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How to deal with a know-it-all at work

How To Influence a Know-it-All at Work (Powerful Phrases For More Confidence)

by | Apr 3, 2023 | By Karin Hurt and David Dye, conflict, powerful phrases |

 Show Up With More Confidence, Find Your Voice,
AND Leverage Their Expertise,

If you’re choosing to read this, we know you know the type. The one who thinks they know-it-all, and doesn’t hesitate to pontificate, question, and debate everything.  They offer unsolicited advice or undesired help. These characters make you want to scream “stay in your lane!,” or “hey, I’ve got this!”

The irritating challenge with so many know-it-alls is that often they actually do know quite a bit. Sometimes their questions are spot on. A know-it-all can challenge you to think more deeply. When you know your office know-it-all is in the room, you might even anticipate the questions they’ll ask, double-check your data, and prepare your response.

So how do you channel their expertise while staying confident in yours?

Start with an Empathetic Connection and Curiosity

A know-it-all can be hard to connect with because they’re so darn annoying. It can be tempting to roll your eyes, walk away and limit your exposure. As with most workplace conflicts, it’s helpful to understand what’s driving their need to say all the things, all the time.

Often what comes across as arrogance, is really deep insecurity. They’re trying to prove their value because they don’t feel seen. Other times, a no-it-all is really just trying to be helpful. For one reason or another, they might not understand the impact of their unsolicited help. Of course, you could be dealing with an ego-maniac who genuinely thinks they have all the answers. It’s hard to know what’s really going on until you connect at a human level and show up curious.

Either way, it will be easier to have a no-diaper genie conversation about the impact their approach is having on you and others if they know you really care about them and have their best interest at heart.

And from there here are a few powerful conversation starters to help address your concerns with the no-it-all.

Powerful Phrases to Help a Know-It-All Understand The Impact of Their Approach

It’s possible that your know-it-all doesn’t understand the impact they’re having. Sometimes a gentle conversation to point out the behavior and the impact can make a huge difference.

  • “I really care about you as a coworker and I want you and our team to be successful. I have an idea that might help your communication and strengthen collaboration on our team, would you be open to a conversation about that?’
  • “I’m sure your intentions are good. And sometimes, when you tell me what to do, it makes me feel like you’re questioning my expertise.
  • “I know you’re trying to be helpful. And, I’ve got to tell you how your approach today made me feel.
  • “How do you think the meeting went today? What did you notice about the others in the room?
  • “I know you have a lot of ideas and I appreciate how much you care about the business. I’ve noticed that sometimes you dominate the conversation and others seem to shut down. For example _______.  I’m curious about what you think you could do to ensure others have a voice. The I.N.S.P.I.R.E. method works well here.
  • “I’m sure you don’t intend to make me feel this way. And, sometimes when you offer advice on areas where I’ve got a lot of expertise, it makes me feel…”

Powerful Phrases to Get More Voices into the Room

One way to do this is to take them aside and invite your know-it-all to help draw other voices into the conversation.  Another is to intervene when they take a breath and redirect the conversation.

  • “I know you have a lot of expertise in this area, and I appreciate your point of view. I could really use your help drawing others into the conversation. Do you think you could help me do that in the next meeting?
  • “Thank you for sharing your perspective. Now I really want to ensure everyone has a chance to share as well.” See Also: How to Prevent Your Well-Intentioned Big Mouths from Hijacking Your Virtual Meeting. 
  • “I want to ensure we hear from everyone, so I’m going to set the timer for five minutes, and give everyone who would like to share their ideas the same amount of time to speak.

Powerful Phrases To Share Your Expertise with the Know-it-All or Get Them Off Your Back

Leadership Training ProgramOf course, sometimes you just need to stand your ground and share your expertise. These powerful phrases can help you redirect the conversation and politely make it clear to your know-it-all that you aren’t in the market for their help or advice.

  • “I really appreciate your desire to help, here but I’ve got this.”
  • “I’ve been working on this for quite some time, and I’m confident in this approach (or decision)”
  • “We need to move quickly on this, so I’m going to make the call.”
  • “I can see you have some strong opinions here, and I do too. I want to ensure you really understand my perspective and point of view. Can we do a quick check for understanding of what we’re hearing one another say?
  • No thank you. I’m going to stay the course.
  • That’s interesting, thanks. And if you’ll excuse me I need to run to another commitment.

Of course, the way you approach the conversation with your know-it-all will vary based on your relationship and their receptivity to the conversation. As with all workplace conflicts, showing up with good intentions yourself (a strong desire to be helpful to them and to foster collaboration), and then staying confident in your expertise and curious about what’s going on for them can make all the difference.

Your turn.

What advice do you have for someone dealing with a know-it-all colleague? What go-to powerful phrases would you recommend?

12 Powerful Phrases to Help You Navigate Challenging Workplace Conflict

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!


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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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Get the FREE Courageous Cultures E-Book to learn how

7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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