How do I deal with know-it-all colleagues? … (And are you one yourself?)

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Know-it-alls are the worst because they can’t possibly know it all, unless they’ve made some sort of Faustian deal with the devil.

And we can safely guess they haven’t.

So, how do you deal with this frustrating archetype?

More importantly, how do you recognize that “know-it-all” attitude in yourself?

Here are the traits of a know-it-all:

  • Argues the point, even when pointless
  • Wants to “win” – often over trivial matters
  • Needs to prove superiority
  • Lacks self-confidence

If you see yourself in the list above, take heart. You may be a know-it-all, but at least you KNOW you’re a know-it-all. And that’s the first step toward change!

And if you work with a know-it-all, here’s how you deal with it:

  • Avoid arguing back. Instead say something along the lines of “That’s a good point. I’ll take that into consideration,” or use other half-ceding, noncombative remarks.
  • Show through your actions and words that you’re not interested in winning or debating. Then, the know-it-all will have nothing to do, except make friends.
  • Make sure to do your homework beforehand if you decide to “engage” the know-it-all in his argument. Ask the person to cite sources. Don’t get emotionally invested in the argument. Perhaps you should challenge him to an old-school Lincoln-Douglas debate. Whatever argument you’re having with this know-it-all doesn’t really matter in the grand scope of things.
  • Recognize that sometimes these know-it-alls act this way because in reality they have a lack of self-confidence. Simply being agreeable and not confrontational about every issue (as long as these issues do not put patients in danger!) will help them boost their confidence and perhaps make them feel as though they don’t need to act like a know-it-all.

Just remember to be kind to your fellow workers and treat them with respect. Winning and losing an argument over something trivial is much less important than common courtesy.

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