Do you have a pal who always tries to convince you that she knows best?
She is the self-appointed expert in everything. She doesn’t hesitate to share her (unsolicited) advice about how to get your kids to go to bed on time or eat healthier meals. She likes to explain that if she were you, she would have asked for a raise months ago. She even has the perfect plan for how to fix the economy and create world peace (if only!). While know-it-all friends like this can be entertaining and even helpful, after a while you may be so over listening to all that hot air.
“Know-it-alls are often people we like a lot at first,” says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix. “Part of the attraction is that they’re confident, smart, and have an opinion. But after a while, it wears thin, and then it just becomes annoying.”
In many cases, your friend’s penchant for turning everything into a conversation about her experience and knowledge may stem from good intentions—she truly wants to help. “If you mention something in your life you’re concerned about, she wants to tell her story and how she handled it,” says Bonior. “It’s a clumsy way to empathize, but her heart is in the right place.”
But Bonior adds that sometimes there are less altruistic reasons for her behavior. “People like this may be insecure, and feel they constantly have to prove to you and to themselves how smart and competent they are,” says Bonior. Your friend could also be feeling jealous and competitive, and her need to correct you or “teach” you could be her way of trying to put you in your place.
Whatever your friend’s motives, here are a few ways to tell the know-it-all to give it a rest.
- Stop complaining in her presence: Bonior points out that your friend may be offering her advice all the time simply because you keep asking for it, intentionally or not. “You have to look at your role in this relationship, and if you are constantly complaining, then she truly may just be trying to help,” she says.
- Call her out on it. “If it’s a close relationship with a history of trust, you should be able to have a heart-to-heart about it,” says Bonior. Without attacking, sit your friend down and say, “Lately, when we’re talking, I don’t feel like you’re listening to me. The conversation always seems to turn back to you and your experience.” Explain that while you do value her opinion and advice, sometimes you just want to shoot the breeze without getting a lecture. You can even say, “Let’s make a deal: When you need advice, say to me, ‘I’d really like your opinion on this,’ and I’ll do the same for you.”
- Shut it down with a simple phrase. If the know-it-all in question isn’t a close friend, simply have a stock phrase you can pull out as soon as he or she starts yapping away. Bonior suggests this simple sentiment: “Thank you for sharing that, I will take it under consideration.” Then either change the subject or walk away.