At least one reason Know It Alls act the way they do is for social recognition. Know It Alls recognize the power in being the person who has the solution to the problem. Sometimes they get carried away by their own self image, thinking others know little while they know all. Here are some very practical tricks for dealing with a Know It All friend, spouse, child, sibling, coworker, boss, or parent in law.
Reframing The Know It All
You could look at the Know It All as an annoying person who constantly condescends and patronizes people. Or you could reframe their behavior. Instead of seeing them as an annoying person trying to make you seem stupid, see them as a person who is desperately seeking your validation. They are trying to convince you of their value and intelligence. This could mean they don’t believe they are valuable enough, or it could just mean they have a weakness.
At very least, you can think of the Know It All as someone who is voluntarily giving you information about them. You can use this information to persuade or attack them. Know It Alls are basically gigantic information troves, not because of the literal words that they say, but because of the subtext they convey with their speech. They are begging for your validation. Use this knowledge as you plan out how to respond to them.
How To Respond
Stop Asking For Help: Know It Alls feed on people asking them questions or people not being sure about a topic. If people constantly are telling you what to do and patronizing you, consider that you might be the problem. Stop incentivizing their behavior.
The Persuasion Pearl Trick: There is a saying that you shouldn’t cast your pearls before swine. It means don’t share valuable things with people who don’t care. You can use this with the Know It All. Since the Know It All is often sharing unsolicited advice, simply ask them “why do you devalue your speech so much?” They will ask how they are devaluing their speech. Just say “you answer questions people don’t ask, and when you share something for free, people don’t value it as much. I just notice most smart people keep their mouths closed unless someone values their opinion enough to ask.” This will get them thinking and it might even make them give unsolicited advice less. This technique works because it is focused on the most powerful persuasion technique. Try using this trick after thanking them for unsolicited advice a few times.
Draw Them Out: One thing you can do with Know It Alls that are less intelligent, is to draw them out. Often they know many things about a small area of knowledge. But when you get them out of that area, they don’t know much. Simply keep asking them “why” until you get to an area they don’t know about. This shows them their own mortality and reminds them they don’t know everything. Pair this with the question “what do you think it sounds like when someone speaks beyond their domain of knowledge?” You can also just ask them questions you know they don’t know the answer to so they will say “I don’t know.” It often works best when you ask these questions in quick succession. “Do you know x?” “How about Y?” “Or maybe you know Z?”
The Question Technique: Another way handle a Know It All is to use questions. “What specifically made you think we didn’t already know that?” “What about that isn’t common knowledge?” Finally you can go the sarcasm route by asking “what are some things you don’t know?” Another way you can play the question game to respond to a Know It All is to ask “when was the last time you were certain about something but you ended up being wrong?” Either they won’t have an example, to which you can call them arrogant, or they will have an example, to which you can then use against them by saying “so how do you know you aren’t wrong in this situation.”
Condescend Back: Another response to a Know It All would be to ask them to explain something really obvious. Try saying “after you finish explaining X, perhaps you can explain how to drink water, which is equally complicated.” You can also simply start telling them obvious things like “well you might not know this but humans need lots of liquid to survive.” Try saying “congradulations, that is correct,” or “yes, that is the standard answer.”
Snap Back Responses: There are a few quips you can use to quickly shut the Know It All down. Try asking “when did I ask for your opinion,” “what ever you say Aristotle,” “excellent comment birdbrain,” “here comes the mansplainer,” “I wish someone taught you to use glue not chap stick,” “if I wanted to kill myself I’d climb your ego and jump to your IQ,” or “are you done wasting everyone’s time with irrelevant details?”
The Reframe: A very effective technique is simply to reframe their momentum. Pretend that whatever they just said isn’t impressive, and was quite obvious to everyone. Picture them as a servant or employee that said they have important information. Only what they ended up sharing with you was completely worthless. Try saying things like, “yes, yes, is that all?” “I thought you’d have something more intelligent.” Or “you say that as if you were the first person alive to think it, is that all you have for me?” Another way to reframe is to simply restate what they just said in very simple terms and then say, “so is that what you meant?” “Congratulations, that is correct!” Similarly you could say, “well keep practicing, you almost said something valuable, ” or “congratulations on that conclusion. “
Stick In The Mud: A final trick you can always use is to simply disagree. Often Know It Alls are used to people simply going along with their comments. Break their momentum by saying “no that isn’t right.” When they ask why, be like a stick in the mud by repeating “because it isn’t.” They will probably increasingly pressure you for a reason. Don’t budge. This technique works best if the people around you already think you are intelligent, or if you use it when no one else is around. The disagree trick is best applied when talking about aesthetic choices. Since aesthetics are to some degree relative, ask them what they think the best burger place is and then disagree.
One Uppery: A useful trick is to simply to one up what they just said. Wait until they have finished their monologue and add one more fact to what they said. Careful though, this could make you seem like just as much of a Know It All.
Set A Trap: Traps are difficult to set right but can be extremely useful if the person has a huge ego. Simply ask them a question in front of an expert. There is a chance they will get the answer right, but if you keep them talking long enough, they will make a mistake. A similar version of this trap is to bring up a topic they have a strong opinion on in front of a group of people that will disagree. Then the whole group will attack them.
Skeptic Trick: A great trick with some Know It Alls is to play skeptic. Know It Alls are great chances to practice your questioning and logical reasoning skills. Simply follow the tricks in the Draw Them Out section above, but do so with a skeptical look on your face. Imagine you are talking to an arrogant idiot. “What support do you have for that statement?” A great way to cap this trick off is to bring up past mistakes they make and how that makes you skeptical to believe them. For example, “how can we trust what you are saying when you were also said you knew X, but you ended up being wrong?” Or, “what would the other side say?” They often can’t give a good argument for the other side, to which you can then respond “how can we believe you when you don’t even understand the counter argument?” “It seems like you haven’t really done your research.”