Have you encountered a know-it-all? Someone who seemingly knows much more than most on nearly all topics. Someone who would be loathe to utter, “I didn’t know that.” Someone who dismisses genuine experts. Someone who claims to an authority without any credentials or study (formal or informal) on the topic?

Perhaps you’re related to someone like this. Or married to one. Or can be one yourself.

While the know-it-all postures that their all-knowing nature is equivalent to mastery, this arrogance actually foils excellence. Without a willingness to admit you have room for new information, and to seek better ways, you are doomed to mediocracy or worse.

Assuming you want to forgo arrogance for excellence, how do you know if you’ve crossed from confidence to arrogance? Ask trusted confidants who will tell you the truth. Agree on a subtle signal they can telegraph if they experience you being a know-it-all. The signal needs to be something others wouldn’t notice but it’s a wake up call between you and your friend. Maybe it’s a secret word or name they call you.

When you get the signal, stop talking. If someone else is arguing with you, shift to saying, “You might be right.” Don’t argue your position any more, even if you are certain you’re right. Your trusted friend is telling you you’re being a jerk. Stop it immediately.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ever disagree with someone. But to find excellence, you have to be willing to listen, read and learn from credible resources. And when you’ve better educated yourself, don’t belittle others or rub it in their faces. Be open to hearing new ideas and not insisting you have the one and only answer.