4 Ways To Tell If You Are A Know-It-All or a Learn-It-All

Have you ever had the experience of dealing with a know-it-all? If you have, you know it can be an extremely exhausting experience. It is one thing to be confident, but quite another to be an a****** …  I leave it to you to fill in the blanks.

Personally, listening to a know-it-all seems to give me a sense that the person is not self confident – despite the fact that is nearly always their primary intention. A know-it-all displays extreme rigidity, as if there is some prize for them at the end of winning every conversation. They simply don’t give in or give up –  until the whistle blows… and even then they don’t stop.

A Slice of Humble Pie

A business mentor used to say to me, “Learn how to eat humble pie once in a while.” That statement has stuck with me some twenty-plus years later. He used to tell me, “You can’t get value if you’re always talking and ramming your opinions down everyone’s throat. Great learners are great listeners!”

True mastery is a result of effort and consistency. Time becomes the catalyst for both in achieving mastery, although we can never truly be masters at anything as if you are a frequent reader of the N2ITIV blog, you know our strong belief that there is no such thing as an expert. I believe we must constantly stay in student mode, as the best craft masters never stop learning and implementing.

We must never allow a superiority complex to shield us from improving and learning from others.

Rather than being a know-it-all, I firmly believe that an entrepreneur should think and act like a sponge – a position I like to call the ‘LEARN-IT-ALL.’ Being a sponge allows us to take it all in first, so that we can pick and choose what to squeeze out later.

A learn-it-all comes from a place of openness and and gathers an opinion only after understanding the different perspectives of others. The learn-it-all looks to incorporate other ideas and opinions in the decision process. This should be an opportunity to get better in the eyes of an entrepreneur.

I want you to read these 4 points and determine if you think you are a Know-it-all or a Learn-it-all, or some combination of both.

The Expert Reflex

The Know-it-all: Arrogance best suits this person. People I’ve dealt with who have displayed this trait seem to be unaware of  when, where, and how to use their  ‘Godly gifts’ of intelligence. The danger doesn’t come from the intelligence part – it comes when the intelligence transforms into arrogance, something that is often as subtle as a freight train! People tend to underestimate the destructive nature of egos. Unfortunately for most, by the time they realize it, it is already too late.

The Learn-It all: Understands that communication takes a degree of savvy and patience and, most importantly,  involves an environment of 2-way communication.

Are you overwhelming people with your opinions in your discussions?  Next time you are in a discussion, observe the other person’s body language. Do they seem receptive? Or do they look like they would rather be somewhere else? 

Excuse Me, Can My Ego Sit Here?

The Know-it-all: Some business people have such a single-minded approach to their opinions that they find it necessary to go into battle when they enter a discussion or hear an opinion contrary to their own. They want to crush their ‘opponent’  as though it’s a competition. The result? … Nothing gets heard and certainly nothing is learned! It becomes a case where it’s acceptable to kill the message and the messenger!

The Learn-It all: Doesn’t look at conversation as a battle where there is a winner or loser – they look at it as a path to possibilities. It’s more about discovery and truth than it is about domination.

Next time you’re in a healthy debate think engagement. Try to see how much you can find out about a particular subject from the other person’s vantage point then gradually discuss your own having soaked in what you have just heard. This will create a sense of balance and encourage engagement.

The Fixer Up’er

The Know-it-all: Have you been in a conversation where the person seems to have the answers for all of the challenges that are happening in your business? They somehow have the need to fix all of your problems – and sometimes even try to fix you! The problem here is that an attitude like this creates a division – I’m perfect and you’re not certainly does not lead to positive engagement.

The Learn-It all: Knows the importance of choosing words correctly so as not to turn-off or disengage the other party. They understand there is a human being on the other end, and how words can have a negative emotional effect on a person just as easily (perhaps even more so) than a positive one.

Before you jump right in and give the antidote, frame your answers into questions – almost like a psychiatrist does. It prevents you from talking at people when you should be talking with them. 

Stubborn As A Mule

The Know-it-all: Some entrepreneurs would rather die than lose an argument. So, instead of trying to understand – they would rather go to the grave with their opinions than be open to the possibility that they are not always right. These people are truly tough nuts to crack! When I’ve run into these these types of know-it-all’s, there is often no chance for real dialogue – whether I make sense or not. The question becomes, do you stay around and try to crack this tough nut or simply move on?

The Learn-It all: Decides if it’s worth the time. If there’s a true benefit to trying to hang in there, then it may be worth the time and effort. Sometimes it’s just best to excuse yourself respectfully and find a better conversation.

If you run into headstrong person that is inflexible and pigheaded, give the person time. See if they loosen up. If that does not prove to be effective, move on!

That’s all for now.

Work Hard, Work Smart & Stay Humble!



“MJ takes a new and exciting approach on how to teach entrepreneurs.”

Daymond John
Co-host of ABC's, 'Shark Tank'

Hustle Branding Featured In:

Hustle Branding in Fortune Magazine
Hustle Branding on Fox News
Hustle Branding in Sales Force
Hustle Branding in Forbes
See All Media

2 thoughts on “4 Ways To Tell If You Are A Know-It-All or a Learn-It-All

  1. Gary
    This is a very relevant topic to today. With all the growth in social media, seems like everyone behaves like being the expert is required for survival. Add to that moving in a circle of successful entrepreneurs – who are (rightfully so) in a position to actually be experts in their niche – at times it makes me want to run screaming from social media. Although I can’t access the posts right this minute – I have read a few excellent posts – bashing self-branding, being the guru and the expert! And yet there is always some truth in the comment from Seth Godin: Substance without swagger slows you down. But swagger without substance can be fatal. Really like your focus here about targeting being the Learn-it-all! Nice ideas…

    1. Hey Glenn – appreciate you reading and sharing the post. The swagger concept seems to be a growing one! That swagger concept has come down to, how many followers, likes, pins ect… If your bucket run-eth over with these, you are an expert. I like to think great learners become great teachers – who in turn affect and change lives. At least that’s my mission :-]

Comments are closed.