We all encounter overconfident people from time to time. They are the ones who seem to think they know everything or they throw toxic darts to assert their imagined superiority. But make no mistake about it, such a feeling of superiority is just imagined.
Andrea F. Polard Psy.D., who teaches Zen psychology and is the author of the book "A Unified Theory of Happiness", explained that in the same way nobody likes to be with a braggart person, nobody also likes arrogant individuals. Even if these people know more about certain things, life cannot be measured and their level of skills does not always translate to their levels of worth.
Here are some smart strategies you can use to deal with arrogant people.
1) Do not try to fix the arrogant person but be compassionate
Their need for superiority is usually rooted in low self-esteem. They lack empathy for others who appear or are less accomplished and they have the unquenchable thirst for other people’s praise. When dealing with an arrogant person, it is important to have compassion for their unhappiness. Being compassionate brings peace to your heart.
2) Accept their need to feel superior
There is nothing you could have done in the past or do in the future to make them arrogant. The person suffers a problem that is far beyond your control. This is why it is important on your part to understand as well as accept their feelings of superiority, Polard believes. Remember, this does not mean you will play along with them and feel inferior. You may consider it as a game, which means you can refuse to play.
3) Feel sound within yourself
If you have to communicate with an arrogant person, do so with a confident or strong realization that you are strong and well. This is because when you feel sound within yourself, there is nothing that the arrogant person can do or say to undermine you. Even if they say cruel things about you, it will be easier to let it slide if you feel secure in yourself and your ability.
4) Communicate directly
Sometimes, it is okay to remind the arrogant person that nobody knows that much, considering the mysteries of life. As long as it will not harm you later, do not suppress yourself in saying it but make sure to use disarming sentences. An example of this would be “Maybe you do not want to sound arrogant but…” or “Forgive me for interrupting, but…”
A survey conducted by Harris Poll involving 2,058 US adults showed that 69% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with their employees. More than 37% said they are uncomfortable giving direct feedback, thinking that the employee may respond negatively to the feedback.
5) Set limits
We cannot always choose who we must deal with or work with but we can always set the limits. This will reduce harm on your part. For example, before you meet with the arrogant person, you should decide first how much time you will spend together and what subjects you will not or will talk about. Resist prolonging the time. But if you cannot maintain a distance despite the effort, maybe you can sever ties. Polard believes that nobody should endure abuse and remain silent about it, whether that be a professional or personal relationship.
6) Include a third party or mediator
Having direct communication with an arrogant person can sometimes backfire. This is why you need to include a mediator or a third person who can diffuse the situation. Seek the guidance or support that you need without being vindictive towards the other person. Sometimes, you may need to find allies so you can stand together when dealing with harmful arrogant people.
7) Be mindful
Lastly, do things thoughtfully, deliberately, and with great love as much as possible. Remember that arrogant people often allow others to become their worst selves or lose their temper along the process. Instead of trying to fit into somebody else’s life, focus on the game of your life, and just stay true to yourself. You may use your encounter with the arrogant person as an opportunity to also improve your tolerance of other people and your listening skills.
Intellectual humility vs. arrogance
A study that appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that those who are humble are more effective. People who were willing to change their minds if they were presented with new evidence and acknowledged that they were not always right performed better on the experimental task compared to those who insisted that they were nearly always right.
Authors of the said study titled "Knowing what you know: Intellectual humility and judgments of recognition memory" explained that intellectual humility is the acceptance that one’s belief may be incorrect. People who scored low in intellectual humility were more confident in their errors. During the test, 155 participants read a list of 40 statements, which included fictional topics presented as a fact. Then, they read the second list of 60 statements. They were then asked to determine which they did not read before and which of the statements were new. The humble participants scored better in identifying the new statements but the arrogant ones were more confident in their wrong judgments. These arrogant people believed that they were in fact right when they were not.
The Dunning-Kruger effect
Another study involving 105 CEOs showed that humble leaders had stronger company performance, greater staff satisfaction, and lower employee turnover, among other benefits. Quartz highlighted the possible reason for this and it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. In the field of psychology, it is a cognitive bias where people are too stupid to recognize their ignorance.
In a survey conducted by database company Statista in North America, 31% of respondents reported that people issues at work were a source of stress. Others answered it was their workload (39%), juggling work and personal life balance (19%), and lack of job security (6%).
While self-confidence is a beneficial trait for leaders, overconfidence makes a leader a poor role model. Often, arrogant people will resist feedback and personal change and it can diminish trust from others.