Arrogance vs. Confidence: what’s the difference?

A long running debate in my own mind is the difference between arrogance and confidence. Here are two definitions:

An arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid. Their sense of themselves depends on thinking less of someone else. They insist on correcting other people’s grammar or showing them their flaws, as it’s the only way they can feel an approximation of confidence. Arrogance is about intent: its when ability (or perceived ability) is used to look down on others.

A confident person feels competent from the inside out. They use their talents to genuinely try to be of use, or to succeed at the task at hand. They might seek external validation, but they don’t depend on it to define their sense of their ability or nature.

In some cases an arrogant person may have more skill than a confident person, but the confident person will tend to wield whatever abilities they have with more calm control than an arrogant person can.

What do you think?

93 Responses to “Arrogance vs. Confidence: what’s the difference?”

  1. Robby Slaughter

    Who died and made YOU the king of definitions? :)

    This is a great way of thinking about arrogance and confidence. Walter Bond likes to say “confidence is arrogance under control.” Your approach notes that confidence is about knowledge of superior ability, whereas arrogance is putting others down.

    I do think that confident people ought to have the ability to spot errors, but should do so with a sense of humility. The arrogant person says: “You’ve made a mistake.” The confident person says: “I’ve made that mistake too.”

    1. Cryph

      The problem here is that people think of it as positive(confidence) and negative(arrogance). Nothing is black and white. Both confidence and arrogance has a positive and a negative. And you can certainly use both.

      Arrogance will help you push yourself beyond your limits, but if viewed by others would seem so farfetched and “illogical” that you’d be almost certainly be deemed as annoying hence the confidence you’re trying to build up is deemed arrogant. In short, inexperienced, self motivating.

      Confidence is through experience and study. If one is so sure of ones skill level he will most likely succeed as smoothely as possible almost all the time. However, confidence can lead to misjudgement, especially in repetitive tasks placed in a somewhat different circumstance than it usually is.

      Confidence would need humility to balance it’s self assuredness. While Arrogance needs experience to gain balance.

      This is my two cents on the matter which is based on my life experiences.

      1. Collymilad

        I think you have the true definitions of the two reversed to be honest.

        1. Rose

          I always think of it as arrogance is thinking you’re better than people, confidence is thinking you’re equal to people.

  2. Jeff Hora

    Arrogance is about external appearances, hence the “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude. Confidence is held inwardly and can soldier on regardless of external opinions, positive, negative or neutral. Arrogance tends to work against, while confidence more easily works with.

  3. Jared M. Spool

    I like the definition.

    I’m going to guess that an arrogant person comes from a place of shame. They don’t like how they feel about themselves, so they put on airs of superiority to compensate. The opportunity to make someone else feel uncomfortable shifts the attention away from themselves and their sense of inadequacy.

    However, I think a confident person comes from a place of security. They know where they stand and are comfortable in that place, even when they aren’t the smartest or best in the room. They don’t have to compensate for their inadequacies the way the arrogant person does.

    What do you think?

    1. Daniel

      You are 100% correct. I strongly feel so many people get the definitions of arrogance and confidence mixed up. I’m a person that will keep my mouth shut if I’m in question upon something but I’ve I am not and I’m very thorough through whatever it may be I will say something about it. Or if somebody’s doing wrong or have ill and tent towards other people I will say something about it.

    2. Ken

      I think you are right.
      I fit this and was recently called arrogant.
      I’ll have to improve this.

    3. Paul H

      This is my experience of becoming and being arrogant, such a painful place and space to not grow up in !!
      Thank you

  4. Kerry

    Some arrogance is passive. I would define an arrogant person as one who is so convinced of their superiority that it blinds them to outside ideas and alternate viewpoints. Confidence, in my mind, implies enough separation from ego that one can learn and self-improve while doing great things.

    Someone who actively enjoys putting others down I would define as a jerk :)

  5. Kevin Morrill

    Glad you’re drawing the distinction, but I think there’s a more useful way to look at it.

