I Know I-Know-It-All

If you’re friends with me then you already know that I give out a lot of advice—much of it unsolicited. To many people, I’m sure I come off as a know-it-all. And I kind of am. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do know a lot about a lot of things. Outside of my actual expertise, I’ve used my hyper focusing brain power to learn all about mortgages, investing, ADHD, taxes, hot tub water chemistry, and many other subjects. If there’s a topic that I have any stake or interest in, I’ll learn an excessive amount about it in a short amount of time. I love knowing things and I love figuring things out. I’m like the kid in elementary school who always took great pleasure in knowing the answer to every question. Thus, because of my large, albeit random, wealth of knowledge, I like to think I’m (almost) always right and that my recommendations are usually excellent. This is a part of my personality I am very aware of (it runs deep in my family) and I realize that it can sometimes be a big turn-off to people. I think of it as a blessing and a curse, and it is something that I have been working on managing. A couple years ago I even made it my new years resolution to not give unsolicited or unwanted advice. (I did okay for a month or two before falling off the wagon.)

When I was in college, I spent a semester abroad in Rome. There were five other girls living in my flat and I didn’t know any of them, so upon arrival I randomly chose a room with two beds in it. My roommate was a girl named Amanda and I made a terrible first impression. Just a few weeks prior to the beginning of that semester, I had been in Rome with my Italian class because Tony Danza had given us a free trip. (That’s a story for another day.) Having just experienced the city the month before, I was *clearly* an expert on Rome and made sure Amanda knew it. She quickly became very annoyed and probably dreaded spending the next five months sharing a tiny room with me.

The thing is, I was just really excited. I had all of this new, wonderful knowledge about Rome and I wanted to share it with people who would find it relevant. Looking back now, I can acknowledge that I came on too strong and shared too many “helpful” tidbits about Rome to strangers who probably just wanted to just take it all in without my constant commentary. After those first few days, I chilled out a little and Amanda and I ended up becoming very good friends. We spent hours every night talking, and sharing that tiny room with her turned out to be one of the highlights of my semester.

It is important to me that people know that I only have good intentions when I give out my advice or opinion. I never mean to come off as judgmental or condescending. I’m a problem solver by nature and I love being able to figure things out and fix problems. It brings me joy when my knowledge or suggestions make someone else’s life a little easier. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I also love the affirmation I get when someone takes my advice and it works for them. But a lot of people don’t take my suggestions or advice and I’ve had to work on not taking that personally. I know advice is usually subjective and there can be a lot of right answers or ways of doing things. However, I default to thinking that my way/advice/suggestion is the “right” one and at times I’ve struggled to understand why someone didn’t listen to me. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter and I’ve adopted the phrase, “you do you” when that person makes a different decision than I would have. But with closer friends and bigger decisions, I might dwell on it more, especially if I’m certain they would benefit from doing what I suggested. I have to exercise a lot of restraint not to push the issue because I’ve seen plenty of times how being pushy can drive people away.

Not long ago, a friend suggested that if someone is sharing a problem with me, I ask the question, “Do you want support or do you want advice?” because sometimes people just want to vent. Being told what they should do next might not be helpful to them in that moment, but having someone say, “I hear you and I support you,” is exactly what they need. I’ve been trying to practice this often even though it doesn’t come naturally to me. When I hear about a problem, my mind immediately starts working on a solution and I must bite my tongue so I can instead focus on being a good listener.

Thankfully there are people out there who appreciate my advice or at the very least they don’t mind hearing it. (Even if they don’t usually take it.) My closest friends and family know that being an advice giver, aka know-it-all, aka wannabe therapist, aka problem solver is part of who I am and have accepted it and embraced it. When I remember to ask them if they want my advice, they’ll often indulge me and let me tell them what I think. One of my best friends calls me her life coach and even if it’s in jest, it gives me the affirmation I crave and the dopamine hit I get when I go into problem solving mode.

The older I get, the more I find myself reflecting on my own personality and how my various traits affect every aspect of my life. I don’t want to change who I am, but rather find ways to make those traits work for me instead of against me. Perhaps by writing this, someone will think of me next time they need a random problem solved and they don’t have the time or capacity to figure it out themselves. I could be smack dab in the middle of something really important, but if someone sends me a text asking me if I know where I can find a restaurant within a 10 mile radius of Albuquerque that serves fried green tomatoes at 2am…. I’m on it.

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