All of us know a “Know It All.” One of “those people” who is the first person to answer the question, even when the question was directed towards someone else.
We know one of those people who cuts off the person answering the question because “that person” figures what she has to say is far more important (at least in her mind) than what the other individual could possible offer as a response. After all, a “Know It All,” well, thinks that they know it all… as long as they control the conversation and keep the topic within their know-it-all frame of reference.
And as irritating as “these types” of people are, we all tend to be a “Know-It-All” to our colleagues, at some point.
…….Particularly during those cross-functional meetings when we lose patience with our non-technical colleagues, whom we figure could not possibly be as smart as we are.
…….Or we lose patience with our technical colleagues because they keep asking us to clarify discrete data points when we want to extrapolate these findings into a broader context across demographic segments.
After all, we are professionals. We know our “stuff.” We’ve studied for our degrees. We are rock stars in our companies. We Know It All. At least we feel we know it all. Because we live inside our departmental and discipline-driven Know-It-All Boxes.
So we become impatient with our colleagues’ questions. We don’t understand why they don’t see what we see and why they simply don’t “get it.” Or else we give up on them because we figure they just won’t ever “get it.”
If you Know-It-All, then you “know” there’s no security in being a Know-It-All.
Did you ever consider that being a Know-It-All is disruptive? It’s lecturing. It’s grandstanding, it’s limiting and it’s certainly not collaborative. Did you ever consider that your cross-functional colleagues are asking all the questions that you have not asked? Perhaps they are inquisitive because you’ve gotten them to think out of their boxes! They are asking those “right” questions, not to put you on the defensive, but to stretch everyone’s brains.
This status-quo habit of ours, to react negatively and defensively when our cross-functional colleagues question us, prevents colleagues from determining what they don’t know. And you certainly won’t expand yourself outside the confines of your discipline-driven box unless you ask the questions you missed out on asking. Those really good, probing, in-depth, honest, let’s get the cards on the table types of questions.
The “right” questions.
So unless the meeting agenda is entitled “all about me,” what happens if you don’t talk? At all. And listen. And refrain from pontificating in an all-encompassing summation that you feel solves everyone’s problems? What if you start the conversation off with some really good questions and the only other thing on the agenda is to ask more of those really good questions, so that you generate a free-wheeling discussion? The meeting becomes self-directing and self-generating. The really good facilitators always love when discussions get into this type of auto-pilot, self-directed, self-facilitated mode. Then they know they have done their job.
The objective of this type of discussion forum is to not reach an endpoint, but rather to observe, collect and embellish upon all of the dialogue that is happening around the table. Then, the possible outcomes are endless. Then the discussion becomes creative and collaborative.
You will never Know-It-All. And why would you want to? Asking the right questions is so much more enlightening.
Babette Ten Haken’s One Millimeter Mindset® Storytelling for STEM Professionals and Left Brain Thinkers speaking programs leverage purpose-driven value differentiation through storytelling, to create and retain successful employees and clients.