Do you know someone who has all the answers and feels compelled to share them? Some people can’t contain themselves when they either have information to share or an experience that tops everyone else. They may be impulsive, immature, insecure or maybe a little bit of all three. Underlying anxiety may cause them to talk more and monopolize the conversation. Some are uncomfortable with themselves and seek acceptance, affirmation, and attention from others. Others have limited social skills and awareness which contribute to their inability to stop talking even when others give nonverbal cues that being quiet is their best option. In my practice I often encounter people whose intellectual intelligence far surpasses their emotional intelligence. These people’s insight into the consequences of their words and actions are usually blunted. Another manifestation of low emotional intelligence is when people have a difficult time with intimacy and letting others get close so they use their knowledge as a defense or barrier.
How do you gently and respectfully express your concerns to your know-it-all friend or relative? Obviously this person may have a hard time hearing your message and may react poorly. Start by sharing their positive qualities and acknowledging the good in them before identifying the negative. Let them know that communicating with them can be difficult at times and having all the answers tends to shut others down. Let them know that people may harbor anger and resentment towards the know it all and lash out or detach. The know-it-all can find themselves alone if they continue to alienate others with their knowledge and information.
The good news is that people can and do change. Awareness is the first step, along with a desire and commitment to modify behavior. Those close to the person can provide feedback and accountability, but ultimately the onus is on the person. Of course it is fine to share knowledge and have a compelling or funny story to tell. It only becomes annoying to others when that behavior happens all the time. Monitor the frequency and types of situations that trigger this need to top someone else’s story or provide information that others don’t know. Work on asking others to talk about themselves and listen more, talk less. Let others get close by sharing vulnerable information about yourself rather than hiding behind the shield of knowledge. Learning tools to manage anxiety and insecurity can also prove helpful. Don’t allow it to push people away and destroy relationships. Remember that knowledge is very different from wisdom.