Knowing too much
(This post isn’t part of the “Alphabet for Leaders” series)
Ever meet a know it all? Everything you say they already know or have out done. Then there are the add-to’ers. These folks listen and then add to whatever you’ve said. Oh and don’t forget the mind readers who not only hear your comments but know your true motives. These folks know what you really meant to say!
There is too much knowing going around.
Ever have someone make a decision about you based on false interpretations? It’s likely they’ll always judge you by a false standard.
There’s too much knowing going around.
I know too much. I pigeon-hole, reinterpret, and categorize with the supposed knowledge of the All-Mighty.
We all know the answers to knowing too much.
#1. Withhold judgment
“Not all behavior is good or bad. Some of it is simply neutral. Neither good or bad.” Marshall Goldsmith
#2. Ask questions
#3. Assume positive motivations until proven otherwise
Life is richer when we draw lines slowly. Relationships are more stable when we assume the best until proven otherwise. Knowledge flows freely when judgments are withheld. Other’s feel your respect when you ask clarifying questions.
What suggestions can you offer “those other folks” who know too much?
A know-it-all is, sadly, his/her own worst enemy. Without constant learning, no one could ever hope to know it all. Conversely, if you are constantly learning, you realize you will never know it all.
Your post reminded me of a know it all I faced while teaching customer service skills. No matter what I said — he vehemently disagreed. There is nothing wrong with disagreement yet his relentless push without any discussion nor questions nor listening were the telltales signs of a know it all. I continued on teaching and learning from those who wanted to *inter-act.
At the end of the day, I collected the evaluation sheets from the participants. I read through each of one, turned it over and went to the next in the pile. SURPRISE: On the **back of his form he wrote in very very tiny letters, “I have trouble learning from people who know more than I know.”
A know it all who knew he was a know it all! I can only hope he is looking to overcome his difficulty.
Advice to know-it-alls: Ask questions, as Dan has noted above, AND ask yourself “what if” before you reply to the answer you get. This short moment will allow you to embrace learning and the joy we all experience from it.
Dan — I am surprised this post is not part the leaders’ alphabet since it is a “K” and could really kill success if the leader is a know it all! 🙂
Dan – thanks for this reminder of one of the basic things we all should have learned in kindergarten, except most of us were home sick that day and missed the lesson. This one is a killer, and one I have only started noticing in recent years (why should I worry about the consequences of knowing it all when I’m always right?). Failure to be open to and curious about others has undermined too many of my initiatives in life.
One of the basic laws of authentic leadership is that one cannot influence without being open to being influenced. Or as my friends at Arbinger Institute teach it, any attempt to change others MUST start with changing oneself, or it will fail.
I agree with Kate – how are you going to top this “k”?
Excellent post, thank you. The “know it all” sadly demonstrates an often passive-aggressive resentment by their actions (http://wp.me/pVUDj-88), attempting to “equalize” by pulling down whoever is speaking. Paul Stark refers to them as “sandpaper people” (http://wp.me/pVUDj-2Q), constantly grinding away.
My best advice to avoiding the plague of know-it-alls is to look in the mirror and honestly determine if I appear to be one in any situation. Then, change!
This post is better than all other posts. The whole issue is surrounede by perception, environment, information and rigidity. Today, most of the judgements are based on perceptions rather than expereinces. Environment plays a great role to create the perception. Environment includes people and informations. People create image about a person before he or she joins/meets someone and this makes a perception which is usually false. In this process information plays a major role. Information usually are backed by false/wrong/exaggerated evidences. And the most important part of the game is the person who creates perception about someone. He believes his environment, people and his own knowledge and all these prevents him to know about the fact/truth. He is usually blinded by his knowledge or ego but I say it rigidity.
So, know-nothing or being neutral attitude enhances learning capabilityand prevents our rigidity.I have seen in the organisations, stories and issues are created behind and the person is unaware. I also feel strongly that
leader can create a culture that encorages right informations at all level and takes feed back of each person irrespective of position or power. As an individual, one can also reduce the space between oneself and his superiors by timely interactions and informations.
Fun post, Dan.
Actually, knowing it all isn’t a problem. It’s what you DO with knowing it all that can become an issue. Pigeonholing, judging, blocking – using the mind as weapon – simply shows fear of loss of control.
I said to a Christian colleague years ago: ‘If God is all knowing and still hears my prayers and requests, then certainly you as a mere mortal can listen to my thoughts on something smaller than the creation of the universe. You are not God.’ He listened quite well and consistently after that. 🙂
The smartest people in any field are often the ones who admit that the more they learn, the more they realize they don’t know. Knowledge usefulness is minimal unless guided by an open mind.
A missing open mind factor seems to be causing some problems. Fear closes the mind. If someone has created a habit of fear, mind closure is a regular thing … it becomes the ‘norm’ for that person, unfortunately.
A very strong statement that ” The smartest people in any field are often the ones who admit that the more they learn, the more they realize they don’t know”. It is very true and I appreciate your idea.
I appreciate your comment, Ajay.
My advice to those knowers is…..GO EMMASCULATE YOURSELF!!!! God I love Paul 🙂 But seriously…I’m tired of it. I’m working at a Christian Conference Center when I often feel judged. Partly I’m sure it’s because of appearance… I am bald so I’m automatically a Neo-Nazi. It’s not my fault I can’t grow hair!! And also, just because I’m not a social little hummingbird like all the rest of the chicken nuggets here I’m categorized and written off. This all has led me into voluntary excommunication yet little do they know that it’s proved to be a valuable asset for my future.
