The Danger In Proclaiming Your Brilliance

There’s a fine line between self-confidence – and arrogance. There are many ways to describe the difference. The way I’ve explained the difference that seems to resonate with my audiences is:

“Self-confidence will give you the needed backbone to argue your position when everyone from your peers and more will argue the opposite. Arrogance will produce the same effect. The only difference is as far as you’re concerned – only you could possibly have the answer.”

There may be that rare occasion when it’s true. However, let’s not forget ‘rare’ means just that. Same sort of issue can fall around those wanting to be seen as to take, or receive credit for that “brilliance.” Again, this is where both self-confidence as well as arrogance can show itself.

Everyone wants to be seen in a certain light. Everyone wants to be in on the “good” side of anything being praised. Many want to be seen as having an ability sometimes as little as one step above those they may consider peers. It’s pretty much human nature.

We like the praise and why wouldn’t we? Sure, some will say “Not me!” However, they are few and far between. Most do. For proof just watch for the person that doesn’t get recognized for some award when everyone else seems to be. Hide the sharp utensils till the caterers leave is all I’m saying.

There is a subtle yet very dangerous part of the whole “I’m brilliant because…” issue. Here are two examples although they are hardly the only two:

First: When one rushes in to claim credit yet: they’re not really abreast of all the particulars of what caused the circumstance as to where credit can be taken. i.e., A lucky guess or a coin flip result that worked out yet now is proclaiming as “See, I told you so!” That may work once. However, if you’re now tasked with doing it again? You’re going to find yourself both clearly dumbfounded and on display for all to see.

Second: You may be someone who is considered “brilliant” for you’ve worked diligently on your skills as well as other attributes to help foster, or bolster that opinion. This is where many get into trouble for they move from what I consider a muse of self-confidence to having an aire of arrogance. For they are the very one’s who will declare in dramatic fashion why you need to listen to them and why. Only then to make glaring mistakes in those very declarations that should never been uttered by one so “brilliant.” Let me share an example for context.

I witnessed this in stunning detail a few years back when listening to a speech given by someone I have great respect for and know to be a person at the top of his profession. During a speech at Harvard he opened his presentation with exactly why those in attendance should listen to his offering as well as advice. It was laden with accomplishments and other attributes all worthy of respect. Yet, there just seemed to be an overtone of arrogance as opposed to self-confidence. Yes, it’s a fine line however, there just seemed to be that vibe overhanging his initial address.

Then, in an example as to emphasize exactly why he could do what others might not he expressed it as “his superior command of language.” He then went on to give examples of why his skills were far and away better than others because “he could nuance in ways that others might find difficult.” Then he made a glaring error that was noticeable to even me. (for those who may not know I have not been afraid to express I can barely spell cat without spellchecker)

In a display as to back his claim, he expressed that he read “vociferously.” Personally I wasn’t sure of the exact meaning when I first heard it. And although I had this feeling it wasn’t correct I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then he went on and used the same word again in the same context so it was obvious is was not a slip of the tongue nor a mistake. It was an intentional use of the word and for the very reason as to help solidify the premise of his implied skill. The problem? Maybe you already know. The word should have been “voraciously” not “vociferously.” (personally I needed a dictionary to find the difference)

I know all too well that we all make mistakes, or can be charged with being “lucky” or “arrogant” in some situations. It’s part of the landscape if you want to be out in front or work at higher levels. We all want the praise when we make a call, or propose an idea and it works out as expected then to reap the rewards of getting credit where credit is due.

But it’s a very fine line that can be crossed if one isn’t self-aware of exactly how they played a part and why. And it can be an even tighter rope to walk when expressing why one should listen to you as opposed to another.

Self confidence is a needed prerequisite, but it can cross into the aire of arrogance just as easily if one isn’t careful. And if you make a glaring error precisely at the time when you’re proclaiming your brilliance; there’s an even greater chance of anything you state going forward will be discounted at best – ignored at worst.

Confidence in your abilities is healthy. Too much confidence can lead to a display of arrogance that can have the worst of unintended consequences where people no longer listen, or just tune out from anything further you might have to say. Whether its brilliant or not.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr