Ask Harley

Why do some people seem to know everything?

Clearly, no one can know everything, but some people do have a knack for being able to talk intelligently about almost anything in a way that is pleasant and stimulating. Such a person does more than make observations or recall facts; he or she can contribute original thought in a way that allows you to see old ideas in new ways.

When you encounter such a person, the first thing you will notice is that he or she is smart, very smart. However, there is more. Such a person usually has had a lot of mental training such as formal education, often with a graduate or professional degree. Moreover, people of this type love to read. Ever since they were children, they have been reading voraciously.

All of this combines to create a person who thinks well and knows a lot. But there is more. What makes such a people so different from his evil twin, the boring, pedantic, know-it-all?

To relate well to other people requires sensitivity. Some people honestly care about the people with whom they talk. When such a person is talking to you, watch carefully: you will see that person block out the rest of the world and focus on you and your ideas. Over the years, he or she has developed the skill of getting inside someone else's thoughts, taking them apart, adding a few small ideas, and — within seconds — putting the whole thing back together in a way that shows that the person really understands you.

To do this requires another characteristic: a rapid flow of ideas. Some people are just born with this gift and, over the years, are able to develop the judgment and experience to use their gift well. (Otherwise, he or she would simply be running off at the mouth.)

Finally, the truly knowledgeable person has learned the art of listening well. A person who is secure in his or her mental abilities, finds it easy to listen to another person, especially when that other person is — like you and me — smart, educated, knowledgeable, sensitive, caring, quick thinking and considerate.