Main Street: Arrogance or self-confidence: It’s not a fine line

June 14, 2018 GMT

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. — Proverbs 16:18

“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” — George Clooney

Most readers have seen a movie with Johnny Depp as the lead character. He has done “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Edward Scissorhands,” the recent “Murder on the Orient Express” and many more.

Whether you like Depp or not, he can be credited for a marvelous variety of characters. Recently, what got my attention was a posting on a blog about Johnny’s health. Many fans were concerned because in photos, he looked drawn out, pale and weak. But what got my attention was a T-shirt he was wearing that simply read,“Be Humble or Be Humbled.”

In recent years, we have seen countless famous people, including actors, politicians, doctors, professors and even religious leaders, who have fallen from their self-created pedestals. False pride and arrogance many times is the root cause. On the other hand, to be successful as a leader, employee or in any walk of life, a healthy dose of self-confidence is in order.

As Dr. Leisa Bailey, of Georgia Psychological Consultants, said, “Having self-confidence is wonderful and a positive quality to successfully navigate life. It allows us to get past fears and doubts and take control of life and decisions. Those with confidence have a positive and optimistic attitude that is easy to be around. Others typically view a confident person as dependable and admirable. However, as often true, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Overconfidence is a weakness and most would agree that arrogance is undesirable.”

She continued, “Confidence and arrogance come from different sources. Arrogance is rooted in insecurity — a defense from feelings of weakness that are unacceptable and unclaimed. An arrogant person generally has a skewed view of the world and a warped understanding of themselves. However, a confident person can accept their weaknesses or faults with grace — even though they may not like them.”

In fact, most of us have bit of both arrogance and self-confidence, so we must always be on guard. An informative blog from reveals seven ways we can tell the difference. Let me focus on, expand and illustrate four of the ones I think are the most important.

First, do we make condescending remarks or do we build others up? Superiority is the stock and trade of the arrogant. I have had the privilege to meet many highly accomplished people, and one trademark of the ones I respect is they encourage others to accomplish rather than brag on themselves.

They never have to put others down to make themselves seem confident. Womanitely puts it this way: (Arrogant people) “feel better when they tear others down. On the contrary, confident people are high-minded, because they can feel good without having a desire to offend others. They usually see people’s potential and can help them succeed in something.”

Secondly, how people communicate separates the arrogant from the confident. People who have to dominate the conversation or are always trying to one-up others are arrogant. Too often, their arrogance actually is based on very low self- esteem. Arrogant people try and force their views on others. Self-confident people don’t try to impose their vision onto others. They let their accomplishments speak for themselves.

Third, eye contact and focused communication is important. Self-confident people look at you rather than looking over their shoulder to see who else they might want to talk to. And they listen more than they talk.

One of the great strengths of Bill Clinton was he was said to make the person he was talking to feel as though they were the only one in the room. Self-confident people realize they can learn from others.

George Clooney is right when he says we cannot lean much from hearing ourselves talk. Confident people realize, while they may have expertise, what they know in the end is very limited.

Across the years, I have told doctoral students with whom I have worked, “If you think your degree makes you exceptionally smart and better than others, then the program has failed you. Yes, you know a lot, but about very little. Your degree is just the beginning of your education.”

Lastly, the attitude we display is a telling sign. Arrogant people form cliques and want to exclude others from their group. I have attended many business meetings across the years. Self-confident people walk up to those they do not know and make them feel included. They are curious about others.

Arrogant people are so busy bragging about their latest acquisition, trip, job promotion or other things they ignore what you are saying. Confident people have very high emotional intelligence competencies in not only self-awareness, but in social awareness as well.

In the end, if we are properly confident and at the same time properly humble, we can be people of great accomplishment. We will have good relationships. When people see us coming they will say, “Thank goodness they are finally here,” rather than, “Oh, no, here he or she comes again. Run or sneak out the back!”

Self-confidence must be based on a never- ending quest to make the most of our God- given abilities and skills in helping not only ourselves but others.