Insights for the deeply romantic and deeply skeptical

Seven Alternative Explanations For Know-It-All Behavior

Some folks never guess, bet, believe or think; they just know. You can't speculate with them. You explore; they decree. But they may not actually be as arrogant as they sound. Here are seven other explanations for a person's inability to recognize the grey areas in thought and conversation. Read More

Bad examples

The following example in your article was truly awful:-

“I think she found the meeting disappointing.”
“No, she’s fine.”

Comments like these are normally made by people wanting to stir up some juicy gossip and the second response is more to do disengage from such trivial conversations. Also, you have to ask yourself why the person who made the first comment is so hung up on what "she" felt.


Excellent! Narcissists of the world, read this!

You just described how my parents interact. And why some of their more conversationally aware friends have distanced themselves. It can be exhausting to interact with "fight or die", and it becomes charity time (big tolerant compassionate sigh) when you find yourself having to put up with it because for various reasons, you must.

The people who most need to read this article and deeply understand it, are not going to read it or deeply understand it. Still it is nice to bookmark it and keep it in my arsenal of "thoughtful gifts".


That's so true of so many

That's so true of so many articles--read by those who need them least.

There are lots of articles on narcissism. Here I was trying to imagine alternative explanations for seemingly narcissistic behavior, not to cut any of us slack on the tendency but to recognize that we come by the tendency honestly sometimes.

As for charity, that touches on another interesting bind I've thought and written about. Is it more charitable to humor such people or to honor them by treating them as tough, smart and well-intended enough to hear when they're being blowhards.

Often confronting such folks forces a behavior I've called "insistent replay." You push back even the least little bit and they punish you by repeating their entire blowhard argument from scratch as though if you disagree with them, you must not have heard them. It forces us to charitable humoring. I mean what else can you do by then?

Thanks for writing and thinking with me.


Know-It-All Behavior - Take heed All Psychiatrists and Psychologists

Know-It-All Behavior -------- Take heed All Psychiatrists and Psychologists as this may apply to you

Not Arrogance, instead a battle of ideas!

Why is this article so narrowly defined? Has no one considered the possibility that the argument of an opposing point (without speculation as to reasons for the disagreement) is simply fun? For one, people look horrified when you disregard a social normative idea by a simple "I disagree." It also makes for an enjoyable debate, after which you refuse to give up just to watch the other person squirm uncomfortably.

The point may not be to harm others, rather just to make them consider alternate viewpoints. My brother hated the way I disagreed with everything, as did the general population. But since I felt he would understand, I explained that the reason I disagreed was simply because I felt it my moral duty to. It is a fact that people are stubborn of their realities, and if no one challenges the status quo on a regular basis to poke for holes, then progression becomes nearly impossible.

My brother calls this 'biting something to make it stronger', but most would understand it better as 'tough love'. You undermine their opinions to strengthen their opinions further. This is because they now combine reasons to convince you and also, reasons why their idea may not be plausible.

What an absolutely idiotic response

Don't you have any sense at all? It should be obvious to any clear thinking human being that you don't.

Just kidding, dear reader, but to make a point.

I thrive on exactly the kind of argument you're talking about and write at length about the foul "no fair!" argument you get from people who take even the faintest sound of dissent as a sign of your moral failing. I'm with Hume who argues that truth emerges from disagreements among friends.

And further I have no problem with very firm commitments to bets. But as firm as any commitment to a bet that I make, I want to stay firmer in the recognition that it is a bet, not a certainty.

I was concentrating here on know-it-all behavior (the kind I aped above), not confidence in one's dissenting beliefs.

And I think my seventh interpretation might have spoken to your point that sometimes people sound like know it alls to us not because they are but because we are and won't brook disagreement.

But I think you're probably right. I could have said something more directly about your point in this article. So thank you kindly for the tough love of signaling my gap, which I hereby acknowledge.

Respectfully (trying to patch up for my joke).

Bill (the pinhead) O'Reilly

I mean,


PS Matching skin thickness

Thinking further about how to cultivate the kind of debate you and I love, arguments among friends, I think it's in part a function of having a compatible tenacity with our debating partners, partners who tap out at roughly the same thresholds, saying in effect "ouch, the hurts, how dare you insult me like that?," with parity, each at about the same level of rhetorical fierceness. We all have a threshold (I might have surpassed yours with my joke opening in my first response) so it's not fair to say "Why are you sensitive?" We all are. But matching sensitivity at relatively low levels makes the conversation a jam session rather instead of an exercise in walking on eggshells. Some people cultivate disparity and of two kinds, at one extreme sensitivity that frees them to treat you like a boor for ever pushing back against their ideas, and at the other extreme callousness bullying whereby you're a wimp if you recoil at anything they brashly declare.

I've been lucky. I've got academic research colleagues with whom the parity is gloriously reliable. We disagree with each other over content and in rarely hurts feelings. We're respectful of the thinker even if not of the particular thought.

Anyway, thanks for getting me thinking more about it.



I concur

You did not offend me with your joke; on the contrary, I keenly enjoyed your sense of humor.

I loved the idea of ‘partners tapping out at roughly the same thresholds.’ That’s exactly how it feels when you debate someone. You need to find someone worthy of being able to stand up after the first punch is thrown. Unfortunately, most people tend to tap out before the first punch is thrown, with a remark such as “This is what I've always believed, please don’t challenge it.”

Usually arguments start off as a friendly disagreement, but of course people become protective of their ideas. It’s an unspoken rule that we come into the argument wielding different weapons, and that one weapon must surpass the other.

When you put out your viewpoints and beliefs for others to test, you naturally feel protective towards them. That’s why when someone tries to disprove these theories, you instinctively feel annoyed and will defend them. You have cultivated your ideas and beliefs, and they are almost a part of you. This is why it helps to separate the idea from the person while arguing. When someone insults your ideas, they are not necessarily insulting you, although it may feel like they are.

The point of resistance occurs when you refuse to believe a conflicting idea in protection of your own. Alternatively, your respect for truth outshines your instinctive reaction to chastise 'the enemy' who so crudely suffocated the idea you held so dear.

I enjoy disagreement because ideas can only be cultivated to the extent that they are workable, and an ultimate blueprint can only be created when all possibilities have been considered and then proven or disproved.

Thanks for your threshold theory, I'll neatly cultivate it into my blueprint.

These articles are similar to

These articles are similar to articles I've written in the past. That's both interesting and uncanny.

Going off topic a little (or a lot) but please bear with me: do you know about MBTI/Socionics?

I was doing some research and found surprising correlations between personality type and thought process. Input from you will go a long way.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Jeremy Sherman is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making.


Subscribe to Ambigamy

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.