Are You A Know it All and Don’t Know It?


Part 1: Don’t be a donkey, be a ninja!

How many times have you gone into a meeting where some wise guy (or gal) uses what feels like an acronym every other word? He goes on to brand or name drop in hopes of impressing you with his infinite knowledge. He caps it all off by talking 50 of the 60 scheduled minutes about himself, his cause, or his product. You would have contributed to the conversation if he would have just taken one breath.  But for the love of all things good, he seems to be able to talk without breathing.

I’ve watched this scenario play out countless times. And to be honest, I’ve even caught myself going down this path. When you’re passionate about something, it’s easy to forget about your audience and the problem or outcome they are trying to change.

Do people see you this way? Do you want to be known as “that guy” – a.k.a. the “know it all?”

Unless you’re introducing yourself – you are not the topic of conversation. You may be pitching an idea or even talking about one you’ve completed. Either way, you are discussing a problem, a solution, or an outcome.

Tip 1: Become a Listening Ninja

While you may have a conversation with yourself at home, don’t do it in a business environment. You need to engage with your audience. Ask thought provoking questions. Give them time to answer. It’s okay for there to be a few seconds of silence. The point is to get others in the room to speak and engage. Sometimes you will be fortunate enough to have a strong-willed extrovert in a meeting who will not hesitate to ask questions or engage. Most of the time, you won’t. People don’t want to be rude and interrupt. They may be shy or may not want to be the first to speak up.

  • Do not talk majority of the meeting.
  • Engage your audience and keep it conversational.
  • Have empathy, you do not know it all.

For additional free resources on listening, visit Mark Goulston’s site:

Tip 2: Don’t Make Assumptions

You’ve heard the saying about making assumptions – you’ll make a “donkey” out of you and me.

  • Do your best to refrain from industry jargon especially if you are not including context. For example, at one job, DOE stood for Department of Education; in another job, it stood for Department of Energy.
  • Do not name drop. With name dropping comes the assumption that it will positively affect your meeting. Unless you know that to be 100% true, don’t do it.

Wow, now I’m doing it. Before I take up too much time, I’ll stop here.  Look for my final tip next week in “Are you a know it all and don’t know it? Part 2: The “Mom” Rule.”

This blog represents opinions that are solely my own and do not reflect opinions or views of my employer.

Sara Marshall is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). You can find her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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