Regardless of your intentions, people judge you as being confident or arrogant by your speaking habits and their own self-confidence and histories. You can’t control their judgment but you can assess if your speaking habits could be misunderstood as self-serving. Then you can practice presenting in ways that demonstrate your confidence.
Signs of arrogance
Even if arrogance is a clear cover for low self-esteem, the behaviors tend to drain the joy from conversations. Note that this post is about arrogance as a communication style, not a narcissistic personality. Narcissists might show up as arrogant or charming.
Whereas confidence comes from self-measurement (how am I doing compared to last time), arrogance stems from other-measurement (how am I doing compared to others). Arrogance comes from the need to project superiority to be deemed credible or worthwhile.
Arrogant-sounding speakers read challenges in other people’s words and react with defensiveness and competitiveness. Triumph generates self-righteousness. Loss breeds anger towards others and themselves. Communication becomes negative or abrasive.
People who project arrogance despise feeling “less than” but often do. Arrogant people love idols who they think model power.
Here are seven speaking habits that lead to labeling someone as “arrogant.”
- Looking to turn every conversation into a story or example showing how they lived through and often mastered a situation. The story rarely shows the flaws or difficulties they had to overcome, which could make the stories real lessons.
- Filtering everything to fit their own viewpoint and reinforce their way of perceiving the world. They rarely show curiosity to understand what others see and mean. They quickly give advice based on own interpretation of what is needed, even if the people they are talking to didn’t need anything.
- Educating others about what is the correct way to see the world. If their ideas aren’t accepted, they repeatedly express the same point using different words as if you didn’t understand what they said the first time.
- Seeing everything as a “problem” that needs their solution.
- Repeatedly interrupting to share their wisdom.
- Stop listening the moment they think you are disagreeing with them, and hearing nothing you say after that.
- Taking credit for their ideas as their own, never citing sources or sharing the limelight unless they see a payoff for acknowledging someone else.
The measure of confidence
Confident people measure their success on their own accomplishments, not how much better they did when compared to others. Although humans have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others, confident people don’t get caught up in the “less than-better than” loop of self-judgment.
This measure of success shows up in these seven speaking habits often labelled, “confident.”
- Listening before speaking. They hear what is most important to others and what information might be missing. They then summarize these concerns to demonstrate they heard and valued the perception expressed before stating their point of view.
- Asking if their ideas and experience would be helpful before jumping in to give advice.
- Not being attached to their ideas being accepted when they offer an opinion or suggestion.
- Not needing be right. They don’t repeat what they said in different ways, but ask if further explanation is needed. They don’t push their points or seek to end the conversation if the disagreement persists.
- Openly accepting when they are wrong and then seeking to learn more.
- Seeing opportunities that many people could address instead of only problems they alone can solve.
- Citing the sources of their ideas, giving credit to authors, innovators, and colleagues, and accepting that alternative perspectives exist.
The confident or arrogant test
Do you want to know if people see you as confident or arrogant? You can assess yourself based on this post by monitoring your habits, especially in contentious conversations. However, humans have the wonderful ability to quickly justify and rationalize their behaviors. It would be better to ask someone you trust to give you an honest assessment and examples of both expressions of confidence and arrogance.
Although speaking habits are difficult to break, you can deliberately practice new habits of listening and responding, creating new habits over time. If you have some arrogant habits, give yourself time to adjust. Watch how you judge yourself, allowing yourself to slip without giving up.
An exercise to build confidence
I often have my coaching clients do a Personal Power Inventory. In the least, I ask them to list 5 to 7 characteristics that help them be successful. I ask them to recall a moment where they overcame difficulties to succeed. Then I ask, “What did you call forth beyond your skills and knowledge, that helped you to prevail?” They name traits like “optimistic, resilient, flexible, keen to learn, courageous, generous, and a good sense of humor.”
Before your next conversation, smile, breath, and recall your list. Remember who you are at your best. Then speak with curiosity and care for other’s feelings and ideas.
How people judge you on the confidence or arrogance scale will have an impact on your relationships and results. If you want to relate to others in a positive manner, seek to feel and express confidence.