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How to Work with a Know-it-All
Over the years I have attended more meetings than I can possibly remember. I had two today. I have also facilitated and chaired quite a few. I am using the terms facilitate and chair here to mean basically the same thing, but there are differences and we will explore those differences in a separate entry.
Of the many bits of information I have gained during this period is that successful meetings require diversity just like a thriving garden requires more than one type of plant to reach its maximum potential.
If all the people around the table are carbon copies of each other then the results of that meeting will likely be flat and lifeless.
Diversity is essential, however, there are certain behavioral patterns that can kill a committee and a possibly great project before it gets out of the ground.
The facilitator must learn to identify these potential threats and find ways to channel their harmful words and deed into actions that aid the whole. Now, this is something that is much easier to say than it is to do.
The identification part will evolve when you have attended enough meetings or do a little research into human behavior. I believe any good chair needs to be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This familiarity can come in handy when the facilitator is trying to weed the garden without hampering growth.
The persona I find the most difficult to work with positively is the know-it-all. The know-it-all may roll his eyes when someone speaks, make muffled sounds, whispering under their breath for example, low enough so no one hears what was said but loud enough to disrupt. Their body language eyes averted, slumped shoulders for example, also gives them away.
However, what is even more annoying is they act like they have the answer and all you really need to do is ask them to take over and the problems will all go away. I have found my letting this type have the lead in a small part of the whole is an effective way to expose their true weakness. They really do not know what to do, won’t ask and get snarly when someone offers assistance.
So what do you do? Well I always make it known to the group I am working with that if they have a question or want to bounce and idea, they can talk with me, I will listen and respond. Be kind. I also share information, these days by email so the person is free to sue without having to acknowledge that they got the source from me. I am not after credit, I am either getting paid well or doing some volunteer work and making a difference. I get all the credit I need.
How else can you deal with the know-it-all. Sometimes confrontation is effective. Ask them what they would do when their displeasure shows. Do this in a calm and gentle way if they have an idea it might be worth hearing; if they don’t everyone will soon know.
It also helps to bear in mind that you only have to deal with this person for the duration of the meeting, there is no need to go for coffee or lunch with them and you are not inviting them to your house for supper.
Consider the greater goal, the reasons the committee came together and focus on process; do this and you will get where you are going.
- Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs
What is the meaning of life? The purpose of existence? How do we, as humans, find happiness here on Earth? These are the questions Maslow strove to answer with his Hierarchy of Needs.