skip to main content

Confident Assertions Without Arrogance

Confidence is a nice suit. Arrogance is the same suit with suspenders, Italian loafers, and gold cuff links.

Tim SchneiderLead Well

Confidence versus Arrogance

Let’s start by defining both terms.

Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance that comes from an appreciation of our abilities or qualities. Arrogance is characterized by an exaggerated sense of our importance or abilities.

Fortunately, there are a few clues that help us to spot the difference between confidence and arrogance.

First, arrogant individuals often believe that they have nothing to learn from others, so they act like know-it-alls. They fight tooth and nail to be right and to show that others are wrong. As a result, they don’t listen to other people’s views.

Confident people, on the other hand, have no problem listening. They’re aware that they don’t know everything and are happy to learn from others.

Second, arrogant people like to talk about themselves.

A lot.

They brag about their achievements, skills, and abilities, and often ignore those around them. In meetings, for example, arrogant people generally seek the spotlight. Consciously or unconsciously, they make others feel less important. They often use condescending language, talk over people, or display body language that shows a lack of interest in others.

Conversely, confident people often shine the light on their colleagues’ achievements in meetings or group works. They ask for input, encourage teamwork, and generously praise their co-workers.

Finally, the most fundamental difference is that arrogance often masks insecurity. That’s why arrogant people are boastful about their achievements and abilities while tending to demean others.

Confidence, on the other hand, stems from true self-worth: a belief and pride in your achievements and abilities. Confident people have self-assurance that contributes to inner calm. They show composure and don’t brag or act superior to others.

Ultimately, arrogance repels us. Nobody likes to spend time around arrogant people.

Confident people are the opposite: they inspire others. The more we spend time with them, the more likely we are to develop confidence ourselves. Confidence attracts us and is contagious.

How to Make Confident Assertions Without Being Arrogant

If we discover the truth, it is not necessarily arrogant to admit it.

If we have discovered that 2 + 2 = 4, that gravity is a force attracting celestial bodies to each other, or that the second law of thermodynamics describes the increase of disorder, it is not necessarily arrogant to say so.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, we need to be able to speak the truth yet not be seen as arrogant.

Here are several practices to help avoid being seen as arrogant.

  • Remember, humility in the service of ambition is the most effective and sustainable mindset for leaders.
  • If you claim to be right about something, and you have good reasons for your claim, then don’t think you are necessarily arrogant.
  • Exercise prudence in how you present your claim (attitude, tone of voice, body language, etc.) because you can still appear arrogant even if your belief is justified.
  • Don’t ever belittle other people.
  • Never exaggerate your contribution.

The Bible

Paul said in Romans 12:3,

Through the grace given to me I saw to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.

Notice that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Neither are we to think of ourselves as less than we are, but instead are to have “sound judgment.”

Certainly, it is easy to be arrogant, thinking more of ourselves than is appropriate. We see plenty of examples of this tendency in all forms of politics.

It is just as easy, however, to think less of ourselves than is appropriate, failing to value the gifts, insights, and opportunities we are gifted.  And worse of all, to not speak the truth when necessary.

This verse starts with the key to avoiding arrogance — “…the grace given to me…”

The reality of God’s grace allowed Paul to know who he was and to assert what he had done without falling into arrogance.

When presented with the opportunity to know the truth and present it, we need to be sure we present it without arrogance, but with confidence based on the gifts from God.