Have you ever attended a meeting where one people dominates the discussion, takes up all the time to talk, has an answer to all questions, rejects all opinions, repeatedly assert their point of view, invites others only to agree and targets anyone who disagrees with them, with all sorts of explanations?
Then you have met a ‘know-it-all’ syndrome person. Some of them do get a lot done, but most of them only cause stress in the system. It is easier to deal with them as a team member, difficult to deal with them as a co-worker, but even more difficult if they are someone senior. ‘Know-it-all’ individuals get noticed, there is no way we can ignore them.
At the same time, it is also exhausting to deal with them. However, some of them are actually intelligent, and well-read. In some cases, they are genuinely far better than all the people they are causing discomfort to.
Why do people turn out to be ‘know-it-all’?
There could be several reasons which commonly occur. Here is a list from my experience of coaching and mentoring people (the list is in increasing order of severity, and with some overlaps):
- Lack of Emotional / Social Intelligence: These are individuals with little or no awareness of how they come across to others. They may even believe that it is cool or impressive to look like the most knowledgeable in the room. Sometimes, early exposure to people or organizations where ‘know-it-all’ is the only way to survive causes this issue. But mostly, it is just lack of education or experience in human behaviours and dynamics.
- Solution here: Feedback from someone they trust, helps. Then, emotional intelligence & social intelligence training, and coaching to help adopt the right behaviours. Most of them respond well to education and change with support.
- Chosen coping mechanism: These are individuals with awareness of what they do, but they do it, nevertheless. Often, they started with this to manage a stressful period or event but discovered that it worked for them. Thereafter, it just became a tool for them to deal with anything and everything.
- Solution here: Is a role model, coach or mentor showing them other ways to cope and behave in their environment, with visible benefits. Thereafter, helping them step by step to adopt the change.
- Self-Esteem Issues: These are individuals whose childhood, teen or early adulthood experiences left them feeling inadequate. To compensate for that internal feeling of deficiency, they then resorted to the ‘know-it-all’ approach to show the world as one down to them.
- Solutions here: Counselling helps, but only if voluntarily taken. To get them there, someone who knows them well, and who they listen to can steer them in that direction. In some cases where the scars of experience are deep, Therapy is the only way out.
- Personality / psychological issues: Mostly, a more serious version of point 3, these are individuals who have serious psychological issues, and their behaviour is just a symptom of that clinical issue. Only an expert can sense this, but in general, anyone who doesn’t fall into the upper 3 broad classifications, may come in this category.
- Solution here: Is deeper work with a psychiatrist or psychologist over a ‘clinically significant’ period.
Can we turn around individuals with ‘know-it-all’ syndrome?
Yes… all humans have the inherent potential to be purposeful, well-meaning, functional beings, if neurologically / biologically there is no challenge or deficiency.
A way to help the ‘know-it-all’ individuals is through someone they trust and connect with. If this person, helps them see their behaviour scientifically in a gentle but firm manner and get them to seek professional help, the ‘Know-it-all’ stands a chance to shift. Thereafter, it is the professional help that will turn them around.
Some individuals even have the self-control and drive to learn and change with just feedback. While others like I said, will need help and support, appropriate to their level of issues.
In our modern workplaces, and with the modern platform of communication, much of this support can be given real-time, and discreetly too.
Are all ‘know-it-all’ individuals really not capable and just bluff?
No… not at all.
On the contrary, may of the ‘know-it-alls’ are well-read, and sometime far more capable than people around them. They just don’t know how to self-regulate and contribute purposefully to the environment around them.
Hence, if we manage to turn around these individuals, many of them may even unlock a level of performance and advantages unlike anyone else can. Yes, there are those people who are just bluff, but not all are like that; hence lets not generalize or stereotype.
One invitation to end this sharing..
We have many stereotyping and name calling labels in our workplace. This is yet again, another one of those. Ask yourself: Who doesn’t have behavioural issues? Do you and I not have these issues? Well, each of us, have our rough edges. And amongst those rough edges, is this syndrome: ‘know-it-all’.
Care, love, and support given in the right way, at the right time always helps. All punitive actions, as the first or second attempt only makes things worse. The ‘know-it-all’ individuals should be aware of consequences, but not as an in-the-face attempt to fix them.
‘Know-it-all’ individuals, are not born like that. Their life experiences, with people like you and me, have made them like this. So, if someone created the problem, someone could solve it. Today, it is our turn to help the ‘know-it-all’ individuals heal. Tomorrow, maybe someone will help us heal.