Do you know a “Smartest Person in the Room”?

Some people love to say things like, “I already knew that” or “I told you so”. They may use other “I am smarter than you” habits like telling others that my story is bigger than your story. “Great story, but that same thing happened to me in an even bigger way!” They may not actually use these exact words, but we all know people like that – someone who thinks they are the “smartest person in the room” (SPITR).

Think about those statements. When a SPITR says these things, what is the likely objective? Usually, the objective is to show how smart that person is — and possibly show the SPITR is much smarter than everyone else. People who are focused on being the “smartest person in the room” aren’t really thinking about the receiver of their words. They are thinking about themselves. They are thinking, “how can I ensure everyone else knows I already know all these facts or already had these experiences?”

Now think about how people hear those comments. The receiver of these comments is now clear that the SPITR doesn’t need them, and probably isn’t t really interested in their opinion or experiences since they are way smarter than everyone else around them.

I am sure for most SPITR’s that isn’t the intention. The SPITR is focused instead on proving how smart they are.

In my years of coaching SPITR’s, their usual goal is to impress people and gain respect. What happens is the opposite. Making these types of SPITR statements separate SPITR’s from others rather than bringing them closer. People are generally not impressed, they are annoyed. If the receiver has a high EQ, these kinds of SPITR habits may even cause the receiver to question the SPITR’s confidence. Does a confident person need to prove they are smart? Generally, not.

So, what is the alternative to these statements? When someone shares some information, advice, or a story rather than “one upping them”, say “thank you” or “that is so interesting” or ask for more information. Show some interest in what others have to say. Instead of saying, “I told you so”, offer support and say something like, “that is too bad. That outcome must be upsetting for you.” The impact of these responses is that the receiver feels supported, listened to and likely feels closer to person who says them.

And I would be willing to bet most people already know who is smart. Being smart is usually self-evident and really doesn’t need to be pointed out to others.

I would love to hear other people’s examples of “smarter than you” habits and tips to avoid being a SPITR. It seems to me this is a growing trend and a little education would be helpful to others.

Leave a Reply