15 Know-It-All Phrases That Reveal Someone’s Arrogance (And How To Humble Them)

15 Know-It-All Phrases That Reveal Someone’s Arrogance (And How To Humble Them) Shutterstock

We all know that person – the one who’s always got an opinion on everything, and they’re always right (or so they think). They’re the self-proclaimed experts, ready to lecture you on any topic, whether you asked for their input or not. We’re talking about those classic know-it-alls who love to hear themselves talk. Here are some of their go-to phrases and how to playfully bring them back down to earth.

1. “Actually…”

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This is the classic know-it-all opener, designed to correct you before you’ve even finished your sentence. It’s like a verbal red flag that a lecture is about to begin.

How to respond: “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here to enlighten us with your superior knowledge!” (Bonus points for a sarcastic wink.)

2. “Let me explain this to you…”

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This phrase implies you’re incapable of understanding the topic without their expert guidance. As Psychology Today notes, it’s condescending and often unnecessary.

How to respond: “Wow, thanks! I never would have figured that out on my own!” (Extra points for over-the-top gratitude.)

3. “Well, everyone knows that…”

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This phrase is designed to make you feel like you’re out of the loop or uneducated if you don’t share their opinion.

How to respond: “Clearly not everyone, since I didn’t know that! You’re full of fascinating information.” (Lay on the sarcasm thick.)

4. “I’m surprised you haven’t heard of this…”

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This is a subtle way of implying you’re somehow less informed or cultured than they are.

How to respond: “Oh, I’m always learning new things. Would you like to teach me more about it?” (This might encourage them to back down, or it might turn into a teaching moment for them!)

5. “I read a study that said…”

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This is a favorite tactic of know-it-alls who want to back up their claims with “scientific evidence.” While citing studies can be helpful, it’s often used to shut down further discussion.

How to respond: “That’s interesting. Do you happen to have the link to that study? I’d love to read it myself.” (This can be a gentle way to challenge their knowledge without being confrontational.)

6. “Back in my day…”

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This phrase often leads to a nostalgic rant about how things were better in the past. It can be a way to dismiss current ideas or trends, and it acually just makes the know-it-all look extremely out of touch.

How to respond: “I bet you have some great stories! But things have changed a bit since then, haven’t they?” (This acknowledges their experience while also pointing out that the world has moved on.)

7. “This is common sense…”

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This phrase is often used to dismiss any opposing viewpoints as illogical or uninformed. What’s obvious to one person might not be to another, so this is never okay to say.

How to respond: “Well, it seems like common sense can be pretty subjective. Could you explain your reasoning a bit more?” (This encourages them to think critically about their assumptions.)

8. “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about…”

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This is a bold declaration of their expertise, often used to shut down any doubts or challenges. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

How to respond: “I appreciate your confidence! But I’m curious to hear more perspectives before I form my own opinion.” (This politely asserts your right to think for yourself.)

9. “It’s not rocket science…”

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This phrase minimizes the complexity of a topic, suggesting it’s so simple that anyone should be able to grasp it. It’s often used to belittle someone who’s struggling to understand or disagrees with their point of view.

How to respond: “You’re right, it’s not rocket science, but it’s also not always as straightforward as you make it seem. Can you elaborate on why you think it’s so simple?” (This gently pushes back on their dismissive attitude.)

10. “I’m just being honest…”

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This phrase is often used as a defense when someone’s opinion is hurtful or insensitive. It’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for their words, The Harvard Business Review notes.

How to respond: “Honesty is important, but it’s also important to be respectful. Could you maybe rephrase that in a more considerate way?” (This reminds them that there’s a difference between being honest and being rude.)

11. “I told you so…”

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This phrase is the ultimate smug response when someone’s prediction comes true. It’s a way to rub it in and emphasize their superior knowledge.

How to respond: “Yes, you did, and I appreciate your foresight. Maybe next time I’ll listen to you sooner.” (This acknowledges their prediction while also taking the wind out of their sails.)

12. “I could have done it better…”

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This phrase implies they’re always one step ahead, capable of doing anything better than anyone else. It’s a classic sign of overconfidence.

How to respond: “I’m sure you could have, but I’m proud of the work I did. Maybe we could collaborate next time and combine our talents?” (This is a positive spin that encourages teamwork rather than competition.)

13. “I’m not bragging, but…”

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This phrase is a disclaimer that often precedes a blatant brag. It’s a way to try and downplay their self-promotion.

How to respond: “Oh, it’s okay to brag a little! We all have accomplishments we’re proud of. Tell me more about it!” (This gives them the attention they crave without encouraging their arrogance.)

14. “You should really…”

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This phrase is often followed by unsolicited advice or criticism. It’s a way to assert their authority and make you feel like you need their guidance.

How to respond: “Thanks for the suggestion, but I’m going to figure this out my own way. I appreciate your concern though!” (This politely declines their advice while still acknowledging their good intentions.)

15. “I’m always right…”

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This phrase is the ultimate know-it-all declaration. It’s a bold claim that leaves no room for debate or differing opinions.

How to respond: “Well, nobody’s perfect, but it’s great to have such confidence in your own judgment! Maybe you can help me see things your way.” (This is a playful way to challenge their assertion without being confrontational.)

Harper Stanley graduated from Eugene Lang College at The New School in NYC in 2006 with a degree in Media Studies and Literature and Critical Analysis. After graduating, she worked as an editorial assistant at The Atlantic before moving to the UK to work for the London Review of Books.

When she's not waxing poetic about literature, she's writing articles about dating, relationships, and other women's lifestyle topics to help make their lives better. While shocking, she really has somehow managed to avoid joining any social media apps — a fact she's slightly smug about.