    Confidence actually properly comes from the outside in. By that I mean, that confidence comes from living consistent with reality. For example, Galileo is confident about his conclusions because he does experiments informed by reality. I don’t mean that as a social phenomenon, as if everyone agreeing with you the world is flat makes your idea any more true.

    Arrogance is not primarily about an attitude, but instead about your confidence being out of step with reality. In other words, no matter how confident you feel about driving 80mpg on a crowded freeway, your car can only stop so fast.

    Taking pleasure in other people being stupid is probably best labeled as some other dysfunction.

    1. Michael

      It’s way late on this blog, but I wanted to say this sounds very true. I don’t think confidence survives without some level of external validation. I think anyone is capable of failing ‘some number’ of times at something and lose their trust in themselves. And if a person falls from a place of high confidence, he can begin trying to rebuild it by re-examining his physical reality and trying to operate in it ‘the way it is’. Sometimes this means a nasty bitter person who’s arrogant (but confident, as he knows the reality feels true to him) to the rest of us.

      I have a friend who went through some very similar circumstances as myself, and while he turned what I consider bitter, angry and arrogant. I went the other way. But I know his reality of his situation feels “right” to him.

      1. Journeyman

        You call someone confident when you think their self-assuredness is warranted. You call them arrogant when you think it isn’t. If they use the right body language, voice tonality, and speech pacing, they’ll earn the label confident. If they don’t, they’ll earn the label arrogant. Right or wrong, competent or not, they’ll draw judgements from their mannerisms more than from their character or their “absolute objective worth”

        1. Eric

          I would disagree with your distinction Journeyman, although this might be merely semantic. I don’t believe the difference can be seen by judging the merit of someone’s self-assurance, but I think this can definitely be an easy mistake to make, one I now can think of having made any number of times. I believe a better gauge would be assessing your motivation of the judgement of merit and the existence of your doubt.

          Every time I have been around highly confident people, I never think to question their confidence, nor the accuracy or validity of their claims, stated or implied. I think part of that might stem from what was discussed earlier, in that an arrogant person tends to elevate themselves by lowering others, something that seems bound to result in negative feelings from most of those so lowered. This can often lead to jealousy and a judgement on the merit of the person’s statements. With confidence, I don’t think most people will ever feel the need to question the merit of the confident person’s claims, as acceptance has no bearing on you. I don’t think either of those reactions are considered, rational, conscious paths as much as initial responses, so you don’t have to use their conclusions, or even their existence, when moving forward, but awareness of their origin could be tremendously helpful.

          This could easily lead to the argument that a confident person wouldn’t have the reaction I am describing when confronted with arrogance. While it might be a bit of a tangent from the initial point of my comment, I feel compelled to point out that confidence doesn’t imply perfection; quite the opposite, actually. I might have a negative reaction and feelings of jealousy around an arrogant person but I work very hard to not let those feelings guide my actions and do my best to keep them from coloring my impression of a situation. At the same time, I acknowledge that their existence alone suggests a few inferences I could make.

          As a last point of order: the mere fact that those who have contributed and/or read this thread are concerned with the distinction at all suggests they are leaning towards the confidence side of the scale. You are questioning yourself and your world. Personally, this post has helped me in two ways: first, it has helped me refine some aspects of the debate I have long thought about without much progress, and second, it has lent some credence to the value of my struggle. Would an arrogant person really care if they were arrogant or, if they knew or had been told, care to do anything about it? I doubt they would ever find this discussion to begin with, so all those who read it, give yourselves a pat on the back. While we may never reach the destination of perfection, having some idea of where we are trying to go can give us license to spend more time enjoying the journey.

          1. emma

            Brilliant thoughts. New insight just by pondering them.

          2. Nicole C Weld

            I was brought to this discussion by way of a long, arduas journey, where I have actively played every side of this role. Which provides me, as long journeys do, a true confidence in my keen ability to sense a deliberate act of arrogance. Arrogance, most often factors out any matter of right or wrong. Just as in the solving of an equation, both sides must be factorable. The sides, although different, must be equivocal in their ability to be factored or changed to reach a solution. To me, detecting blatant arrogance, is like reaching that point in a math problem when you know, with all confidence, despite your best efforts, this equation is unsolvable.

