You've heard of the horse whisperer. But unless you live on a farm, you've probably got little use for one. It's not ill-behaved horses that most of us struggle with, it's ill-behaved humans. Which is why most of us would find a jerk whisperer a lot more helpful.
Happily, such a person exists!
She's a Berlin-based psychologist named Johanne Schwensen and she recently shared some of her tips for dealing with the most annoying and troublesome types of people on Blinkist's page19 blog.
Got a manipulator on your hands? Head over to her post for tips. Facing a genuine, certified, class-A jerk? Schwensen also has you covered. But I found her most helpful suggestion to be her advice on dealing with a slightly less destructive but no less annoying personality type we all interact with regularly -- the know-it-all.
Whether you're facing your loudmouth uncle and his ill-informed but overly-confident political opinions at an upcoming family gathering, or just another Monday working with your smuggest, preachiest colleague, almost all of us have to deal with know-it-alls on a regular basis. Slapping them might feel like the perfect response, but Schwensen suggests another surprising course of action that's more likely to work and less likely to get you fired (or yelled at by your mom).
People with high self-esteem don't show off.
"A surprising strategy for having a good conversation with a know-it-all is to boost their ego by agreeing with them. This is the opposite of what the person would expect, so it dials down their need to preen," writes Schwensen.
What!? Agree with them???
The idea might go against your every impulse (and I'm not saying everyone has the strength of character to utilize this technique in every situation - I sure don't) but Schwensen insists that being nice will actually throw bullies or braggarts off their game and give you an opportunity to reset the relationship.
She offers this example: "If the know-it-all starts belittling others to feed their own ego, tell them you feel lucky to have them on your side. This curries you favor and builds trust between the know-it-all and you. Now, with an in, you can have a conversation with the armor off and even gently explain how their know-it-all behavior may push people away."
Will it work? I've met a few people that took their know-it-all behavior to such extremes that I doubt even the highest praise would make a dent in their need to talk over everyone and continually feel right, but if you've got to face that office mansplainer or overly didactic roommate regularly and you can see some shred of self-awareness in them, it might be worth giving Schwensen's approach a go.
Let us know how it goes in the comments. Or, if you're up against a different sort of hard-to-deal with human, check out her post for other tips.