I know a German man in Australia who is often perceived as arrogant, but I don’t think he is arrogant. He is an efficient character and very task focussed. When he is working on a project he is totally engrossed and will not notice if you are unhappy, crying or even on fire! Hence people think he is self-absorbed and arrogant, but he is really just very good at his work. He is often so focussed that he uses language economically. For example, if you were having dinner with him and he was chewing a mouthful of steak he would not say, “Excuse me but would you please pass the salt”. Instead he would turn to you and just say, “Salt!”. Again Australians perceive him as arrogant, but if you asked him why he didn’t say “excuse me” and “please” and “thank you” he would explain that he had a mouthful of food, you were enjoying your dinner and it made no sense to prolong the interaction with extraneous words like “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”.
Are you arrogant or do you lack confidence? Where does your self-esteem sit on the Confidence-Richter scale? It is a mighty hard task to appear confident and self-assured, but not conceited. Also different cultures have different views about confidence. In Australia women who are sure-footed are often viewed as conceited, hard and unfeminine. Female friends have told me that a winning combination in business is confidence coupled with friendliness. They are less likely to be accused of being conceited or hard, if they have a smile on.
Confidence versus Arrogance
Confidence and arrogance both stem from a belief in your own abilities, but they elicit totally different reactions from people. Confidence is attractive, arrogance is a turn-off. Confidence gets hired, arrogance gets fired. You need to work on yourself to establish the correct degree of quiet confidence, but any loud-mouthed idiot can come across as cocky and arrogant.
There are 10 key behaviours you should avoid so that you are never perceived as arrogant.
- Avoid name dropping. Regardless of who you know and in what capacity, keep it to yourself, unless it is essential you impart that information for practical reasons.
- Do not stare people down. Different cultures have different rules about eye contact. It is a challenge or a threat. A confident person smiles and is cheerful and good-natured. They literally do not look down their nose at people, but flick a smile to the person they are addressing.
- Do not be consistently late. Arrogant people think the show revolves around them. They flout rules, because rules are for other people, not individuals as special as they perceive themselves to be. A confident person arrives on time and is well prepared.
- Do not big note yourself. An arrogant person is inclined to talk about them self. A confident person shows a real and genuine interest in the lives of other people. Try to remember details about other people and ask them specific questions about their lives. People value others who remember details about them and ask meaningful questions. To do well professionally you will need to speak about yourself in a tactful manner. Sometimes this is called the art of the ‘humble brag’. Give other people a chance to speak and when it is your turn, concisely present pertinent information about yourself, you could also credit the team you worked with on winning projects.
- Confident people stand tall, arrogant people swagger and do not respect other people’s personal space. They borrow possessions without asking, point in people’s faces and even touch other people on the arms or hands without invitation. Uninvited touching is a method of controlling people. If you want to appear confident you should sit up straight and walk tall. Avoid slouching and always be well presented.
- Arrogant people interrupt conversations and do not respect other people’s opinions. Yes, it is good to contribute in group discussions but you need to be respectful of others, give them a fair-hearing and even give them positive feedback on points they’ve made even if you don’t agree with the overall conclusion.
- Arrogant people have an answer for everything and always know best. Some arrogant people even suffer from narcissist personality disorder. Psychologists believe narcissists are deeply insecure people, who at their core think they are worthless, but every day they get up and have to prove to themselves and the world that they are special, clever and very important. Narcissists believe they are experts on every subject. They are also prone to bragging and have limited capacity to care for other people. Unfortunately, these people rarely change.
- It is okay to say that you do not have an answer for a problem. You could mention that you have considered a couple of solutions but because of these reasons those solutions were not suitable. It is okay to admit you do not have the answer. In a professional situation you should demonstrate that you have thought deeply about the challenge, but you can’t identify a solution.
- Arrogant people like to one-up their competitors. Confident people work successfully in teams. They build strong, meaningful relationships with others. Arrogant people view work as a competition and believe they are not doing well, unless they have ‘beaten’ their peers. Confident people know the value of comradery.
- Arrogant people often fake it. They dress flamboyantly and speak loudly, hoping that people will listen in and admire their successes. You cannot fake confidence. It comes from a belief in your own worth and your own skills. It comes from liking yourself and believing you have something genuine to offer others.
- Confident people are prepared to be vulnerable. They don’t hide tough times and will show their emotions – fear and anger – still they have faith and believe they can see the project through and succeed. Arrogant people blame others for their failings and try to shirk responsibility when times get tough because they don’t really have faith in their abilities. When faced with a challenge, an arrogant person is inclined to bluster their way out or cut and run.
Basically the difference between confidence and arrogance is this. Arrogance is like cheap jewellery. It is inexpensive metal dipped in gold. After a while the gold veneer wears away. But truly confident people are solid gold. They know themselves and are real to the core.
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