            As the old Chinese proverb states, “A wise man (or woman) learns by his own experience, the wiser man (or woman) learns by the experience of others.” Here is an opportunity to learn from others.

          3. Mr B

            Very well said :)

            Thanks for your mind.

          4. TamLynn

            Eric, Thank you for your brilliant comment written so many years ago. The ripples are still progressing and I am a benefactor.

          5. Graham

            A Champion balanced response.
            Thank you

        2. Lori

          Your comment on the arrogance is true. I am living through it now. Someone around me seems confident when they are arrogant and I myself seemingly have more attributes of an arrogant person because I don’t care to tell everyone all the times I am correct. I like to do so when people can get hurt by mistakes they claim are valuable “fixes” for a problem. Thanks for letting me know there are other instances and others can see this also. You have helped my confidence be free. I needed it.

  6. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    Arrogant people measure themselves against other people and judge themselves to be better.

    Confident people measure themselves against the task at hand and judge themselves to be up to the challenge.

    1. Opae

      I really connect with the description of the difference. Thanks for posting it.

  7. Sean Crawford

    Like Robby says, it’s about humility.

    I’ve often seen arrogance as a mental blind spot for self and others, with such people not understanding how they are seen by others, hence they may talk for too long or too grandly, and hence they don’t realize how real people have smacked their noses against reality.

    A prince sheltered in a palace might be arrogant, while a millionaire who started out as an orphan, unless traumatized into blind spots, would not. Hence the former orphan, now a confident strong munitions king, Andrew Undershaft, in the stage play “Major Barbara,” by G.B. Shaw, is shown as taking care to know his own strength around people.

    You may have seen the recent Liam Neeson movie “Unknown” where Liam is replaced by a double, a double that even his wife thinks is the real Liam. Rather than conclude he has gone mad, Liam reasons, in the translation of the French book, “I know why the other man is a fake. You can see it in his face, his ease, his detachment. He has never known shame…”

  8. Ivan Walsh

    Regretfully, an arrogant personality can be more intimidating, which does have results in the workplace.

  9. Christopher Fahey

    The difference is essentially in the mind of the external observer, not in the nature of the subject’s sense of self worth. If your confidence makes other people feel insulted, whether you intended it to or not, you will be called arrogant. If your arrogance is received with agreeing smiles, you will be seen as an example of natural confidence.

    1. James

      The presumption or perception that you are arrogant doesn’t make you so. Perception and reality don’t always align. Arrogance must be defined internally without relation to perception to avoid this problem.

      1. Lori

        Your comment makes no sense. An arrogant person is out of touch with reality therefore always right inside themselves and nothing is wrong with them, it’s everyone else who is flawed. So how would they be able to label themselves??

        1. B

          In my experience, this is very true.

          I share this humbly:
          Men seems to love to call me arrogant.

          So, I speak less around them. I very rarely talk about myself and keep the conversation fixed on them and their ego. That’s what they want.

          Girls call me confident.

          So, I leave it to the girls who aren’t comparing their results and receptions against mine to tell it how it is.

          I, too, share this thought OP.

          I’ve learned to feel bad for people who are arrogant. It takes a certain amount of inner strength to not be affected by external factors. When one can understand that arrogance is the other persons entire core of self esteem, you realize that judging them harshly isn’t the best option.

          Then again, this is where I’m at so far on my journey ;)

    2. Dr. J

      You nailed it Chris, and I appreciate you being terse.

  10. KevDog

    As long as we’re playing the definition game.

    Confidence is understanding your strengths, arrogance is ignoring your weaknesses.

    1. Eric

      Kevdog, do you think understanding your strengths without understanding your weaknesses would lead to confidence as much as ignorance and self delusion? And wouldn’t an arrogant person have to know their weaknesses in order to ignore them? How do you ignore something of which you are not aware?

      I am not saying I think you are wrong. Far from it, as I think you have concisely distilled a very core, pivotal difference. I am merely asking your opinion about the first questions to come to my mind when I read your post.

