Daily #43: Being pedantic

Happy Boxing Day! Apologies again, as this post is also written on my phone. I had the foresight to schedule my post to cover Christmas Day (which I feel was a good shout, as I was out of the house from 1pm to 11:30pm), but neglected to make a post for today. I’m currently staying at my parents’ house – I’ve had a bit to eat and drink and I’m nap-on-the-sofa tired. Incoherence abound!

Since my incredibly pedantic sixteen-year-old cousin made an appearance today, I thought I’d try and discuss how being pedantic can affect one’s social ‘performance’.

When I was a child, I used to be one of those know-it-alls. In primary school, I over-achieved and was praised highly for it. As I moved into secondary school, I still intended to do this but struggled for a while to adjust to the change in difficulty. Due to my supposed ‘intelligence’ being my only defining trait, I strived to bless everyone around me with it, whether they liked it or not.

Of course, in a society comprised entirely of eleven-year-olds, being right really isn’t a desirable trait, nor is it welcome. I didn’t realise how much I was doing it at the time, but I constantly corrected, undermined and fact-checked my peers. To me, being right was important, and I assumed everyone else wanted to be right as much as I did.

It wasn’t until a friend of mine bluntly instructed me to stop being pedantic (in front of a group of us) that I realised the problem. That triggered a period of self-reflection, in which I realised that my perceived ‘useful’ advice was in fact very frustrating. Someone in the middle of telling a story doesn’t need to be corrected on a factual element; it interrupts the flow and can take impact away from its conclusion.

From then on, I only corrected my peers when it would negatively impact them if they didn’t know the correct answer – for example, if it were related to schoolwork. After I started doing this, I found that more of my friends valued my knowledge of things. Rather than avoiding me when they were uncertain about a topic, they would seek me out. As I was only giving my opinion when it was warranted, I became far less annoying to deal with.

Recently, I’ve come across someone as an adult who doesn’t appear to have ever received the blunt instruction that I did, and it’s now even more evident that what I was like as a child was highly frustrating. I like the person in general, but they must correct any fact or discussion point that they recognise as wrong. They are highly intelligent, and do, to their credit, know an abundance of facts. They tend to be correct about everything.

However, their incessant habit of insisting the correct answer to everything is grating, and often adds nothing to conversation. And personally, I find this trait paradoxical. Despite insisting on being right about everything, and understanding what is correct and incorrect, they have yet to learn the most effective way to exercise this trait in conversation. Social skills are just that – skills, and in relentlessly throwing correctness at their peers, one is getting one thing consistently wrong – communicating effectively.