Dealing with Difficult Personalities: The Know-It-All



By Regan Joswiak*

For today’s discussion, we will talk about The Know-It-All.

There are two types of Know-It-Alls: the true expert of a subject, and someone who pretends to be the expert of a subject. The true expert, while knowledgeable, may act condescending and superior toward others. In their opinion, you are not worth listening to unless you have done your research and present yourself as an equal on the subject. The pretend expert acts the same way, but, of course, lacks knowledge; because of this, they can be easier to deal with in that they are unaware of how little they know.

Dr. Clay Tucker-Ladd suggests strategies for dealing with either type of Know-It-All:

  • Listen to them and then paraphrase their ideas.
  • Do not attack their points; instead, ask questions in such a way that suggests alternative approaches (“It probably isn’t a viable choice, but could we consider . . .?”)
  • Make sure to show that you respect their ideas, or at least seem as though you do. The Know-It-All seeks respect and admiration.
  • If the Know-It-All is a true expert who will not consider anyone else’s ideas, you may have to “graciously accept a subordinate role as his/her ‘helper,’” as Tucker-Ladd suggests.
  • In the case that The Know-It-All is a pretend expert, they can be told the facts in a tactful manner in private. Do not confront them in front of a group, and keep in mind that they simply want admiration from those around them.

If you are having recurring conflicts with someone, come to our office for mediation. We offer free counsel and will help you find a resolution.

Call our office at (936) 294-1717, e-mail us at, or go to our website at to schedule an appointment.

SLMS—Pointing Bearkats in the Right Direction.

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