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One thing that has been happening lately is that people will tell me something that I already know. Naturally, I respond saying something like, "oh I heard/read about that". However, I feel like when I say that, I come off a bit snobby or like I am a know-it-all. And I also feel like their body language confirms that.

I would prefer to keep the conversation going, by keeping it on-topic or switching topic. I would, however, also like to convey that I already know what these people are telling me.

How should I treat that situation? Should I pretend that I was unaware of whatever they're telling me, or is it just the way that I say it that is the problem?

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    At a deep level, why do you want them to know you know? – user2322 Nov 27 '17 at 19:08
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    I'm voting to close this question as too broad until the culture where this is taking place is specified. – user58 Dec 7 '17 at 13:29
  • To expand on my previous (admittedly terse) comment, the answers to this question will, I suspect, differ greatly depending on the level of respect that is inherent in each culture. For instance, a Japanese point of view will most likely differ greatly from an American's point of view on interrupting the other person, as the two cultures place a very different focus on the respect that is to be accorded to others. – user58 Dec 13 '17 at 10:39

10 Answers 10

36

How should I treat that situation? Should I pretend that I was unaware of whatever they're telling me, or is it just the way that I say it that is the problem?

Feigning unawareness is likely to come across equally as terse. I suggest that it is a better option to simply show some interest and engage in the conversation. Use a question to drive the interaction after your acknowledgement as to seem like a softer response. That being said, it does depend on the direction you want that interaction to go in though.

For example, you could respond:

Oh yeah, I heard about that; I thought it was interesting what did you think?

You're showing interest and eliciting a response rather than ending your interaction with a 'hard-stop' as it were.

That assumes you wish to carry on a conversation about the given topic. There will likely be situations where you do not want to discuss the topic in detail for whatever reason. In those situations deflect with a less specific question at the end of your acknowledgement such as:

I think I read about that in/on [Insert media type], is that where you saw it?

Then simply end the conversation after that. The idea being that your response doesn't seem, at least initially, as though it's designed to end the conversation before it's started. This can on occasion come across as abrasive when someone else is putting effort in to talk about something they found interesting etc.

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    The key hear is "I think I heard about that [e.g.] on Digg the other day", the suggestion of doubt makes them aware you were already, at least, somewhat cognisant with what they're sharing but also gives reason for them to share it -- to confirm you had heard about it -- thus they don't feel that their sharing was without benefit and you get to show you already were aware of whatever it was. – pbhj Nov 27 '17 at 18:31
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    Follow-up questions are definitely the way to tackle this, but try and gauge the person's level of understanding on the topic, and make sure your follow-up question isn't too far beyond that. If your mom says, "did you hear Tesla made a new car?" and you respond "I think I did hear about that! What do you think of their decision to use a flux capacitor instead of a warp drive to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow?" it's not going to be any less awkward. – Lord Farquaad Nov 28 '17 at 14:13
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    @LordFarquaad thank you for that example it gave me a nice chuckle. You are right of course; the complexity of the question asked needs to be gauged by the level of perceived understanding of the person who brought it up. – Digitalsa1nt Nov 28 '17 at 14:29
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Your tone and your body language are everything in this situation. You need to sound and appear like you are still engaged in what they are saying.

Responding with

Oh yeah, I heard about that.

could have lots of different effects based on your verbal and physical tone.

Use active listening body language. When you respond, nod your head, smile, and lean in.

If it is a topic that can be further discussed, ask a follow up question.

"Oh yeah! I think I may have heard about this already. What was it that you were thinking about it?"

If it's the end of the conversation to state you're already informed, end it with your opinion on the topic.

"Oh yeah! I heard about that. It's really interesting/crazy to think about/that this happened."

(Pause for them to add any additional thoughts of their own)

"On a related/unrelated note, (bring up a new topic)."

Try not to worry about offending the person you're responding to. If they are able to hear/see your discomfort in your response, it might come across to them as though you are being dismissive (when in reality that's what you're trying to avoid)!

3

or is it just the way that I say it that is the problem?

Probably it is the way you say/said that.

I don't think it's rude for you to say that as long as you show that you actually heard/read about, otherwise it will only appear that you are not interested in further conversation and just want cut it off.

Of course you are not obligated to continue any unwanted conversation neither pretend to be interested if you are not, but since you are worried about coming off as snobby that could work.

Pretending you are unaware can come off more awkward for you both than it would be if you just tell that you heard/read about X depending on your reactions.

3

If someone tells you something that you already know, doesn't indicate your knowledge level is equal for given subject. There are obviously two possibilities:

  • Your colleague has greater knowledge. In that case you can take the advantage to improve yours:

Yeah, I've heard about that! Is it really true that...blahblahblah? I understand the general idea of it but didn't dig in particular detail of... could you tell me... blahblahblah?

  • You have greater knowledge on that subject

Yeah, I have read a good book about it recently! Did you know that this awesome... blahblahblah? Unbelievable isn't it? Moreover, I can tell that... blahblahblah. Another curiosity is, that it... blahblahblah.

Most frequently, in real life there would be a combination of both above. You can simply exchange knowledge in polite conversation.

1

I usually assume that my interlocutor has some detail or perspective to contribute which I have overlooked, and let them talk to get to it. I'm often right, so I take a genuine interest in what they have to say.

I don't usually jump in to tell them I've already heard about the phenomenon they are describing unless I'm trying to avoid further discussion of the topic: "oh yeah, I've already heard about that [and please don't keep trying to tell me about it]".

But if they ask if I've heard about the topic in question, then I answer honestly and try to direct the conversation either back to the same topic for a more thorough discussion, or elsewhere if I don't really want to talk about it.

