Overcome the Perception of Being Arrogant with SEI

Article contributed by Terry Hildebrandt, PCC

The Screamer!

Do you find yourself correcting others frequently? Do you often find yourself surrounded by idiots? Do you keep a distance between yourself and others? If yes, others might perceive you as arrogant. I often coach smart people who have been told they are arrogant and need to be more approachable. Here are some common symptoms of being arrogant.

Symptoms of arrogance:

  • Others describe you as cold and detached
  • You think that you are always right
  • You dismiss others inputs and feelings as inferior
  • You frequently critique others work and ideas and correct their thinking
  • You believe your ideas are always better than others

Impact of arrogance:

While being right might feel great, it can undermine interpersonal relationships and damage trust. In reality, no one is always right or has all the information. By not valuing the input of others, you may miss out on valuable insights, solutions to problems, and potential opportunities. No one wants to work with a know-it-all. Over time, you may find yourself with no one to listen to your great ideas!

Causes of arrogance:

  • Lack of self-esteem or confidence

Research suggests that many people who are arrogant actually have low self-esteem.   By putting others down,  they feel better about themselves. This misguided strategy might work temporarily but over the long run, it leads to people avoiding you and inability to influence.

  • Being overconfident

While a healthy amount of self-confidence is critical for you to sell your ideas and to get things done, it is easy to overdo it and come across as arrogant.  The key is to focus on what you can do for others rather than on yourself and how great your ideas are.

  • Intellectual agility with low interpersonal agility

You might have been the top student in your class and be the thought leader in your field, but the real question is : Do others like you? Smart people often overvalue intellect and book smarts at the expense of social and emotional intelligence. Research has found that people want to work with those they like. A winning combination is to be both smart and likeable.

What you can do to overcome arrogance:

  1. Listen, ask questions, and collaborate

Being curious about what others think and feel will cause them to feel valued and build trust. Even when you think you have the “right answer” remain open to others solutions. You might be surprised what you will learn!

  1. Share credit and build others up

We all depend on the help and support of others to get things done. Freely and frequently recognize the contributions of others. Building others up and sharing credit will cause others to want to work with you again.

  1. Don’t correct others unless they give you permission

Be very careful when offering critique and correction. Ask yourself if it really matters if someone has made a small mistake in grammar, facts, or reasoning; and only give feedback if it really matters and you have permission to do so.

  1. Seek feedback

Even when we think we are brilliant, funny, or clever,  we might be off-putting to others. Ask those that you trust to give you honest feedback about your style.

With a little attention and perseverance, you can change that perception of arrogance to one of humility and openness.

See www.The-ISEI.com for more information on Self-Awareness, one of the four-quadrants used in the Four-Quadrant Model of the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)™.

6 Responses to “Overcome the Perception of Being Arrogant with SEI”

  • Terry,
    Nice piece. And timely too, as I pursue an opportunity to coach a disruptive leader.
    – Howard

  • Virg Setzer:

    Terry – Well done!

    The impact of arrogance in the workplace is significant – not so easy to measure, but very impactful. Arrogance among senior leaders and frankly first line supervisors and managers frequently creates an environment of “fear”! And of course what impact does “fear” have on productivity, engagement, and retention? Hopefully leaders and managers who are challenged with arrogance will head your guidance!

  • Lisa Dominisse:

    What’s the old saying? “Would you rather be right? Or happy?” This seems to apply here. Your tips are excellent for the workplace or home, Terry. Thanks so much!

  • Dorota Szkodny-Ciolek:

    I think that your mentioning of the turning attention from yourself to others is so important when dealing with negative (destructive) ‘energies’ in us. Contributing to others, empathy towards them and using our hearts can lessen not only our arrogance, but also many fears, insecurities, or anger. Thanks for that piece:-)

  • Hi Laura,

    I just finished the Steve Job’s biography and wonder whether any amount of coaching could have coached the arrogance out of him, and if it had, would Apple have created such innovative products? Of course, his level of arrogance and creativity/innovation were fare from run of the mill…

  • Hi Laura–

    Excellent article that makes the point well. There are two reasons people work with you or work for you: 1) is because they HAVE to; 2) is because they WANT to. This article is a great reminder of why the latter is preferred in most instances!