99.9% of what I do is help people who feel held back by a lack of confidence to build natural confidence that works for them (rather than turning them into something they’re not).
But sometimes I hear from people with the opposite problem, and sometimes people ask me what they can do if people mistake their confidence for arrogance.
It’s an interesting question. What do you do when people think you’re arrogant? How do you deal with the people who get turned off by your abundant confidence?
Well, there are a couple of ways this can go.
1. You really aren’t arrogant.
I think I’m the most unthreatening guy you could meet. Sometimes I’m shy. Sometimes I’m quiet. But despite that, sometimes people say they’re a little intimidated by me, which is a bit like Donald Trump asking Mr Fluffington the playful kitten to stop being such an angry jack-ass, or like the Earth letting Pluto know that it doesn’t appreciate it getting all up in its personal space all the time.
Point being, if you’re not arrogant but other people think you are, that’s not your problem.
You can’t control what other people think of you (otherwise I’d be totally dashing and a fricking genius instead of mildly dorky), so at the end of the day you have to let go of their judgements of you.
But I get that it might not sit well with you that people think that of you, so there are a couple of things to look at or consider.
How big is the gap? Arthur C. Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, and a similar thing can happen with confidence when the gap between the confident and the not-confident is large enough. To someone with little or no confidence, someone with abundant confidence may appear too confident.
Being considerate doesn’t hurt. Sometimes it’s appropriate to dial things down a little, and adapting your style to the situation you’re in or the individual you’re with is entirely appropriate when it serves you both well.
Your job is not to make everyone like you. With the above 2 points accepted, always remember that some people just won’t gel with you, get you or even like you. That’s okay too, so get ready to let go of the need to seek approval or validation if that’s an appropriate response. Oh, and be aware that this can be done from a warm-hearted, generous place (i.e. confident) rather than a “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on” place (i.e. arrogant).
2. You really are arrogant
The other option, of course, is that you really are arrogant and the other person is calling you on it.
How do you know if you really are arrogant? Here are 5 big clues:
- You go out of your way to be right, and to let people know you’re right.
- The most important person in any conversation is probably you.
- As far as you’re concerned, you have it figured out and other people just slow you down.
- Getting your own way is how you know you’re on the right path.
- It matters that the world sees you as successful or as one of the good ones.
If you put the clues together and figure out that you really are arrogant, then here’s what you need to do.
Just stop it. Please just let go of the pretence that you’re right, or that you’re better or that you have the answers. You may be right sometimes, but nobody is right all of the time. You may be better at some things than others, but there are also others who are better then you. Better doesn’t matter. And while you may have some good answers, pretending that you have them all or that your answers are right for everyone is just a fiction.
Practice uncertainty. Arrogance is often about making sure you’re okay in a world filled with uncertainty, so practice leaning into uncertainty without your usual comfort blankets. Take off the armour and allow yourself to be scared.
Soften into connections. Arrogance is isolating through its dependence on self-righteousness and validation, and the antidote to that is to soften into relationships rather than harden against them.
So that’s covered how to approach things if you’re not arrogant and if you are.
There’s a third option of course. There always is.
That you’re sometimes arrogant. Maybe at work with a particular group or individual. Maybe with an old friend. Maybe with someone in your family. Maybe when you’re tired or stressed out.
Arrogance might catch you unaware and hijack your best intentions, giving you a little rush of power or control that feeds off others.
Notice that. Interrupt that. Let go of that.
Because life’s too short for arrogance.