How to Deal with a Know-It-All
The "Answer for Everything" Reflex
Some know-it-alls may be so rabidly committed to displaying fact-based dominance that they claim expertise about things they have no possibility of knowing, like this:
Ordinary person: I have this friend, Raoul, and he's been driving me nuts, because—
Know-it-all: I know. Totally into the machismo thing.
Ordinary person: But...you've never met Raoul.
Know-it-all: Oh, honey, I know all about Latin men.
Ordinary person: Raoul is Swedish.
Know-it-all: I knew that.
This strain of know-it-all has answers for every question except: "How the hell do you presume to know that?"...
The "I Can Fix You" Frenzy
Another typical know-it-all behavior is to insist on solving your problems for you, even if you don't want them solved or, in fact, see them as problems. Fixer know-it-alls will persist in making recommendations the way a Chihuahua might persist in making amorous advances to your leg. Here's how they operate:
Know-it-all: Hey, you look a little down in the dumps. What's wrong?
Ordinary person: I'm really all right. It's just that I've been visiting my parents, and they're getting old and sick, and it got me thinking about age and mortality and the impermanence of everything.
Know-it-all: You know, I used to worry about those things, too, until I started getting colonics. Have you tried that?
Ordinary person: Oh, I don't think I need—
Know-it-all: You've got to. Hey, tell you what—I'll call my favorite hose attendant right now. We'll get you hooked up later this afternoon. Ha ha! Hooked up! Get it?
Ordinary person: Really, thanks but no thanks. I—
Know-it-all: And if that doesn't work, we'll go line dancing!
Be forewarned that courtesy will not work on a fixer know-it-all. If you plan to have a conversation with one, you should carry a spray can of mace. Which brings us to the instructional part of this article...
You can see this nerdy yearning in books like Jurassic Park or The Da Vinci Code, which are about know-it-alls who wind up in ridiculously contrived circumstances where their knowledge of dinosaur behavior or Catholic symbology actually comes in handy. Such opportunities are rare in the real world. For instance, my family cherishes the know-it-all euphoria we felt when I discovered a small but terrifying creature in our basement and my daughter correctly identified it as a Costa Rican tailless whip scorpion. (Of course, we had no clue what to do with it. We named it Vivian and placed it under 24-hour surveillance until someone thought of sucking it into the vacuum cleaner.)