Confidence and Arrogance: The Dividing Line

During programs on confidence I’m often asked “How do I know when i’ve crossed the line between confidence and arrogance? In the past I’ve answered “When you’re no longer open to other ideas.” I can now offer a more visual image of the difference, thanks to two Presidents.

Here are elements of confidence and arrogance that can help you evaluate when you’re about to cross the line:

Confidence Arrogance
Open Closed
Other-centric Egocentric
Humble Needy
Unifying Divisive

There are more, but we’ll stick to these in the interest of brevity.

Open vs Closed

One President solicits input from others, including those with opposing opinions, knowing that he doesn’t have all the answers, doesn’t always have the best ideas. His goal is to come up with the best possible solution.

The other President trusts only his on judgment. He regularly fires staff members who disagree with him. In those rare instances when he does listen to others, he later publicly regrets having listened to them because he feels that it makes him look weak. He’s seeks solutions that serve his needs without regard to their impact upon others.

Other-centric vs Egocentric

One works for what’s in his best interests without regard to the welfare of others. He’s right; everyone who disagrees with him is wrong…and suffers consequences for being wrong. He demands loyalty instead of earning it. Any disloyalty is punished publicly and repeatedly, at times resulting in the end of their careers of service. His mission is to satisfy his own needs.

The other President genuinely cares about the welfare of others. He feels blessed in his life because he’s been able to help others enjoy richer fuller lives. He’s devoted to sharing his good fortune so that others can enjoy it too. His measure of what’s right is “Did it help others?” He doesn’t care about loyalty to him, but to the values that elevate all. His needs are secondary to the welfare of others, consequently, he has no needs.

Humble vs Needy

One President is humble. He has no illusion that he has all the answers, that his ideas are the best ideas; he knows that he can learn from everyone and serve effectively when he listens to all ideas. He doesn’t seek acclaim, yet earns it everyday by working tirelessly to help others. He’s so comfortable with who he is that he doesn’t need others’ approval to validate his worth.

The other President needs others’ acclaim, loyalty and undying devotion. He needs these in order to display a public image of being the best, brightest and strongest in the world. He demands these things and punishes those who do not capitulate. He chooses as his idols dictators who are ruthless, killing their own family members to get what they want. His interest is in power, not the welfare of others.

Unifying vs Divisive

One President uses fear and bias to create conflict. He regularly attacks on all fronts to keep people in all arenas off balance and in a defensive mode. He knows that when infighting among groups occurs, he’s safe from inspection…that others are too busy fighting to prevent him from doing his will. He uses attacks on him to play victim so that others can recall times when they feel they’ve been victims. In doing so, he aligns others’ inherent fear and anger associated with victimology to his own and uses this alignment to his advantage.

The other President welcomes disagreement, yet works to prevent disagreement from elevating to divisiveness. His mission is to find common ground on which to lay the foundation of mutual agreement that enhances the welfare of all. His opposite stirs frenzy, anger and frustration; he brings calm to highly-charged, highly-emotional situations. He knows that by lowering the temperature, he can elicit the collaboration needed for a mutually-beneficial outcome.

For you

If you find yourself wondering whether you’re crossing the line from confidence to arrogance, recall these two Presidents and how they behaved. You may want to keep a copy of this blog handy to refresh your memory. It’s an easy way to evaluate yourself for each of these elements of confidence and arrogance.

Having said that, it’s highly unlikely that you’re becoming arrogant if you are concerned about it. I gained this insight from a client decades ago when I expressed the same concern. She’s the one who told me it would never happen because my concern would keep me conscious of my behaviors. So far she’s been right…as I expect that she will be for the rest of my life. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t stumbled across the line, it means that I’ve consciously chosen not to stay on the arrogant side of the line.

Another reason for writing this post is to help you see the benefits of being confident and the cost of being arrogant. I doubt that the arrogant President has ever been completely happy with himself. I suspect that his need of others’ approval is evidence of just how unhappy he continues to be. Sadly, I doubt that he’ll ever experience the happiness he desires; nor will he understand that he’s the one creating the unhappiness he’s experiencing.

For our kids

Lead your life in a way that exhibits confidence and avoids arrogance. When the kids in your life see that you are confident, that you are regularly:

  • Open
  • Other-centric
  • Humble
  • Unifying

they’ll mimic your behaviors. In doing so, they’ll experience the joy of confidence and avoid the costs of arrogance.

When you see them crossing the line from confidence to arrogance (and we’ve all done it, me included) ask them questions like:

  • What validity exists in the opposing opinion?
  • Are you thinking about the impact on others? Or only on what you want?
  • Are you seeking recognition? Or are you seeking a solution?
  • Will your actions create a solution that all can buy into? Or will they create further division?

None of us are exempt from the allure of arrogance, but we can train our minds to recognize when we’re crossing the line so that we can avoid its costs and enjoy confidence’s benefits.

Feel free to share this blog with those whom you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share them in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link).

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Dale, Great job of using behaviors of our current and past President to illustrate Confidence and Arrogance. We don’t have to take sides of whose right and wrong. Just let the behaviors speak for themselves and we can decide for ourselves!

    • Dale Furtwengler

      Bill, life is continuously offering us lessons. The question is “Are we paying attention?”

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