Mr. Know-It-All

When you’re never wrong.

Photo courtesy of Treza Trisnandhy

Photo courtesy of Treza Trisnandhy

No one person knows everything, right?

Not even Watson, the IBM cognitive technology computer that, in 2011, was the hands-down winner on the TV show, Jeopardy!

Well, Watson doesn't even qualify to be in the discussion since it’s not a person.

So, if very few will dispute the fact that no one person on earth knows everything, why then do we sometimes behave as if we do? Let's listen in on this dialogue that took place at a family dinner table.

Dad: What was that you were watching just before coming to dinner?

Son: “Ruthless Violations”

Dad: Isn’t that a bad TV show? Why are you watching it?

Son: I don’t think it’s bad. Have you seen it?

Dad: No, I haven’t. But I’m sure it’s bad. With a name like “Ruthless Violations”, how good can it be?

Son: It’s not really that bad. It was a show originally created by the CVS Network.

Dad: No, it’s not from CVS! It’s a bad show!

Mom: Are you sure it’s not from CVS? You’ve not even checked it yet.

Dad: Yes, I checked it! I know it’s not from CVS.

Mom: How did you know that it’s not from CVS?

Dad: I checked it last week!

Mom: Really?! So you knew that this discussion, about this particular show was going to happen, and you checked it then and could still accurately remember that it’s not from CVS?

Dad: Yes, I remember!

Mom: Are you sure about that? So, there’s not even a remote possibility that you could be wrong?

Dad: No, I’m not wrong! I’m very sure of it!

Finally, mom kept quiet and said nothing more. Later that day, she checked and found that truly, the show was created by CVS. But she said nothing to her husband. She knew him. Saying something will only lead to more arguments, and she didn’t want any more of that.

This slightly modified dialogue from a true-story is not meant to show how bad the make-believe show, “Ruthless Violations” is; nor is it to portray the fictional CVS television network as a good one. The purpose is to highlight this dad's behavior.

Are you like this dad? If you are, allow me to point out three things.

1. You may think you know, but you probably don’t

When you argue in favor of a point without entertaining the fact that you may be wrong, it’s a little disturbing. What you’re saying is that you know all there is to know about that situation or subject. This is highly improbable, even if you are an expert on the subject. Ask yourself the following: could there have been new developments that I’m not aware of? Do I really know all there is about the situation?

What’s more ridiculous is that you don’t just argue this way in areas you consider yourself an expert. You also do it even when you know that the other person you’re arguing with probably knows more than you.

Maybe you don’t realize it, but it seems your goal is just to win the argument. And it doesn't matter that you claim to know what you may not. You take the little you know about the subject, and argue it to its illogical conclusions.

2. You won’t learn

Because you think you’re right, you probably won’t take the time to check out the facts after the argument is over. To you, it’s done with. You’ve won. And that’s what really matters. As a result, you remain in your ignorant state on that subject. You don’t learn.

Someone who wants learn and grow from the experience will try to check the facts once the argument is over. But that’s not you. You don’t need to learn. You know everything!

3. People avoid you

No one would want to talk to you about anything of importance. That’s because they know all they will get from you is more argument. In fact, when they unknowingly say anything that triggers this behavior from you, they quickly recognize the symptom and throw in the towel. They let you win, even if they have facts that dispute your point. They just won’t go there. They avoid you.

So, what can you do?

Resolve to hear the other person out and consider their point of view. Admit you don’t know everything. Even if you do know a lot about the subject, you may still learn something.

Resist the temptation to argue. You already know that you have that tendency. Make a conscious effort not to, even when you’re a hundred percent certain that you’re right.

So, stop it already! If not, you won’t learn a thing about what you don’t know! And you only make people avoid you.

Trust me. I know.