1

Interrupt and finish (or continue) the next part of their story yourself.

Saying "I already know that" is dismissive, implying you don't want to hear any more (and shaming the error of their assumptions). But joining in on the telling of the story isn't necessarily dismissive. It can be more of a shared story retelling experience, where you can each communicate your own unique perspective on (or response to) the facts/events.

The idea is still to communicate that you already share some of the knowledge, just not in such a blunt way. A similar option is to jump in with a question that shows you already have more shared knowledge than they had assumed but also shows you are still interested in hearing something on the matter from their perspective.

In effect you are trying to skip the conversation forward (perhaps continuing deeper than it otherwise would have gotten) instead of trying to prevent it.

0

Engage them in dialogue.

If the go on with the topic of the migratory habits of wombats, go deeper into the subject.

Wow, that's interesting. Do you think the wombats take a northern or southern route if the relative humidity is greater than 80% ?

Rather than getting the "I already know this" feeling (which is so obvious, even many of we socially awkward autistics can catch it), use the area of knowledge as a springboard into areas where you are not as familiar.

QUESITONS are a good way to stay engaged. They don't make you seem like a know it all, but can be used to direct conversation into different directions. Say you don't want to talk about wombats any longer but would rather discuss elk....

Wow, that's fascinating about wombat migratory habits, do you think they are as effected as Elk are on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains in the US?

The most important thing is to NEVER CAUSE THE OTHER PERSON TO LOSE FACE embarrass a person by making them feel foolish by telling you something they know is not going to make you any friends. If you already know the subject, don't let on as to the depth of your knowledge. Listen and make THEM feel important.

0

There are a couple of cases to this. I'll split it into two. First, you're just having a conversation and they are telling you about what they heard. Second, they are setting up a conversation about something else.

In the first case I usually just let people talk. I see little point in stopping them. Usually people add their interpretations and reactions to the events and the actual recounting is a fairly small portion of the time. Interrupting doesn't significantly speed up this process and often shuts it down entirely. Even if the topic doesn't die out, interrupting can dramatically change the trajectory. For example, if someone tells you about a protest they heard about the other day, you interrupting can lose you an opportunity to see how they see and react to it, and can short-circuit the conversation into them asking "so, what did you think of it?" Even when they are recounting to you something you've already heard of, if you care about them, you should still genuinely listen to them as they are still implicitly, and often explicitly, talking about themselves. And, of course, they may tell you something you didn't know, or you may simply have mistakenly confused what they are talking about with something else.

From a general conversational dynamics perspective, there are a couple of ways you could go with interrupting. You can leave it to them to continue the conversation which puts pressure on them to come up with a new topic that will pass your muster. Alternatively, you can change the topic, but then you're turning to conversation to your own interests. People love talking about themselves. Interrupting and changing the topic takes an opportunity for them to talk about themselves and makes it an opportunity for you to talk about yourself. People probably won't hate you for this since it's completely ubiquitous, but they aren't going to love you for it. The third option is to stay on the same topic as many of the other answers suggest, but then what was the need to interrupt?

This leads to that second case. If it's pretty clear that they want to talk about something else but feel that some context/background is needed for that, then interrupting to inform them that you already have that context can save time and let them get to what they really want to talk about. In my experience (though I'm fairly brusque to begin with), you can be pretty abrupt about this. Usually there are slight pauses where they are seeking acknowledgement from you where you can relatively smoothly inform them that you are aware of the topic. You should also give them (very briefly) some idea of how knowledgeable you are about the topic so they can judge if that is enough. For example, "I heard about it in passing on the news" versus "I read a few articles about it". Sometimes they are trying to blast through an info-dump, and you may need to go so far as to cut them off to let them know that it's not necessary.

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As I see, some answers describe situations when you actually are not interested in the subject and you are going to cut off all discussions about it.

There is of course nothing bad about it, when you can do it in a polite manner:

Hey John! I am already aware of the situation, thank you for remembering me about it!

or:

Hey Jamie! Thank you for interest, but I don't think it is a problem that I need to handle immediately. I'm a little bit busy with some more serious concerns, so see you next time! bye!

Remember, that sometimes your peers can have strong arguments proving that it already is a big deal to you. Be open to what they are going to communicate to you!

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    Did you answer the same question twice with two different responses? Why not edit your first answer? – Fodder Nov 27 '17 at 21:19
  • I did it by purpose, I wanted to handle two different situations: one when OP is likely to hold discussion, second when they are going to remember him something he already know. Imagine that one answer will be -wrong and another one -correct. Voting people could be then confused if they should up-vote or down-vote (some just put comments: +1 for something, -1 for something, etc...). When there are two different answers, there is just clearance what to do.. – mpasko256 Nov 28 '17 at 9:36
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This doesn't always work, but it should if the person is talking about something that you and they are genuinely interested in.

When they say something like "Did you know the SR-71 Blackbird can go Mach X.X?"

Respond with something like, "Yeah and until it gets to flying temp, it leaks fuel like a sieve."

You could keep going with something like, "It's too bad they retired them, because..., don't you think?"

This shows that even though you already know what they are saying, you're still trying to keep them engaged in the conversation, without trying to take it over.

Also, sometimes getting into a minor/friendly debate/banter can get you both to show each other your knowledge and thoughts. Just try to stay away from the 1-2 syllable answers or the "Yeah, I know" answers. If they peter out at some point, you can either switch to a different topic, or keep it as a "here's some other cool stuff about X...", unless their interest fades out. On the other hand, if they know vastly more than you do, you might want to try to maintain the "wow , you know a lot of cool stuff about X, tell me more".

It can be tough to keep the conversation going, but if it's the right fit, it should work. Then again, maybe this only works with nerds, IDK.

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