Posted by: ritagone | December 5, 2012

In the Know


I like to fancy myself somewhat of an observer of human nature.

Don’t we all?

We all see ourselves as insightful, perceptive, analytical, understanding, aware.

I don’t know many people who admit, “I have no idea what people are feeling or thinking, or what makes them tick.”

No, on the other hand, as I said, we each think we “get” what makes people do what they do better than the next guy.

So given that first warning flag, there’s an interesting behavior pattern that I have observed over the years that Michael and I like to call “the know-it-all,” and, to tell you the truth, we spend a lot of time spotting it and then trying to understand and discussing among ourselves where it comes from and why.

So first let me explain what I mean by Mr. or Ms. “Know-It-All”:  He or she is the person who wants to be able to tell you something first.  She will call you with information, and you can tell by the quiver of her voice that she is hoping against hope that she is the first one to be telling it to you, that you don’t already know it.  If you’ve taken a trip somewhere, they immediately launch into their own travel exploits to that same location, not even giving you a minute or two to tell you anything about your own story.  They have to be first or sometimes latest.  Or better, deeper, more personal.  Mention a person to Mr. Know It All, and he will relate an anecdote immediately that lets you know that he is more strongly connected to that same person.

Coincidentally, there is a phenomenon going around now called “humblebrag,” which is a false humility of sophisticated braggers, self-deprecating boasts in which the speaker seems to be putting himself or herself down but is in reality a sneaky way to get our attention through false modesty.  The term “humblebrag” was coined by comedian Harris Wittels, a writer for the TV series “Parks and Recreation,” and his collection of them is hysterical to read, because they reveal the lengths to which people self-promote in this insecure, self-indulgent society in which we live and move and have our being.  My very favorite is from an executive in the South of France: “My emails send so slowly over here in Cannes!  So frustrated!”  Are we supposed to feel sorry for him?  Yes, because humblebrags attempt to engender sympathy.   But they are also subtle brags: I am in the South of France, and you’re not!

This is a high tech form of Know-It-All: I will tell you something and brag about it before you can do the same to me.  To me, it stems from an insecurity, a desire to best someone and to let the world know that you are a person of importance.  And, as we all know, if you have to keep proving to people – and to yourself – that you are a person of importance, how important can you really feel in your heart of hearts?

Where does this need to top your story or your relationship to the person in question come from?  Michael and I have pondered this question for years, and we find it very strange, indeed.  Often we have found that the Know-It-All is a person of some popularity, someone who should seemingly be secure in his or her relationships, so we wonder if they are harkening back to a childhood or teenaged insecurity.  The need to be in the inner circle, which all of us feel at one time or another, or, turned inside out, the need to not feel on the outside.  So, the more you know, the more you can communicate you know, the more you appear to be in that blessed inner circle where peace and tranquility and security reside.  (We know this isn’t true, which is why the Know-It-All must continue to insert their oneupsmanship into every conversation and situation; if confidence and security could be attained once and for all, wouldn’t they be able to quietly listen to others talk about people and places and not have to intervene?)

We all know people who know people.  And they must tell us that they know people; otherwise, knowing people is just no fun for them.  They are not the strong, silent type.  They must speak out, letting everyone know their contacts, their associations, or it’s just plain no fun for them.  But it’s annoying beyond belief for us, because we hear over and over again just how connected they are, how popular, how many friends or associates or contacts they contact or associate with.

Or the information know-it-all, who tells you how everything works, an expert on anything that comes to mind.  You would think to listen to them that they were there when the atom was split or when the Internet first launched.  (Is Al Gore a Know It All?  You be the judge!)

Or the first-to-inform.  She’s got information, and it’s best when fresh out of her mouth to your ear, when she’s the source of it all.

Puleeeze, spare me, people!  As I was saying to my good friend Kourtney the other day….oops…sorry, didn’t mean for that to slip out!


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