Is there anything worse than a know-it-all who won’t get out of your face?
Maybe a few things, but it ranks right up there.
Here’s what to do if arrogant people are making your daily life into a slog.
14 no bullsh*t tips for dealing with the know-it-alls in your life
I don’t know-it-all. I’m not here to run your life for you or tell you why I know better than you about every issue and topic.
But, and it’s a big but…I have found the following tips very effective in dealing with arrogant people who know everything.
1) Stand your ground
Know-it-alls are very good at roping people into agreeing with them and ganging up on others who don’t agree.
They are also very good at provoking others into emotional and dramatic responses and getting them into big arguments before they even realize it.
The first and most important thing to remember when dealing with the know-it-alls in your life is that you need to be patient with them.
These people often have deep insecurities and thrive off attention, including anger, surprise or disagreement.
When you fall into this trap by becoming overly agreeable or disagreeable with a know-it-all, you end up only worsening your behavior.
Just remember: a know-it-all sees themselves as the most important person in the universe, but it doesn’t mean you have to fold into their framework!
As psychotherapist Diane Barth LCSW advises:
“There are a number of ways to manage these individuals.
“What is most important in these interactions is to remember that we do not have to see the other person as they want to be seen, and we do not have to cater to that need unless we want to.”
2) Sidestep endless arguments
As I mentioned in the previous tip, know-it-alls tend to try to divide people and take advantage of them. They want to know “whose side you’re on.”
If you’re on their side and comply, then they will use you to bolster their claim of knowing everything.
If you disagree with them or get offended by their attitude they will generally gaslight you and explain why you’re actually the one who’s being aggressive and disagreeable.
Because…they’re right…about everything.
So…why are you arguing with them or presenting any other perspective than what they’re putting out there?
You see how this works?
You can politely disagree and stand your ground without wading into an argument. The trick is to not allow yourself to go down the rabbithole.
For example, the know-it-all may say:
“Socialism is the only system that’s actually compassionate and logical, everyone who’s not a total idiot knows that.”
“You may strongly disagree and be very tempted to expose them for how wrong you believe they are.
“But your best bet at this point if they press you for a response is just to say “I don’t agree. Anyway, I actually have to run to…”
The know-it-all wants you to stay and get in an emotional argument, but you sidestep it and move on with your life.
3) Get your own life on track
One of the worst parts of know-it-alls is that they make you even more insecure.
All too often, their arrogance makes you start to wonder what you’re doing with your own life and feel even more inadequate and trapped.
So how can you overcome this feeling of being “stuck in a rut”?
Well, you need more than just willpower, that’s for sure.
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4) Offer them honestly helpful, boundary-setting pointers
As I’ve emphasized, avoid long and drawn out arguments with know-it-alls if at all possible.
When that doesn’t work, it can be useful to offer them honestly helpful pointers.
These are not necessarily related to what they’re actually saying, but are generally better to focus on their behavior and physical actions themselves.
For example, say you are dealing with a real Class A know-it-all called Ned.
He’s telling you why anyone who’s not vegan is a mass murderer. He says non-vegans should be treated as global pariahs who deserve to be chemically castrated and jailed for a minimum of five years.
You honestly can’t tell if he’s joking or not.
You agree there are definitely nutritional and ethical issues with the modern meat industry, but avoid mentioning that you had a delicious steak last night.
But Ned won’t stop. He’s now demanding to know if most of your friends and family are vegan or not.
Now Ned’s sidling over to a coworker and his spittle is flying in her face as he demands to know why she’s eating a ham sandwich.
“Ned, mate, I hear what you’re saying. Could you try to keep more of a personal space? I think we can listen to what you’re saying more clearly if you respect personal boundaries.”
At the very least, this will make him pause for a moment and hopefully calm down a little.
5) Avoid getting personally offended
We all run on oxygen, water and food. Know-it-alls are no different, except that they have an additional ingredient which they fuel up on: hurt feelings.
They love hurting feelings and offending people because it gives them the drug they crave most: attention.
A veteran know-it-all is often highly talented at unloading specific and targeted insults and put-downs at those around them.