KNOWERS!!!! Get a clue!!! I thought the bible says we are supposed to walk before God in humility and contrition. Oh and yes I AM aware of my own flaws so don’t act like I didn’t expect you to be on the defense. To be heard and known is probably one of the greatest things one can experience in this life. So why not listen rather and project self..
Always something good to chew on! This article calls to mind the times when I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type indicator. Through those experiences, I came to understand that certain personality types are more, or less, likely to become Know-it-alls, or judgmental, or patient, or life-long learners.
Certain behaviors that are certainly off-putting may be more a reflection of ingrained personality type (and natural conflicts with other types) than a deliberate attempt to annoy and irritate. The know-it-all may simply be naturally confident, yet not terribly empathic, and unable to “read” when his or her comments, no matter how accurate, aren’t being appreciated.
Similarly, there are those who are naturally gifted when it comes to understanding the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of others. The key to successfully navigating the workplace, and building teams, is learning how to understand the natural interactions of differing personality types and combining them to from high-powered groups.
Once again, thanks for a thought-provoking post. You say so much with so little in your blog. For someone as verbose as me, your economy of words is fantastic!
Thank you once again for an illuminating post. This post is a big personal lesson for me.
And as Mr. Kasprzak said, you say so much with so few words.
Take a bow Mr.Rockwell.
What if someone is humble enough to continue learning…AND is a “know-it-all” too because they HAVE continued throughout their lives to continue learning? It’s interesting how other people react to someone like this.
What is it that people couple a tendency of someone who has quite a bit to offer with that of someone resistant to learning? They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but others react as if this is always so.
I am a house-mate in a shared living situation where my partner is a “know-it-all.” I’m being put in the situation of figuring out how to manage to deliver his very good suggestions on the rate of improvement of the property we rent. To him, delivering the improvements he is suggesting isn’t a big deal and he is a wealth of willing possibilities. To the landlord who is being constantly asked to make yet another decision… they want to stop him from badgering them! …No matter how “good” the deal is.
Most of all other people react to a know-it-all as if they’re being pushed. They react with a sense of of proprietary ownership of who’s right it is to make the “improvements” or to determine the schedule of the implementation of the “improvements.” Rather than fostering a sense of trust that the person “knows” what they are doing, if a know-it-all delivers too much, too soon – it comes across as steam-rolling the decision-making process. I keep telling my friend that he must hold himself back with a little “friendly reserve” and recognize that he’s flaunting his skills, his flexibility and putting his “pearls before swine” with his relentless creativity.
I love these other suggestions about how to teach a know-it-all!! One of the great things about these characters is they “fake it ’til they make it.” We want to use that ability to do our teaching for us with these jokers…and let’s hope they have learned to be jokers! Humor makes them quite a bit easier to take. Serious know-it-alls are the worst. Since I have a tendency to attract know-it-alls as friends, project partners and co-horts in crime, I found one way to handle them is to ask them to watch carefully and ask me if they have any questions why I do things the way I am choosing to do them. Once they know I do have a reason for EVERYTHING I do and there is a method to my madness…they are willing to learn. But it always pays to have a “sponsor” they do respect who gets them to shut up and pay attention to me.
I have a request. You splendidly identified in this post how to avoid being a know-it-all yourself…which is to continue learning and “put your actions where your claims are.” Would you now make suggestions on how to manage people who are reacting to someone as if they are an unappreciated know-it-all – when in fact they are a know-it-all who has continued to learn?
Thoughtful post, Franis. Thanks.
Your last question brings to light another factor. Sometimes people just don’t want to receive information from the learning know-it-all … ie. ‘I only want information from those I approve of – those who meet my expectations’ (sometimes, those I can slow down to my snail pace). The learning issue is then inside the people with that attitude, rather than the learning know-it-all.
Humor’s a good modality in such situations … ala. ‘isn’t that just like life – you can’t always choose who you learn from!’ and publicly acknowledge the value the learning know-it-all brings.
Super creative people can come off as know-it-alls – when actually, they’re just regularly tapped into the flow of creativity. I work with a lot of super creatives … where amazing effective brilliant solutions are the norm.
It sounds like we may be looking through one of Luft’s Johari windows with a know-it-all, modified of course.
Four quadrant variation…
Know what you know…Result: if you stop there, you are in trouble. (Darwin wins out for such a closed-minded leader.)
Know what you don’t know…Result: 1) ‘own’ it to those you lead and they will help more than you can imagine. If you don’t own it, see the first quadrant result 2) prioritize a plan to learn and do it and those you lead will do the same.
Don’t know what you know…Result: blind spots (scotoma) or that a leader does not learn from past events and repeats them. Department of Redundancy Department.
Don’t know what you don’t know…The most dangerous know-it-all leader because so much is unknown and the leader cannot even contemplate that s/he may not know. Run away, run away fast if this is your leader!
So, when we venture into know-it-all land…
In an earlier post…our computer processor capacity/memory applies Moore’s law of doubling every 2 years (his partner, House said 18 months).
The knowledge of the brain doubles every 2 years according to Richard G. Petty, MD. Doubles! And we still only know/use about 10-30% of it.
If you went to school more than 2 years ago, everything you learned may be obsolete. Or at least time stamped for a very soon expiration date. Makes the case for ongoing learning eh! If you are not growing and learning something every day, if you already know-it-all, then you are dying.