Nobody likes a show-off. And no one enjoys feeling patronized.
But we’ve all been there – when someone won’t stop talking about themselves, or what they’ve accomplished…and while it’s never mentioned specifically…how inferior you are in comparison.
They might do it on purpose or unconsciously, but either way, it’s hurtful.
If you’ve ever been cut off mid-sentence (repeatedly), talked down to, or dismissed with a shrug, you’ll know exactly how it makes you feel. Very unimportant.
But what if, just sometimes, that’s how you made others feel? What if you’ve alienated others with delusions of grandeur?
If your co-workers seem to vanish when you’re particularly stressed, or you want to help a colleague stop seeming arrogant when they don’t mean to, this article is for you.
Today I’ll explore my “Feeling Superior” Coaching Card, showing you how stress can make some of us feel high and mighty, and three ways to fix the problem.
Why Stress Makes Us Feel “Superior”
Let’s consider why we might push others away by acting self-important.
Because a few things can make us seem arrogant, even when we’re not stressed.
- Being an “overachiever” (maybe we’re proud, or don’t realize the magnitude of our accomplishments)
- Attention-seeking (we want someone’s approval), or
- Insecurity (we’re pushing others away to protect our ego).
But arrogance can also be a defense mechanism, and a sign that we’re under stress—even without knowing it. And it can noticeably influence our behavior, causing us to push others away.
These behaviors include:
- Cutting people off with your (‘better’) version of events—
- Starting every sentence with “I…” “My…” or “Me…”
- Offering advice without being asked
- Competing, rather than collaborating with your co-workers
- Getting angry with people who seem weak
- Sticking to your guns (and ‘arrogant’ ways) even when others seem uncomfortable
- Finding fault before asking questions
- Brushing off anyone who doesn’t agree with you
- Trying to ‘explain away’ negative feedback with reasons and excuses, and more.
Somewhat like the instinct to flail wildly in rough water, however, acting self-important or arrogant under pressure can do more harm than good. Rather than protect us from anything, it makes others feel uncomfortable in our presence and pushes them away.
3 Ways To Take Yourself Less Seriously
If you’re concerned you might be alienating others with your haughty behavior, there are a few ways to start taking yourself less seriously.
By making an effort to change your behavior, however, you’re already making a first step.
These three coaching tips can be highly effective ways to make others want to connect with you, so that you can get communication and collaboration flowing freely once more.
1. Give Others The Spotlight
Essentially, arrogance is ego-centricity—even narcissistic behavior—at its finest. When we feel like the world’s weight sits on our shoulders, we naturally become the focus of our attention.
Otherwise put, we’re ‘me-centered.’
By turning our thoughts and attention outward, instead, our behaviors naturally become more ‘we-oriented’. Try the following, for example:
- Inviting others to share opinions more often
- Spotting others’ strengths and accomplishments, and giving genuine, heartfelt compliments where due
- Replacing “My” with “Our”, “I” with “We”, and “Me” with “Us” when you start a sentence
- Asking “What would they want” or “What would they need” to put yourself in others’ shoes
- Saying thank you for little things, or showing gratitude when you wouldn’t normally
- Making suggestions at meetings, rather than proposing fully-fledged ideas, or
- Aiming for equal parts listening and talking in your conversations.
2. Try the Humble Pie
Humility is a little bit of modesty and empathy mixed together. It may not be what you feel like eating when you’re stressed, but can go a long way to making others feel comfortable and respected in your presence.
The trick to putting others first is simply to think about yourself a little less.
This coaching tip is very closely linked to the first—building on our first list, then, it might include:
- Seeking out others’ feedback
- Owning up to your mistakes, and
- Trying to take a beginners’ mindset (e.g. curiosity, openness to new ideas, tolerance of failure.)
3. Take Yourself Less Seriously
The ability to step outside yourself is great, but being able to laugh at yourself is even better for your wellbeing.
Stress often includes self-imposed burdens, so taking a lighthearted view of your own shortcomings, or ‘Finding The Funny’ in your actions can ease some of the pressure you feel.
The aim is to stop trying to portray yourself in your best light, and be a little more forgiving of your flaws.
To start, New York Times experts suggest, list your perceived shortcomings on paper, and rate them from ‘least sensitive’ (not-so-serious flaws) to ‘most sensitive’.
Share it with a friend who you feel comfortable showing vulnerability with.
Finally, think of some self-directed humor based on your less sensitive list items, and practice them. A little bit like graded exposure, you’ll find it easier to move on to bigger, ‘more sensitive’ items as you get comfortable with it.