This is bait.
Your job is not to take it. This means not to engage.
For example, take Ned:
He may go on in his vegan rant to mention that you are overweight, raising his eyebrows and smirking in your direction.
“Veganism is also literally a must for those trying to use weight. Know what I mean? People would all think and feel a lot clearer if they could just shed some of that chemically processed sludge in their systems.”
To keep score, Ned is now saying you’re fat, stupid and eat shit.
You may be tempted to take this very personally, but at all costs you should avoid this as it can cause huge blowups in your personal life and work life.
“Being with a know-it-all can be pretty annoying and frustrating.
“Sometimes, they might even say something that offends you or challenges your authority. When this happens, try not to take it personally.”
6) Give them a reality check
Fighting with a know-it-all is not recommended. It can drain your energy and suck you into an endless rabbithole of drama and wasted time.
At the same time, there is nothing wrong with respectfully disagreeing. This can be in the form of politely disagreeing and then exiting as I suggested earlier.
Another way to do this is to give them a reality check.
If someone is being a real know-it-all around you at work or in your personal life, jolt them temporarily out of their power trip with a well-timed reality check.
For example, say your girlfriend keeps telling you how to dress and what type of music you should listen to because it is “better” than the garbage you like and the styles you adopt in your clothing.
You avoid getting into an argument about whose musical tastes are “better” and why it’s ridiculous to get you to defend your personal style choices.
At the same time, you don’t just let the criticisms continue on and on. You give her a reality check. Something like:
“How many happy couples do you think tell each other how to dress and what music to listen to? Please just relax a bit…”
It’s harsh but very true. She’ll get the message. If she keeps it up, you’re out. At least you’ve been clear on where you stand.
7) Empower yourself instead
Being clear about where you stand can be difficult when you feel like maybe your point of view and tastes aren’t good enough or need to be justified and defended.
Know-it-alls make us doubt ourselves and feel inadequate.
As I discussed earlier, they thrive on those who want to avoid conflict and be well liked.
In fact, know-it-alls will often manipulate your desire to be accepted and well liked in order to use and exploit you.
The key to avoiding this is to learn to stand up for yourself and know your own value.
So how can you overcome this insecurity that’s been nagging you?
The most effective way is to tap into your personal power.
You see, we all have an incredible amount of power and potential within us, but most of us never tap into it. We become bogged down in self-doubt and limiting beliefs. We stop doing what brings us true happiness.
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8) Get specific
In the same way that know-it-alls thrive on conflict and the attention it brings their way, they also love being vague and to make grand, sweeping statements.
Watch out for terms like:
“Nobody could seriously believe that…”
“Everyone knows that…”
“It’s obvious that…”
These kinds of all-or-nothing statements are the know-it-alls bread and butter. He or she thrives on intimidating others into silence or getting offended.
If people fold, the know-it-all gets to control what they do.
If they argue, the know-it-all gets to be the center of attention and drama.
It’s a win-win for them.
For this reason, demand specifics.
“It’s obvious that green energy is a bogus scheme to raise the cost of energy and destroy the middle class.”
You might respond something like:
“What exactly do you mean by green energy and what’s bogus about it?”
The know-it-all may list off a couple generalities about issues with wind power or pollution of solar panels, but will soon likely peter out once they realize you know something about the issue or actually care about specifics.
You may even get them to calm down for a second and listen to you.
It’s like breaking a witch’s spell.
9) Laugh it off and humor the know-it-all with a throwaway comment
One of the ways to bolster a know-it-all without really buying into what they’re saying is to think of them like a small kid just looking for attention.
If possible, don’t buy into what they’re claiming overly strongly or take it too seriously.
For example, say your know-it-all is at work and decides to get in the face of a colleague from France who’s also very proud of being from France.
“It’s obvious that Italy is the best and strongest country in the world. Other countries are like, shit, compared to Italy (laughs) seriously…” the know-it-all brays.
The wrong response is for the French person to roll their eyes, argue, get upset or become passionately involved in the topic.
The right response is to laugh it off.