      1. B

        More like they’re unaware that weaknesses even exist because their strengths are so shiny to them it’s blinding.

  11. Chris

    Arrogance = I’m superior to you
    Confidence = I believe in my capability

  12. Dave Gordon

    One is confident while facing the challenge, and arrogant while facing the audience.

    Confidence is usually justified by preparation; arrogance by autobiography.

    Confidence is no guarantee of success, just as arrogance is no guarantee of failure, but those outcomes are usually what trigger the biggest celebrations.

    1. Eric

      I agree with your statement concerning celebratory triggers, although I really dislike the idea that outcomes alone lead to so many distinctions. I need to be more aware of how outcomes are affecting my own decisions with regards to these matters. I have a suspicion they play a larger part that I would like. Thank you for pointing that out.

    2. haxwell

      This is so concise and insightful that I would expect to find it in a book of quotations (if those things exist).

  13. Lou

    The real trick is, as some have observed, understanding how you are being viewed by the ones around you. Intent may influence things but if you are being viewed as an arrogant douche, it doesn’t matter what is your intent.

    As such, the arrogant person is one who either refuses to examine his surroundings (or doesn’t care).

    1. B

      Read them all and this one did it for me! Thank you for your insight :)

  14. Per Mogensen

    You should read Jeremy Sherman’s blog, he has a lot to say about ambiguous concepts like these. Here’s his latest post on confidence:

    To me confidence is proactive, arrogance is reactive. We all make both proactive and reactive choices, and I think we are all confident and arrogant in various ways, the question is whether it is appropriate for the situation?

  15. Joe

    You don’t say “try and be of use.” It is “try TO be of use.”


  16. Joe

    Scott – I was making a joke about your whole premise. Sure, it was a grammatical mistake, but I was just being a wiseass.

  17. Mike Nitabach

    All of these definitions sound good. An important corollary to each is that confident people are always seeking out others who possess knowledge/talents/skills they lack, while arrogant people are avoiding them.

  18. Paul Baranowski

    Why do you want to know the difference? What will knowing the difference allow you to do?

    Arrogance is a form of insecurity. An arrogant person will beat themselves up internally for a perceived mistake or blame someone else for a perceived mistake, or both. The arrogant person desperately wants something to hold on to because they feel like they don’t matter or they feel that they cannot trust others(or any number of other reasons). They see themselves as separate and independent from others. They tend to believe in perfection, which has the downside that it is an unattainable goal. Because of their drive for security, they often become very skilled at something in hopes of getting the security they desire. But their behaviors only serve to reinforce the feeling of insecurity(e.g. blame), and the feedback loop continues indefinitely. To get out of this mental pattern requires a lot of voluntary emotional work and the guidance of a skilled therapist or spiritual teacher. If the person is not willing to change, there is very little that can be done to change their point of view.

    A confident person understands their strengths and their shortcomings accurately. They will not view experiences as mistakes or successes, only feedback. They will help teach and mentor someone if something needs to be changed, without laying any blame. They see themselves as interdependent with other people, and understand that their own happiness is dependent upon the happiness of others. Thus they take care of the people around them. A confident person acts out of love and compassion for other and themselves. They know how to take care of their mind and their body. Their actions create more security for themselves and others around them and thus they feel solid and stable. They have the capacity to embrace others and their weaknesses, even arrogant people, and accept them without judgment.

    I just want to point out that both confidence and arrogance are states of mind and not permanent characteristics of a person. Confidence is a state of mind that comes from understanding oneself, which can accomplished through any number of well known methods (and there are many levels of understanding yourself). Arrogance as a state of mind comes from mental patterns generated from the feeling of insecurity, as well as the actions that unknowingly generate an insecure life.

    1. Eric

      You may be right Paul. Maybe you are one of those lucky people who is just naturally confident. I am not one of those people. After struggling with insecurity and shyness for far too long, I ended up overcompensating and becoming rather arrogant. Part of my attempt to rectify this has been to define the differences in such a way as to assist in my efforts to consciously alter my state to something that has never come naturally. Additionally, working to avoid the pitfalls often inherent in arrogance has already proven useful in my daily life and interactions with friends and family. Hopefully, this helps you understand why the distinction is so critical, at least for me.

