Don’t be a know-it-all…REALLY???



by Kenneth Justice

~ I noticed that his eyes had started to wander and I knew he had clearly lost interest in the conversation….

With Christmas just days away, many of the people at the café’s I hang out at are talking about all the various things related to the holiday and yesterday was no exception; a young man sat down at my table in the morning and was telling me about his various ‘beefs’ with Christmas, “Kenneth, I can’t stand the commercialism of it, Christmas is nothing more than a time when the stores can make a ton of money off of innocent people who don’t even have enough in their savings to be buying that expensive Hi-Definition T.V. or some other ridiculously over-priced item” he said

Our conversation did not escape the attention of the older man who was sitting next to us…who from past experience I knew to be a minister from one of the local churches, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear what you two were talking about” the older man said….now, if you know me you would know that I’m not bothered at all when other people join my table conversations……unfortunately, this particular minister was one of those, know-it-all types….do you know the kinds? He doesn’t really have back-and-forth conversations but rather more-or-less gives long monologues…..for about fifteen minutes or so the minister told the young man that Christmas was indeed not supposed to be about materialism and talked about the pagan origins of Saturnalia and all the other rigmarole which many of us are familiar with…….it was somewhere around the 8 minutes mark of the minister’s monologue that I looked over at the young man and I noticed that his eyes had started to wander and I knew he had clearly lost interest in the conversation….

This article is definitely not meant to attack the kind old minister who simply wanted to give a little historical lesson about the origins of Christmas; he really is a nice old guy. Unfortunately, he’s not all that aware of where people are coming from…….the average person at a coffee shop (or anywhere really) doesn’t want to sit down with some stranger who gives them a lecture similar to what they remember from their school days. There is a time and place to be a know-it-all and when your hanging out in casual conversation with others; is clearly NOT the time.

The truth of the matter is that most people simply don’t want to be lectured. Do you remember what it was like when you were younger and your parents talked down-at-you? Children don’t usually like it anymore than anyone else does, and the conversations I remember liking the best from my youth were the ones in which my mom and dad talked to me in a simple back-and-forth manner; as though they were talking to anyone of their friends……do you know what I mean? It feels good when people treat us like ‘equals’….we tend to be more interested in the conversation when we feel as though we are more apart of the conversation.

When I was younger I tended to talk to people like a know-it-all….and this was one of the hardest habits I have had to break. There are so many times in conversations where I feel as though ‘I know the answer’ or ‘I know what to say’…but learning to bite my tongue and convey my thoughts in a way that other people will best receive them has been a tricky art that I have had to learn.

Nobody really teaches you the art of conversation; some of us are raised in better environments than other, where we are surrounded by adults who are really good at holding conversations with others…..but there are many of us who were raised by people who simply talk-at others, and we have to figure out the art of conversation all on our own.

I’ve been thinking about the art of conversation a lot lately because of the upcoming Christmas holiday. A lot of people think that Jesus was some dude who walked around talking at people…and lecturing people everywhere he went. But when I read the gospel of Mark I don’t get that impression at all. The image I see of Jesus has more to do with a guy who really knew how to relate to other people,

—-) he felt the pain that people in abusive relationships feel

—-) he understood what it was like to be a single mother in a world that ignores you

—-) he related to the poor and the people at the bottom of the economic chain

For me, when I read the gospel of Mark I see this guy that didn’t simply walk around talking at people…but rather he was first and foremost an expert listener; he had the ability to truly listen to people and understand where they were coming from and that was why when he finally did open his  mouth to speak; people were totally willing to listen to what he had to say…..

Well, after the minister talked for a  few minutes longer the young man who was sitting with us thanked us for the conversation and took off……perhaps he and I will have coffee one day in the future….

until then I will be sitting here with my coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

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85 replies

  1. Jesus said a lot with only a few words.

  2. Your point being well taken… (and agreed with).. but it is a shame the young man didn’t have a bit more tolerance, and in a bit more of the “Christmas” frame of mind toward the “old man”.
    It is the loneliest people that have the most to say. (yes, Jesus was a great listener)

  3. Most people these days are so busy trying to get their point across that they don’t even care to hear what is being said. I work in a profession that requires a lot of listening. If I listen incorrectly, there can be huge consequences for others. I pray this translates over to the rest of my life!

    People don’t know how much you care until you take to time to listen to what they have to say. Not everyone is asking for a solution. Most people simply want to be heard.

    I love your blog Kenneth, it always makes me take a good look at MYSELF 🙂 Have a very Merry Christmas!

