I’m Not Sure About Being So Sure of Things

(About a 3 minute read)

It seems many members of our noble and esteemed species of superior poo-flingers have a decisive tendency to over-indulge themselves in the art of knowing everything there is to know about everything that can be known.

You know how it goes — we all do — you ask someone a question, and they quickly launch themselves into answering it in quite the authoritative manner.  Only as they get into it, you are soon enough left with an impression that they have just told you 27 facts, only three of which they really know to be true.

Yet, they themselves seem perfectly oblivious to that annoying detail.

It’s curious how it so often seems to be men who do it.  Some women do it too, of course, but it appears to be mostly men.  I wonder why that’s so?

I have also heard that it is an especially American trait.  That we Americans put so much more value than other cultures on our knowing things, that you can tell an American from, say, an Englishman simply by which one assumes he knows more about things than he really does.

I can certainly believe that Americans value confidence, but I am not so sure we value knowledge — unless it’s quite practical knowledge.  So I think that the American tendency towards being know-it-alls is based more on our feelings that uncertainty and hesitation are weaknesses than on our feelings we must know everything to be strong.

But is it entirely cultural?

That I doubt.  I blame testosterone — at least in part.  Testosterone has about seven or so emotional effects on us, and one of those effects is to make us feel confident.  You see that in teenage boys flying at 90 miles an hour through traffic, confident they know how to handle a car just as well as any race-driver.

Or — sometimes more humorously — you see it in the same boys who can be confident they know all about pleasuring a girl, but have yet to learn even so much as how to unhook a bra without fumbling around for six or seven minutes before desperately chewing through it with their teeth.

Is it genuinely arrogant to assume you know it all?

Well, of course it can be, but I wonder how many of us are simply blind to what we’re doing?  If so, I’m reluctant to call that “arrogance” because — even though it seems likely to come across to others as arrogant — to me, true arrogance entails conscious awareness of oneself as somehow superior.

Now, as I see it, there are two key reasons why most of us might not want to be know-it-alls.  First and most obvious, it’s offensive to people.  I’m willing to wager the number of times someone of the seven billion people on this planet has been charmed by it within the last hour does not exceed our president’s IQ.

Second, and more subtle, I have found that knowing everything strangely seems to deaden our ability to connect with other people.  Perhaps that mainly has to do with how it hampers or destroys the back-and-forth that is so key to interesting us in talking with someone.

Whatever the case, I am confident of at least one thing:  Being a know-it-all not only offends others but can also limit or constrain our enjoyment of talking with them.

Questions? Comments?  Recipes for a delicious squirrel pie?  Emergency methods of lighting when your industrial-speed vibrator has once again blown out the power?

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