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538: Help a Know-It-All Behave Better, with Mark Goulston

Mark Goulston: Talking to Crazy

Mark Goulston is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum and a Marshall Goldsmith MG100 Coach, who works with founders, entrepreneurs and CEOs in dealing with and overcoming psychological and interpersonal obstacles to realizing their full potential.

He is the host of the My Wakeup Call podcast and was a UCLA professor of psychiatry for more than twenty years and is also a former FBI hostage negotiation trainer. One of his many bestselling books is Talking to ‘Crazy’: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life*.

In this conversation, Mark and I discuss some of the key principles that are effective in diffusing difficult or irrational behavioral. When that behavior is coming from someone who seems to be a know-it-all, we explore three steps that will help you guide them towards better behavior.

Key Points

In his book, Mark writes about know-it-alls:

They don’t say, “People think I’m a jerk, and I need to change my behavior.” Instead, they say, “People dislike me because they’re stupid and incompetent.” This convinces the know-it-alls that they need to double down on quashing the spirits of their victims.

  • If you treat people like they are nuts are you are not, they will just bite down deeper on their thinking. Lean into their irrationality to change the dynamic.
  • Most people react to know-it-alls by becoming defensive or sullen. You’re better to take to opposite approach.
  • Start by genuinely recognizing the talents and know-it-all brings to the workplace.
  • Lead a conversation about behavior change with them by first leading with a genuine compliment about their talents.
  • Once that is established, describe how their actions are self-defeating in a way that reinforces the strength you’ve highlighted.

Resources Mentioned

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