2/23/2018

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Know-It-None

Stereotype: Cliff Clavin ( John Ratzenberger, Cheers). Blaring voice. Can't tell the difference between fact and bullshit.

Psych Shot: "Compulsion for friendships and relationships. Conflicts with people who want to work."

Everybody hates a know-it-all, but what's even worse is a Know-it-None. Those insufferable boobs with the booming voice and peanut-size brain. They are a wealth of facts, figures, and arcane knowledge, most of which is completely wrong.

Know-It-Nones infest the workplace, but there is no limitation on where these blowhards can ruin your day. When you're on a plane, they don't even have to be seated next to you do drive you nuts. They can be three rows back, spouting on and on, maddeningly ignorant regardless of the topic. Know-It-Nones love trivial positions of authority, and if they can't worm themselves into one at your company, you're sure to encounter them fronting some community group, or maybe your kid's sports team. Remarkably, otherwise intelligent people often take these bozos at face value without questioning theri authority or knowledge.

The plague of Know-It-Nones has spread exponentially with the rise of the Internet. Wikipedia, Google, and millions of random blogs have become the arsenal of the misinformed, stuffing their heads with random nonsense that might be partly right but usually tends to be skewed, misinterpreted, or just dead wrong ("Is Google Making Us Stupid?" was the title of a 2008 Atlantic Monthly article). These people have become trivia experts of the worst stripe, the most heinous of them addicts, regularly tapping out their inane Google queries and crowing out cockeyed answers to questions no one asked.

What if you are the unlucky cubemate of a Know-It-None? That was the bum card dealt a Wall Street trader we talked to. The Know-It-None told rambling, painfully long-drawn-out disaster stories from his days as a fireman. To make things worse, he made a point of delaying the punch line as long as possible. "The first three weeks, he drove me up the wall. A booming voice, unpolished. I'd let myself get suckered in to one anecdote or story after another." By the third week, "I'd just put my head down. Interrupt him midsentence: 'Look, I'm busy.'" The trader began to gradually add other outs--"I have to call somebody back...I need to get this done." Ultimately, the key turned out to be the first one out. "If you could break out early, it was easier."

Know-It-None presents an even larger danger in meetings by distorting situations and diverting focus. Deflate him by quickly asking, "What's your source on that? Did you get that from the internet?" When Know-It-None fesses up that his source is garbage, issue a broad smile to undercut his nonsense. If he continues his bluster, suggest that it might be helpful to get some verifiable facts.

Make certain to cut short Know-It-None's incessant intrusions at your office or cube, so they don't become a habit. Showing him the back of your head can bne surprisingly effective. If you're feeling talkative, try the long version--a one-word, noncommittal exclamation: "Interesting."

Then go back to work.

Kick Loose From The Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job

By Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon, Authors of 
I Hate People!

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