      1. Wu Jinghang

        I can identify with this so much. Putting in words exactly how I feel.

      2. B

        Then perhaps try letting go of perceived errors in self.

        Confidence comes from success in doing something.
        Arrogance is a low view of ones self overcompensated.

        Hence: confidence is built and arrogance is acted.

        Bruce Lee didn’t need to convince you, or himself for that matter, that he was going to whoop some ass. He knew he was going to.
        Why? Because he repeatedly succeeded doing something.

        Someone above posted that confidence and arrogance change depending on the situation. I wholeheartedly agree.

        You can be confident chopping tomatoes. And really unconfident riding your bike.

        Arrogance comes from thinking you’ve achieved it all because of your success.

        Confidence is knowing that you’re not where you are because you’re special. But because you worked at something and that if anyone else put in the time you did, they could to.

        Always remember, there’s someone better than you at everything you know how to do. And the best part is, it’s okay :) Your skills don’t define your worth on the planet. They define your worth to someone else. So be a champ and keep crafting the best version on yourself.

        I’m going to bed now!


    2. John Dahlquist

      True words indeed Paul as swordsmanship student I’ve always sharpened myself to the point where i can cut anything. I know my own weakness but overcome them as we have no limits.

  19. Terry Bleizeffer

    Arrogant people and confident people both hold strongly held opinions. The difference is simple… if I agree with the opinion, they’re confident… I I disagree with the opinion, they’re arrogant.


    1. Eric

      I fear you are often right Terry (no offense, but I really hope you are wrong!). Your comment is similar to a discussion I have had before regarding open-mindedness: your mind is open if you already agree with me or I change your mind, but closed if you disagree with me and refuse to acknowledge the fact that I am right. The real trouble for me with both of these is the nature of the path one takes to get there. Each step seems so logical that I often don’t even think to question the result once I arrive there, making it monumentally difficult to change the behavior.

  20. Jim

    I’m counting myself to the confident persons ^^

    But from time to time I feel like a arrogant person actually has her/his good sides as well, e.g. when a long bargaining process is not coming to an end, an arrogant person can move mountains.

    Where would Steve Jobs be without his arrogance? I guess he’s the most arrogant person there is?

    Arrogance can instill motivation and a sense of challenge in others… most of the of course arrogance is just bad.

  21. charity fuzessy

    A confident person to me is someone that likes themselves and believes in the equality of people. That everyone is worthy of love and beautiful. A person that is arrogant in my oppinion believes they are better then other people…and more entittled to love and things then others because they are more favored and more special then other people.

    1. Marion K

      Well, in this case we should not show any love or kindness to anyone or praise someone either, as according to your theory that will only create more arrogance in them. Also, why are there so many competitions in the world then and all the media starts talking mostly about the nr. 1? The enablers are just as bad in my opinion who might ruin a perfectly fine person’s character by praising them too much then. I’m a bit confused, but I guess I can understand with more explanation… :)

  22. Joe

    Both are perceived opinions others form. If you come across as either arrogant or confident it is and is not your fault. Many who are insecure place labels of “arrogance” on others who are confident. Hence the confident person is not arrogant….you are just insecure.
    The truth is that a confident person is one walks in reality. Humility is walking in reality. If you don`t know then you just don`t know. Nothing irritates a confident person more than a blind idiot who acts like he knows.

    1. Eric

      It might not be your fault but ignoring the results of your behavior can be dangerous. I have encountered extremely arrogant people whose arrogance revolved around a skill or accomplishment about which I have no knowledge or interest I am thinking of kid I knew growing up who spent years touting his rescue of Princess Peach in the first Mario Bros game, something he accomplished before anyone else we knew. While I had played the game, I place extremely little value in his accomplishment and didn’t feel at all like he had harmed my self image or confidence in any way. The fact that he beat me was not good or bad; it just didn’t matter. Nonetheless, I was able to recognize his arrogance very easily and clearly. He did something I had not and he knew more about it than I did, so he wasn’t a blind idiot or anything. Plus, his taunts had no sting since I really didn’t mind losing the battle. (I don’t like losing, but I didn’t have a Nintendo machine, as he did, and I played several sports, as he did not. Would the 100-year-old man running a marathon resent the 25-year-old who wins the whole thing or be more focused on completing the race at all? Would the winner’s jibes carry much weight with him? I guess I am saying I don’t agree with your conclusion that any label of arrogance says more about the one assigning the label. Although you are undoubtedly right sometimes, I think arrogance is definitely something that can be objectively determined. Still, reading your post will definitely make me question my motivation the next time I find myself thinking of someone as arrogant.

  23. RK who

    Somebody you do not like is arrogant while somebody you like is confident.

    1. Marion K

      I wonder if this is how Americans teach their children confidence from an early age so that American kids appear confident no matter what subject they talk about?
      Sometimes in my country people wonder about it as we kind of start having this culture from media too, but on the other hand conformity is also favored… I guess if we started to see confidence as a postitive thing in my country too (somehow arrogance (but not in kids, only accomplished people no matter in what field) seems more positive, as it is kind of beneficial to some), then this what you say will become clear to everyone. Maybe…

  24. Sue

    An arrogant person is self absorbed. A confident person is open to others.

  25. Dan S

    Arrogant people often “correct” you when they agree with you. They simply restate what you said in a different way with a tone that indicates that you were somehow wrong.

    They are actually agreeing with you but cannot overcome the compulsion to respond with a “No, it’s like this…”. This is necessary for their internal formula to work out. No exceptions allowed.

    Overconfidence is different. When it is proved that they are wrong, they admit it, shrug it off as though it were the only thing remaining that they didn’t know. The arrogant person cannot even make that concession. To do so would be to allow for the possibility that they are not superior in every way and they fear that more than anything.

  26. Joanne Arseneault

    Hello Mr. Berkun, “They might seek external validation, but they don’t depend on it to define their sense of their ability or nature..” I agree with your definitions. I would change “They might seek….” to “They welcome external….” To me, this means that if external validation comes their way, they are gracious and humble in accepting it and, at the same time, limit it’s impact on “….their sense of their ability or nature.”

  27. Sharelle

    I believe that all arrogance is, is confidence in a low self-esteem persons head. I say this from experience. I myself use to be arrogant as a front for confidence when I didn’t have any. As an arrogant person, in my head, I was the smartest, most good-looking, most successful person I knew. I couldn’t care less for others, could care less for their flaws, and I even acknowledged God as no big deal. It was my way to cope with my lack of self-esteem, because as someone already mentioned in the comments, confidence needs some type of external validation…validation I wasn’t getting at the time. Eventually and fortunately, God brought me back down to earth and allowed me to experience true confidence (THANK HEAVENS). It was then that I realized it was arrogance I had experienced a few years earlier. I guess the best way to explain arrogance is as an off balance of self-esteem. When you lack self-esteem and you’re your only motivation, its hard to find balance between confidence and humility, because anything that looks like you believe in yourself, is better than having low self-esteem.

    1. junaid

      I think the definition of arrogance is simply ”desire to be confident with lack of confidence ” when an arrogant person does something his heart’s first saying is ”i done it” and when confident person does the same thing he says “thank god” arrogant person is never able to satisfy himself even if he makes the entire mankind prostate to him while confident person always feels dignity inside.
      arrogant one always searches someone doing wrong while confidents give much preference to scan the right things….arrogant person denies the truth of his arogance while confident person checks and gets confused

      1. Marion K

        I completely agree. But I guess even arrogance was a trait created by God or at least allowed by him to happen in the world. So definitely some insecure people might seem arrogant when they do something for the first time, but I guess if there is a choice for them to grow by arrogance (which will disappear as you mentioned, after they get confident, which can only come after training a certain thing over and over again), then it is kind of good, no? Another option is for them to shut themselves out from the civilization and that might not be a good option either.

