You’re at a party and you’re trapped in the corner with a guy who knows everything under the sun and your job is to simply acknowledge his brilliance with an occasional nod. Or maybe your kid’s Saturday morning soccer game gives you the opportunity to learn all the best parenting / dieting / political advice from the self-appointed Super Mom of the neighborhood. And sometimes you work for this type of person, the one who doesn’t want your feedback on the job you know inside and out, and expects you to robotically obey his or her commands and never call in sick.
We’ve met hundreds of people in our travels and run into more than a few know-it-alls. Today you’ll learn how we handle the various types so you can avoid being trapped in the future. And for your added enjoyment, you’ll learn why we decided to get down off our own soapbox to have a better conversation with you.
Types of Know-it-Alls
There are 3 basic kinds of know-it-alls, and the types hold true across borders and languages. (I’m referring to the know-it-alls as males for ease of writing, but there is no gender distinction in real life.)
Sometimes a know-it-all is just really into it, like the off-the-grid hostel owner we met in Peru. He could not stop talking about how liberating it was to live without a phone, internet, or television and one hour away from the closest village. He even glamorized intestinal parasites…over dinner.
Good for him. We want civilization.
Evangelists have experienced great joy or incredible results from an action, event, or realization and they cannot imagine why everyone in the world wouldn’t be interested in it.
These people can be instructive, annoying, or just plain humorous. Or all 3 at once. The main problem is they have no filter and just spew information rather than waiting to share in a conversation with interested parties.
How to handle an Evangelist when you don’t want the message at all: “I’m really happy this worked out so well for you, but it’s not for me.”
How to handle an Evangelist when you don’t want so much information: “This sounds interesting. Can you recommend a book/website/podcast I can check out later for more info?”
Then change the subject or walk/run away. Unless you happen to be an hour from the nearest town and without internet, phone or television in remote Peru.
The All Talk, No Action Person
We meet this guy a lot in the common room of guesthouses and hostels all over the world. He holds court to tell all the other travelers how to best enjoy their time in the area, but he rarely seems to actually leave himself. He’s always working on a money-making strategy that will change the way we look at something core to our lives. When he’s not Facebooking or drinking beer, that is.
This know-it-all has solutions for almost any problem, but none of them are road-tested. He is quick to tell you how to do something he’s never done. He’s always “getting ready to” do something big.
The All Talk, No Action person is more concerned with what others think of him than what he thinks of himself. This is why he wants to impress and why he is so scared of failure that he doesn’t ever follow through on his grand plans.
How to handle an All Talk, No Action guy: Call him on it. Ask for his personal experience or tell him you’ll revisit the topic when he’s actually done it.
Been There, Done That
This is similar to the All Talk, No Action Person, but this one always has a personal experience or a “good friend” who did exactly what you just did but better or in a way you can’t possibly replicate if it is something you plan to do tomorrow.
He is the black hole of fun, always tamping down your experience with a bigger and better tale of his own (or one from his thousands of “good buddies”) that is hardly believable. I’ve seen him rain on the parades of travelers who come back to the guesthouse excited about an experience, only to be told it was far less worthy than his.
This guy is pretty insecure, which leads to his need to dominate every exchange and come out the winner. Why should he care if his Machu Picchu experience was better than yours? Isn’t it cool that you both went and can talk about it?
It’s hard to imagine the aggressive know-it-all is scared underneath the crunchy outer layer, but it is true. Otherwise, why all the bravado and posturing? These people typically haven’t been there and done that. They most often got their information second or third hand, and any credible challenge to it will crumble it. So will ignoring it.
How to handle the Been There, Done That guy: Ignore this guy. Since his commentary isn’t often based in fact, you’ll never have a decent conversation. Better to go out and enjoy your life and let him keep talking about it.