There is something very disquieting about ‘know-it-all’s. By that I mean the people who a) have an opinion about everything, b) believe their opinion is the best out there and c) are adamant there is no way they could be convinced otherwise. I used to associate this attitude with confidence, assertiveness and, why not, I also thought it was quite attractive to see someone so sure of they stand up for.
Part of this impression though, may have been largely influenced by the person who was holding such an attitude, that is my first ever serious boyfriend. He was one of these people who was always convinced that things had to be seen through his side of the story and was also incredibly persuasive in convincing people of his version of events. At the time, I was also very easily influenced, but looking back I think I was naïve to believe that was attractive or a sign of confidence. I now feel that is quite the contrary.
Whilst at university, and generally during the 5 years since we broke up, I’ve come to the realisation that ‘know-it-all’s are literally full of s**t. Not only that, but they also seriously annoy me. The simple reason for this is that, if like me you’re generally constantly hungry for knowledge and ways to improve your skills and understanding of certain issues, you come to the realisation that the more you learn about things and the world the less you know about them.
It’s like a knowledge warp. It sucks you in and gives you a big cold hard slap on the face to wake you up and make you realise that you don’t and can’t know everything, that not even those we consider to be the most iconic historical figures did, that everyone is fallible and that nothing is set in stone, and yes that also applies if you’re the effing Roman Empire.
Therefore, the logical argument that flows from this realisation is that people who adopt a ‘know-it-all’ attitude, in fact, know very little a) about the topic, b) about their inherent human fallibility and c) are infatuated with themselves beyond belief to realise that maybe other’s people’s opinion could also be viable.
If you’ve ever reached that point where you’ve spent hours reading on a topic just to realise the amount of knowledge you have yet to uncover, a very interesting shift happens: you’re suddenly humbled by the vast amount of information and wisdom held by the countless of events, books and people who lived on this Earth before you, and you accept that you are a novice. You also feel pretty that good after all that reading ;)
There is a sense of humbleness that comes with understanding you don’t know it all. And a very surprising behavioural shift also occurs from ‘opinionated and argumentative’ into ‘listen more, talk less’.
The point I’m trying to make is that people who chatter too much and speak too loudly are in fact obtuse-thinking and put up a mask of impression of knowledge. People who actually master a topic and are truly knowledgeable about the strains of thought behind a certain topic will be much more open to conversation and inviting to deliberation.
Moreover, a massive difference is the way in which these two different types of people will make you feel: the first will a) frustrate you and belittle you, b) shun his ‘vast’ knowledge of the topic in front of you and c) perhaps also try to enforce his opinions on you. Conversely, the latter will d) speak very clearly and explain very complicated notions in very simple terms, e) infuse your brain with a refreshing sense of clarity of both pro-against argument and most importantly, f) will empower you to believe you could also one day reach that particular level of expertise.
The person I have in mind when I think of this is my father. He’s a walking encyclopaedia on all things biology-related. The fascinating thing about my father is the way in which he explains very complicated biology terminology and processes in very simple words and concepts that not only make me understand the matter at hand very quickly and efficiently, but also inspire me to seek further information in the domain and thus, expand my knowledge of that issue myself. Moreover, he is always very happy to discuss taboo issues or unpick misconceptions on various topics, but, when he doesn’t feel comfortable with a topic he will simply say he doesn’t know what the answer is or that he’ll come back to me when he reads more about it.
Two things to take from this: 1) actual ‘know-it-all’s are able to translate super complicated stuff in easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy sentences, and 2) actual ‘know-it-all’s are aware they don’t know it all! Which should make you be very suspicious of i) someone who is not able to explain very simply to you what they stand for and give you clear arguments, and ii) someone who’s clearly unwilling to take different opinions on board because they’ve ‘definitely made up their mind on something’.
I hope my post will nudge you to be very careful toward the attitudes of people around you and the way in which they make you feel when displaying their knowledge or understanding of the world. While it is important that people form their own opinions and have all the right in the world to feel strongly about a certain cause or subject, it’s also very important to be aware of the way in which they express that: it might make others feel very inspired or, “quite frankly, my dear”, very annoyed.
Thanks for stopping by,