Confessions of a Know-it-All
Everybody is flawed. Everyone has those things about them that are less than glamorous. I, fortunately, have come to terms with some of mine. More specifically – the fact that I am a classic know-it-all.
The truth is, I have always been a know-it-all. My friends and my family know it, people have called me on it at various times throughout the years, but up until now I have spent my entire life denying it – both to myself and others.
I was always the kid in class speaking out of turn because I knew the answer and had to be the one to give it. When I wasn’t speaking out I was damn near jumping out of my seat, red-faced, hand waving in the air, silently screaming “Pick me! Pick me!”.
I have childhood memories of my young and inexperienced-self “educating” my friends on the ways of the world, I spent many-a family dinners arguing with my mom and sisters about absolutely everything because of course I was always right. And even now as a young professional I find myself always needing to be heard in every single space – because of course what I have to say is just so important and needs to be heard…
P.S. You know that feeling when you’re a kid in class, shaking and just bubbling over with the urge to answer? Yeah – that feeling just never went away for me. And unfortunately, it’s not so cute as you get older.
Now this grand confession is not an exercise in discovering my true self (although this is true), owning my true self (this too), and living that true self without fear or shame (not so true… I feel the shame). This grand confession, is in fact, intended to be the beginning of the end (hopefully) of my know-it-all ways.
In the last couple of weeks, I have experienced a few small, yet very eye-opening moments that have truly shifted my sense of self and the way in which I want to exist in this world. These seemingly small moments may very well have been completely missed by those around me – but when they happened, something in me shifted.
Do you remember being a kid and getting ready to jump in a cold pool? You know that back and forth dance we kind of do as we run towards the pool and suddenly chicken out, stop short and run back? I think I’ve been doing that dance for quite some time now – For a while now I have felt the need for growth, change, something different – there’s been this hunger to discover who I am at this stage in my life. But it’s like I kept running toward the jump – and stopping short.
But not anymore. Now, I feel like I’ve got one foot in the air, reaching out towards that cool water, right on the edge of a great big leap. I’m ready for the leap and I finally recognize that being a know-it-all has stunted my growth and my ability to take those much needed leaps – after-all, how can you grow when you’ve decided you know it all?
For the past few days I have been learning with and from some amazing people from the Centre for Social Innovation at an Ecological Retreat Centre in Mono, Ontario. During a peer-learning session the topic of Collective Wisdom came up. This is something that has come up a lot in my life, especially in my educational and professional worlds. But for whatever reason – it struck me in a completely new way and I felt this urge to contain that bubbling over feeling and actually create some space to learn from those around me.
It felt really transformational to do this and I’ve decided I want to continue to challenge myself this way. I know that it’s not going to happen overnight and there will be times when I may not be able to contain the bubbling up. But I am so ready to start creating space for that collective wisdom. There is just so much to learn from others and I need to create some space in my world for just that.
And what better way to start this journey of growth than by reflecting on the amazing insights that others have shared with me. Some tips and tricks for kicking this know-it-all habit of mine:
- Wait to be Invited to the Table
- Stop Interrupting
- Create space for others
- Ask Better Questions
Wait to be invited to the table…
I love this piece of advice. My Director at work, the incredible Lore Wainwright, is always providing opportunities for reflection and growth – one day we were having a discussion about how a particular meeting went and a piece of advice that she left me with was that sometimes it’s better to wait to be invited to the table.
Metaphorically speaking (and sometimes literally;)) I have a tendency to barge in, invite myself to the table and completely hijack the conversation. But there is something so special about being invited to the table. The truth is, not every conversation requires my guidance and not every conversation requires my input. By waiting to be invited, it allows others the opportunity to explore ideas in a more organic and genuine way.
This has always been a struggle for me. If you know me, you know that I have a response for everything. I remember talking to my Director one time about a specific conversation that really bothered me and how I was planning to respond. What she said to me was so simple – yet so brilliant. She reminded me to pause and said “not everything requires a response”.
It really is as simple as that.
I am an extremely passionate person and when people do or say things that I don’t agree with I am instinctually reactive. But the reality is, not everything requires a response. I think that this is even more true when someone says something that I do agree with. I am always so quick to react that the moment passes too quickly. By pausing I allow myself and others to reflect and bask in the beauty of what has been shared.
On a similar note – this is advice (slash basic manners?) that anyone and everyone has constantly tried to drill in to me.
Stop interrupting people. Yes, I may be excited or angry or curious or bubbling up, but number one – it’s just plain rude – and number two – – — there is so much to be learned from others. By reacting before the words have left another person’s lips, I miss out. If I just calm the hell down who knows what magic others might share with me.
Create space for others…
Something that has been shared with me by a number of amazing facilitators in my world in a number of different ways is this idea of creating space for others.
If you think about conversation as a room – there’s only so much that can fit if you, your baggage and your ego are taking up all the space. But imagine you begin to let all that stuff go, imagine physically removing those pieces from the room. Think about all the knowledge and insight that others can bring into that space.
That’s all it’s really about – being intentional about setting your ego aside and allowing others to not only exist in the space, but be heard and valued in the space.
Ask Better Questions…
Vinod Rajasekaran, co-founder of Impact Hub Ottawa, came to speak at my organization’s AGM this year. He was sharing a story about his daughter and how he kept trying to show her how to do various different things – thinking, with good intention, that he was teaching her how the world works. He eventually realized that she wasn’t looking for him to bring her answers – she was exploring. And he said something so powerful – that instead of focusing on the answers we need to start exploring the questions. We need to start asking for better questions for tomorrow.
For me this applies to so many different areas of life, but I especially see it as a powerful tactic to kicking my bad habit. By focusing on asking questions I can stop focusing on trying to know the answers. And bonus! This is also a beautiful way to create space for other people and allow opportunities for others to share their knowledge.
I feel very excited about this new chapter of my life. I’m excited about naming the less glamorous pieces of me, I’m excited about trying to put these 5 ideas into practice in my everyday life and I cannot wait to share with you what I learn from the magical humans around me.
I am so done being a know-it-all – I can’t wait to find out what you all know instead.