Are You a Windbag? 5 Ways to Avoid Being a Know-it-All

“You should speak to an expert.” This is the standard advice we dole out whenever anyone has a problem or a question. But is expertise all that it is cracked up to be?

A recent article entitled, Are Good Doctors Bad For Your Health? may make you think twice. According to a study, patients in cardiac arrest did BETTER when the senior cardiologists were out of town.

Related research shows how arrogant CEOs can put companies at risk. Apparently, 94 percent of college professors think they do “above average” work which is impossible, statistically speaking.

Along similar lines, 60% of college freshmen rate themselves as “above average” in intellectual skills. In comparison, in 1966, under a third surveyed considered themselves to be above average intellectually. A number already think of themselves as “experts” though it is unclear what their expertise is in.

The common thread is overconfidence. As the lead researcher commented:

It’s not just confidence. It’s overconfidence.

When people are overconfident, they lose touch. They dismiss other perspectives and don’t question their beliefs. According to research, people who are even temporarily given the feeling that they are experts become more rigid and close-minded. Scientists call this the “earned dogmatism effect.” It occurs when people feel superior and believe they have earned the right to close their ears and eyes to another point of view.

Beware of know-it-alls and make sure you don’t become one:

1. Say “I don’t know” when you don’t know.

2. Stay in learning mode.

3. Listen.

4. Ask questions.

5. Question your questions to make sure you aren’t just confirming what you already believe.


I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman