Nobody Likes a Know-It-All

The Today Show recently fired Ann Curry from the top female anchor position.  Ever since she got the coveted job, she had been affected and stiff.  Her wardrobe had gone from normal to strange, but that is not a reason to fire somebody, and I contend that she is not the problem with the Today Show.  The problem is Natalie Morales.  She’s a big know-it-all.

Public domain image of Natalie Morales; Isn’t she beautiful?

Whenever she interviews a guest, she interrupts the person mid-sentence to explain what they’ve just said and to add her own two cents.  She laughs at her own jokes, when nobody else is laughing, and I am just plain tired of her mind-numbing commentary on every issue.  She’s the “reporter” and not the expert.  I think she has those two roles confused.

My students sometimes confuse their roles in the classroom.  They sometimes think they are the experts and become know-it-alls.  In one instance, a certain young man would not shut up, despite the fact that he hadn’t been to any of the classes so far during the semester and had not read any of the material.  His commentary got to be so annoying, that the other students began shushing him.  I had to bite my lip so I wouldn’t laugh.

However, being in the presence of a know-it-all is not a laughing matter.  Usually, it is frustrating.  It often fills me with rage.  I tend to be a quiet person who listens respectfully when it isn’t my turn to talk.  However, when know-it-alls begin interrupting me (after I have been so polite to them) my blood boils.  I think a good rule in a group setting, like a class, is to limit one’s self to one or two comments.  Nobody wants to hear everything that is popping into your head.  It is narcissistic to think so.

Perhaps that is where know-it-alls come from: narcissism.  Maybe they assume that the rest of us can’t possibly get through the day without hearing everything they know that they assume we don’t know.  Perhaps they want to impress everybody with their useless knowledge.  Perhaps they aren’t self-centered at all, but instead struggling with self esteem and need endless validation.  To this, I am sympathetic, yet they still annoy me.

Are you a know it all?  Here are some questions to help you find out.

Do you have very few friends?

Do people tend to avoid eye contact with you when you are speaking at them?

Do people roll their eyes when you begin speaking?

Do you dominate every conversation in which you participate?

Do you walk away from conversations having no idea what the other person said?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you may be a know-it-all.  (You might also have some other personality disorders, but I’m not diagnosing anything besides being a know-it-all today.)

Nobody likes a know-it-all.  If you are one, change.  Start with closing your mouth.  Here’s why: I always find myself more impressed with people when I find out something remarkable about them from somebody else.  If a person goes around shouting about all of their accomplishments and throwing useless knowledge into everybody’s faces, nobody will care.  It is the humble man, who keeps quiet and confident, that I admire.  And when I realize all of the knowledge and goodness they have been acquiring instead of spewing, I am even more impressed.

A few years ago, I read a book called The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs.  I don’t remember much about the details, but it is a memoir that chronicles the author’s attempt to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z.  Along the way, he learns many great and trivial facts, strains his marriage, and ultimately reaches his goal.  He also realizes that simply reading rote information or trying to digest useless facts does not make one smart or wise.  I wonder if he became an annoying know-it-all after finishing the entire encyclopedia or if he started out as one and became humbled when he realized how much he did not know.  Like I said, I don’t remember, and I don’t know him personally.  But it was a fun read.

Another enchanting account of a know-it-all leaped right from the pages of my current read, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë.  I am having trouble putting this book down, but I had to pause a moment and chuckle at Gilbert Markham’s account of his brother Fergus, who can’t help but shoot his mouth off, even in mixed company.  Here’s what Markham observes:

“Fergus sat opposite, with his legs crossed, and his hands in his breeches pockets, leaning back in his chair, and staring now up at the ceiling, now straight forward at his hostess (in a manner that made me strongly inclined to kick him out of the room), now whistling sotto voce to himself a snatch of a favourite air, now interrupting the conversation, or filling up a pause (as the case might be) with some most impertinent question or remark” (45).

This is a skilled and exquisite description of a know-it-all.  And it caused me to realize that know-it-alls aren’t a new problem.  They haven’t sprung up because of the information age or because of the supposed impertinence of today’s youth.  They’ve always been around.  They’ve probably always been friendless, as Fergus wasn’t winning any points with the lady friends in the room.  So, if even the Brontë sisters had to face and endure know-it-alls (and poke fun at them in their writing), I guess I can, too.  (Make fun of them in my writing, I mean.)

So, my “humble” advice to all of you know-it-alls out there is this:  Shut up!  You might make some friends and, gasp, learn something from somebody else.

Do you know any know-it-alls?  What advice do you have for them?