Friday, 23 January 2015

Arrogance vs Super Confidence

I recently worked with a professional squash player (let’s call her Amy) on issues she had around confidence. Although she told me she wanted more confidence it soon became apparent that she had developed an unhelpful perception of what confident people were like and, in her mind, she had concluded that the super confident people she knew were all arrogant. This caused her real conflict as, although she wanted to be more confident, she didn’t want to become arrogant so she ended up resisting change in her personal growth.

One thing I have found over the years is that we often get trapped in our problem state because we form an unhelpful belief around any alternative way of being.  This was certainly the case with Amy. In her mind she had generalised that all confident people are arrogant which meant that the only way for her to become more confident was to become arrogant herself; something she did not want to do.

The irony about Amy’s belief is that arrogance has absolutely nothing to do with confidence. In fact, it is the polar opposite of confidence as it tends to be displayed by individuals who are lacking in confidence.  Put it this way, if you had all the confidence in the world, why would you feel such a need to tell everyone? One of the most confident and inspiring people I ever worked with was a client called Simon who I was helping develop the culture of his business. Simon is a man of very few words and prefers to listen more than speak. I can remember sitting in on a meeting with him and about 15 of his senior managers who were all desperately taking turns to talk up their role in the success of a project they had all been working on. It was reminiscent of a scene from The Apprentice where everyone was desperate to take the glory at the expense of the remainder of the group and it started to get quite heated.  As things started to get out of control, I could see a grin appear on Simon’s face like that of an indulgent parent. Then he leaned forward, made the tiniest of coughs and, as if he had put a spell on everyone, the room immediately fell silent and all eyes were on him. In a matter of a few, quietly spoken words, Simon had diffused the whole situation, refocused them on the subject that needed addressing, changed the tone of the meeting and then he leaned back again, leaving his team to take turns speaking in a calm and collegiate manner. At no point did Simon speak to them as anything other than as an equal. He is a man of great humility, empathy and modesty, all under-pinned with a big dose of confidence.

Interestingly, when I explained this to Amy, she actually started to feel sorry for the arrogant people that she knew. This allowed her to let go of the limiting belief which had been holding her back and over the following weeks we were able to make a real impact on her confidence levels in all areas of life.

So if you ever start to feel intimidated by someone who is being arrogant remember that they are probably a lot less confident than you are.

Andy Barton
Performance coach

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