someone else or everyone else. Everyone plays the know-it-all game at least once in life (that’s a generous estimation).

Everyone’s a Know-it-All

When we’re young, being a know-it-all is a way of testing boundaries. When we’re in our mid-teens to mid-twenties, it’s almost a rite of passage to be the expert on everything. But after that, being a know-it-all can often be annoying to others. In a way, you almost want to feel sorry for a grown-up know-it-all. You see how hard they’re working to prove themselves and overcome some insecurity(ies). This leaves us with a more sensitive approach to handling the know-it-all in your life:

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Suggestion No. 4: Compassion

Ask your know-it-all why they always feel the need to be right and assure them that they have nothing to prove to you. If they’re right, they’re right. And if they’re wrong, they should just gracefully accept it and not expect that you’ll judge them or look at them like they have two heads. Show compassion and let them know that whether they’re right or wrong, nothing changes. Then their know-it-all attitude merely becomes an opinion, and everyone has an opinion. Trust me; I’m right about this one.

8 thoughts on “How to Handle the Know-It-All In Your Life

  1. Debster

    You may be right, Debbie. Narcissists. Deeply insecure either way. I’ve tried to be patient with my friend thinking that as she gained more confidence, perhaps the need to constantly play, “I’m the best!” would subside.. No dice. I’m no shrink, I can’t make up for a lifetime of whatever is making her this way.

  2. Debster

    Unreal. The timing of this article could not be better. I am certified to train in a technical field a friend of mine wants to get into. She’s asked me to help her…Yeah, she’s a know it all!! Drives me effing crazy.
    I emailed her my intro program of instruction, she responds with, “Oh I knew most of that already!” She knows jack *hit about it… This may be a short endeavor…. I don’t know how much more I can take.
    I’ve tried the passive-aggressive approach, the mild laughing sorta like, “thank you, let’s let the grownups talk now…” and also one time got angry with her.
    The guy that said life is too short to deal with these types is spot on. At the end of day, they’re not learning a single thing, they are not at all interested in learning, they’re only interested in appearing smart and trying to make you look “less,” than you are.
    I’m over it…

  3. GM

    Who could forget Cliff on the TV show “Cheers?” Carla’s comeback lines were great, but in the real world know-it-alls aren’t so funny. Everyone is an expert at something, and I’ll respect people’s opinions who have that expertise, such as a doctor’s advice on health and wellness. But honestly, life is too short to put up with know-it-alls, and those folks don’t stay in my life for very long. Why do I need to waste my time and energy on them?

  4. judith moore

    My friend is what I consider a know it all. Most of the time I feel she does not know what she is talking about but she often offers a solution anyway. I usually disagree and handle things my way. she often has suggestions for my lie but I disagree. I think she is a man hater and very negative person toward men. I am a widow and am seeking the company of a a good male but hanging out with her does not help much. what is your response? Is she a know it all????

  5. LJK

    I live with a know-it-all and this sure hit the nail on the head. It just gets so old and wearing as he is so verbal about everything and doesn’t filter. SAD! I guess if it makes you feel better to be little others and think you are so perfect I pray for you to over come this. I couldn’t live with myself if I had to treat people like this.

  6. LJ Innes

    Dear Virgo: Sorry about your run-ins with know-it-alls. If your approach works for you then stick with it. Know-it-alls can be outsmarted by the Know-betters 🙂

  7. virgo2757

    Great article and great timing! I don’t usually find myself coping with know-it-alls too often, but for some reason I’ve run into three in the last week. I usually try the “ignore” response coupled with quickly changing the topic.


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