    • Love your comment…..what is strange to me is that there are a lot of professions in life that require a ton of listening in order to get the job done right yet people still don’t listen very well who work in those fields……

      “most people simply want to be heard”

      Love that sentence 🙂

  4. Great post…I’ve got some thinking to do now.

  5. This is such a beautiful post. Right on, none of us like to be talked at. I appreciate this.

  6. Reading your daily lecture is making me a much better listener. Thank you.

  7. I had the same experience one of these day. Although It was in the bus and I’m not as patient and left the person speaking.
    I’m guilty, sometimes I’m one of these and I know I’m doing it, lucky I have good friends that listen to me, lol.

  8. You cut me, dude, I’m like that sometimes, I’m afraid! 😉

  9. I commented yesterday that I’m very opinionated. That’s a trait I get from my father. We used to have conversations where he just wouldn’t stop talking. He’d move to different subjects without giving anyone a chance to comment. I learned to start talking whenever he took a breath and to say all I had to say without pausing for air (by that I mean I would breath without pausing). That kind of conversation didn’t go over well in most other social conversations. I think I will always be working on overcoming those habits.

    Listening – it’s the skill of 2014.

    • Wait a minute…..did we have the same dad??? I swear my dad was the author of the thirty minute paragraph lol

    • Sometimes, you post things about the church and family you grew up in and I really wonder. It’s a terrifying idea… because the world definitely does not need more people like my father (as much as I love the man. He tries to be good in his own way).

    • Well, my dad was definitely one of a kind, and even though he had a lot of good points about him, I agree with what u said; just one of my father was enough for the world 😉

  10. Well said and, unfortunately, quite common. Jesus seemed to have always listened not only to those who came in contact with him but most importantly, His Father. I must confess to having learned the hard way about listening rather than waiting for the person to take a breath so I could jump in! As for those times I am sharing and it’s another person who interrupts…I’ve learned to hear them out and wait to see if they ask me to finish what I was saying. If they don’t then I don’t. Mutual sharing is the best and it sounds as though you are quite good at that.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  11. I can totally relate to this post, and what it feels like to have a “friend” like that preacher. As someone else said, sometimes we just need someone to listen, not a lecture. I recently lost a good friend because I was going through a really bad time in my life, and yet every time I saw her all I got was another preaching session. It was even biblical preaching, but that is not what I needed from a friend…I have a pastor, and a bible…I needed an ear, and a shoulder.

  12. I hate when I call someone for one answer and after one hr talk I get three other open pages to close.
    Cheap talk 😦

  13. I don’t like to be lectured to, either, Kenneth. And when people lecture me, I do lose interest, at least temporarily. Often, though, I re-think it, and conclude that people are just speaking that way because they haven’t learned any other way to connect. Thanks for the elucidating post, as usual.

  14. What about Fate? There may be something bigger behind the words?

  15. I’ve been known to be a know-it-all, or at least, to be seen like one.

    I like to think I’m getting better, but on an errand with my father, we were talking, and he asked me with exasperation, “Is there anything you don’t know about?” I asked him to clarify, and he said something to the effect of he could mention just about anything under the sun, and I’d reply with something like I’d read about it, or a blog I follow mentioned it, etc.

    I think maybe the prompt was that I needed to wait a little bit longer to listen to what HE had learned about it.

    • Jaklumen, a least u were able to honestly assess the situation and yourself….a lot of people don’t have enough self awareness of themselves and the context of the conversation to realize what is being implied, what they can take away from the conversation, and how they can grow 🙂

    • It did come from some hard experiences, even rude awakenings. Of course, I decided and wanted to change, and had friends and family willing to help me… I suspect that’s a real problem for some.

    • Yes, a lot of people don’t have family “there for them” or if they do…sometimes their family isn’t all that helpful because they got problems of their own

  16. It truly is an art to be observant enough to notice when you have lost someone’s attention and still be astute enough to realize it’s time to shut up, ask a question and just listen.

  17. The minister was just doing his job. Which is, to me, the reason for the vast majority of “talking at” situations. It is rare that someone not in a position of authority (executive, spiritual, educational, etc.) “talks at”.

    Separation of life and this position of authority seldom demonstrates itself, unfortunately. Which makes it so fascinating when it does (most recent example – Pope Francis). It’s like inertia – it’s just the way it is, and a miracle when it doesn’t manifest itself (usually conditioned by some other natural effects).

    And while certain professions (including clergy – lets face it, it’s a profession) require this “I’m going to just insert myself into your conversation and tell you what to do/say/think in a nice paternal way” attitude, I find it incredibly bothersome and, frankly, troubling.

    Particularly, in this case, the proximity to matters of religion and beliefs, which to me are extremely private and personal.

    That said, thank you for a very unexpected first-post welcome to wordpress. Was a very pleasant surprise, and I’m flattered.

    • Pope Francis has definitely been a breath of fresh air….I imagine that he is making a lot of pastors, ministers, and priests a bit uncomfortable because he is challenging the way they have all turned the ministry into a “business” rather than an opportunity to serve others

    • I imagine he is making many parishioners very uncomfortable, as well. Rather, I hope he is inspiring people to re-examine themselves as a vessel, and the manner in which this vessel carries these beliefs.