“Well, I do love pesto, that’s for sure. And I would never turn down a date with Monica Belluci,” your French colleague says, laughing.
10) Empathize with them (but not too much!)
Most know-it-alls are insecure in some way.
They may genuinely know a lot about what they’re saying, but their manner of rubbing it in people’s faces is usually a way of covering up how bad they feel about themselves in some other way.
For example, a know-it-all may harangue people about their ignorance on economics because they actually feel like shit about the failure of their love relationships.
Or somebody may lecture others on their expertise about relationships and love because deep down they’re very disappointed about their failures in their career.
This is why limited empathy with the know-it-all can sometimes be the right approach.
Just make sure not to go too far into piling aboard their ego train.
“This coworker may irritate you—but remember that his or her know-it-all attitude is probably stemming from a confidence issue or some deeper personal issue.”
11) Collaborate where possible
Where possible, try to work together with a know-it-all in order to bypass their attitude and become constructive.
A know-it-all is notoriously difficult to work with, running from science class partners in second grade all the way to coworkers who try to tell you what to do on a project.
But if possible, try to collaborate. Thank them for their input, ask to be heard and try to give your input as well.
If they keep shooting you down, let them know that you will drop the project (or them) if they don’t give you basic respect.
You never have an obligation to let someone disrespect and devalue you repeatedly, even if it’s your own spouse.
12) Don’t let them walk all over you (especially if they’re your romantic partner)
As I said in the last point, disrespect is never OK, even (and especially) when it comes from your own spouse.
Let’s face it: know-it-alls pop up in every corner of our lives at times, including in our romantic relationships.
We can also end up dating or married to someone who slowly turns into a know-it-all and begins unleashing that side of themselves on us.
No fun at all.
While this article explores the most useful advice for dealing with arrogant know-it-alls, it can be helpful to speak to a relationship coach about your situation if it involves your partner.
With a professional relationship coach, you can get advice specific to your life and your experiences…
Relationship Hero is a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations, like being with someone who doesn’t respect them or value their point of view.
They’re a very popular resource for people facing this sort of challenge.
How do I know?
Well, I reached out to them several months ago about problems in my own dating life with someone I was dating who was treating me like I didn’t matter and like I was always wrong.
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13) Recognize the childish craving for attention
The problem with know-it-alls is that they’re trapped in childhood.
Many of us are in some form:
We didn’t get what we wanted or needed as kids and we continue projecting that desperation onto the outer world the rest of our lives.
Know-it-alls generally felt neglected or unwanted in childhood in some form. Now they crave attention and validation.
If they can’t get that, they’d rather at least some attention of some form: if it’s people hating them, that’s still better than being overlooked or ignored.
Recognizing the psychological and emotional roots of a know-it-all is helpful to maintaining your composure.
When you picture the know-it-all as a big grown up baby you stop taking them so seriously.
This person is still trapped in a childish need to be right and control others.
Why won’t they just focus on their own life? They’re clearly not doing OK. Don’t beat yourself up over their issues.
14) Confront them kindly but firmly
When a know-it-all won’t back down, confrontation can be inevitable.
Know-it-alls aren’t always ready to be agreeable or let it go. They may continue hounding you until the point of no return, demanding conflict.
This is where confrontation is going to happen.
Whether you like it or not, confrontation and strong disagreement is part of life and to defining your own position in this world.
This is where you have to be strong but also not personal.
Tell the know-it-all to back off. Tell them to please be quiet and that you have had enough at this time.
“Thank you for your opinion. I do not agree, and I wouldn’t like to talk about this anymore right now.”
If they still continue?
Physically leave or restate it at louder volume, then physically leave.
Knowledge is power?
A popular saying has it that “knowledge is power.”
This is true, but at the same time it’s all about how you use it.
Know-it-alls are sometimes smart, sometimes ignorant, but always annoying.
It ultimately doesn’t matter if they do know what they’re talking about. It’s the way they push it on you and lord their own superiority over others that’s so intolerable.
If you’re dealing with a know-it-all in your life, use the tips above to shut them down or even make them your friend.