      These beliefs are not cannonballs, and they have been handled as such for a very long time. I do believe it’s time for a re-evaluation.

    • “re-evaluation” exactly….hopefully the the trend that pope Francis has begun continues to move in a positive direction

  18. That’s a spot on observation that I hope some of my fellow Christians will adopt in time. We should learn to relate to suffering and show empathy rather than sympathy. I understand why some people feel disillusioned with Christ when some of us use the “Holier than thou” tone in our conversation. Jesus never used the “holier than thou” message but rather chose to empathise that’s why his message is so widespread 🙂 It’s all about show, not tell.
    Spot on observation!

    • Sadly…..much of western Christianity has simply missed this aspect of who Jesus was…..for too many Christians; they use “Jesus” as a means of creating fruitless arguments, divisions, and more. The real jesus was one of the most empathetic people to ever walk the earth

  19. Wish I could like this one 2 times. ;D So much fun here … Thank you Kenneth and see you really soon!

  20. Great insights and reasoning Kenneth!

    I’m aware I’ve come off as a long winded know-it-all at times in the past, which is partially what my attraction to the haiku poetry form is about – I seek to say a lot, in fewer words, so that there’s less risk of me rambling beyond easily tolerable limits, which I feel I am very prone to do in writing if I don’t keep a close watch on myself.

    In reading your post, the quote below came to mind, that I think supports the thoughts of your blog.

    “1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…”
    – James 3:1-5a ESV

    Thanks for reading my posts and liking them for so long! Sorry I’ve taken my sweet time to show my gratitude with reciprocity… I tend to not read a ton of blogs, because I want to take the time to think carefully about what I read, and that tends to lead to my leaving comments that are not usually as brief as most I see that others leave, and because of this I have less time to read as widely.

  21. Reblogged this on hakariconstant and commented:
    “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
    ― Benjamin Franklin

    “1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…”
    – James 3:1-5a ESV

  22. Great advice! I needed to read this too.

  23. Ya gotta love the glazed over eyes look. I know I give them all the time, of course I’m not much for long boring lectures. Plus when a know-it-all tries to tell me how to do something I tend to do the opposite just on principle alone. 😉

  24. First – always insightful Kenneth. Second – I have some news for you. I am giving you the Blog of the Year 2013 Award. 🙂 I was given this and so I’m not giving it to you. Read my post to learn all the rules (granted you don’t really have to do it if you don’t want to but I still think you earned it) – (yes I know you hate links lol oh well deal with it.)

  25. Not surprised to see all the likes on this post 🙂

    Advice is a gift much easier to give than receive. The rules of advice I try to follow are: try not to give unsolicited advice, aim for unique information, not just obvious nagging, and most importantly, try to work out what good things the person is thinking about doing and encourage her to do them. Can’t go wrong with those three.

    • Miep,

      those are great rules. I like the last one a lot, “Try to work out what good thigns the person is thinking about doing and encourage her to do them” excellent!

  26. This is something I struggle with as well…as the “know-it-all”. My folks weren’t the best conversationalists, I’m an introvert, and sometimes, it seems the only thing I can contribute to a conversation is a lecture. :/

    Wonder if there would be a value in creating groups or classes in the art of conversing…

    • Kheldarson,

      I really think there would be a lot of value. Schools ‘back-in-the-day’ used to teach logic and rhetoric and practically no schools teach those today either…..and I think a lot of people would gain a ton from taking classes that taught them the art of conversation.

  27. What’s really sad is that when you really ARE a know-it-all . . . nobody listens to you anyways.

  28. Merry Xmas! I’ve been checking out your blog and just started following. You’re a great writer! Normally longer blogs kind of get passed by me since I’m mostly interested in photographs, but I loved this post. Thanks for lecturing….I mean conversating with me LOL!!!

  29. Hear hear! Great post, very well said. I’m a philosophy grad student and this is something that I need to remember ALL the time. When you feel enthusiastic and convicted about something it’s easy to slip from conversing to lecturing.
    You may find This TED talk interesting:

    Thanks for liking my post by the way ( I’m now following your blog.

    • Ashleigh,

      I’m so jealous of you….I’ve always wanted to get a masters in philosophy but simply don’t have the time…I chose psychology in college which I love, but philosophy is my real passion 🙂

    • Yup, five years ago I was all set to study Occupational Therapy so that I could graduate and get a ‘real’ job when I realised that I needed to follow my passion. (That was a fun conversation to have with the folks!) I’m very privileged to have had the luxury to do so. Philosophy is great in that you don’t actually have to study it to be a ‘philosopher’ – you are a living breathing blog-writing example =)

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