    2. Marion K

      I can totally agree with this part “anything that looks like you believe in yourself, is better than having low self-esteem.”
      But to expand on this theory, I can tell from my personal experience that when you see arrogant people getting ahead in life versus nice and polite people who only try to think about others not getting anywhere and only being stepped on, then at some point when you start thinking about protecting your (future) family, you can clearly see the benefit of at least acting arrogant (even if you don’t feel like this or even if inside you are still with low self-esteem). So, if you have low self-esteem anyways, then as a behavior the world teaches us that arrogance takes us further and we have plenty of exaples to learn this beahvior from, which is quite learnable.
      I can tell from personal experience that it’s possible to get used to yourself looking arrogant to other people, which is a bit surprising. I wonder if there’s ever going back to the previous state?

  28. Tish

    An arrogant person “thinks they are right” and puts out a put down to validate themselves.

    A confident person decides for themselves that the information source is scholorly or not.

    This being said, how do you help an arrogant person make the switch to a confident person?


  29. bafana

    I like the way you’ve analysised it. Your explanation is more understandable.

  30. bafana

    arrogance =Macbeth
    confidence =Macduff
    …if you know what I mean.

  31. Marion K

    I have a question about this sentence: “An arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid.”
    .. What if the person who feels stupid doesn’t show it? Then can you call the smart person arrogant or the arrogant person will not feel smart in this case? Or can an arrogrant person feel smart and also be smart at the same time? Or I’m reading too much into this equation perhaps…
    Thanks! :)

    1. Connor P.H.

      The thing is that an arrogant person only get`s the feeling of confidence by for example correcting others or putting themselves above others (offending others, etc).
      A confident person likes the way they are/look and only seeks approval from the outside.

  32. John Dahlquist

    As modern day practitioner of swordsmanship/warfare/martial arts/eastern beliefs. I’m submerged in this culture where the strong lead the weak by letting know their place.It’s arrogance but earned as i’m counted among the strong not master level have 100 years before that happens. Just a advance disciple,but anyways they pass their will on the next generation. Arrogance is needed in that world of martial arts/warfare it keep the world in check,from weak willed fools trying to take their place to soon.

  33. Kevin

    This is an excellent and very insightful site, with mostly helpful comments. The main reason I searched for this topic is that I’m trying to create a resume, and sometimes I think it just seems very arrogant to brag about your strengths – as every pro resume writer says you should do.

    I was once very confident in my life. I became addicted to alcohol, lost my wife, my house, and then eventually my job, and am now looking at bankruptcy.. My belief in myself was shattered, and I can say I lost all confidence in myself …to the point where I believe I was filling this emptiness up with self-pity, jealousy, and, yes, even arrogance.

    What had I truly lost, though? It wasn’t the job, or the house, or even my wife – we split amicably and are still friends to this day. I don’t usually feel very comfortable talking about religion, and I apologize to you if this makes you uncomfortable, but It was my connection with my creator, who endowed me with the gifts that I had/have, and I replaced it with beer and vodka, which only prevented me from believing in myself again.

    Two people can have exactly the same talents, and even the same personalities. The one who thinks they are a gift to man from God will be arrogant. The one who remembers that his gifts to man come from God should eventually be confident.

    Unfortunately, I’m working really hard on that, and I need to get this resume out!!

    Comments? Tips or Hints?

    1. Scott Berkun

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      Resumes are so common that we forget they are very strange documents. It’s odd to ask a person to evaluate themselves honestly, especially for a job they want. Job candidates have every reason to exaggerate, so much so that the (expected) style of language most resumes use makes it hard to figure out what the person actually did or didn’t do.

      Without discussing religion I can say that a certain level of humility is a good quality. No one wants to work with someone who is centered on themselves and believes they excel at things they do not. But on the other hand someone who is too shy or too meek to make decisions, take responsibility or take necessary risks isn’t al that good a coworker either. There’s a desirable balance, and confidence is a better tool for finding it than arrogance can ever be.

      My advice is simple: think of the person who has to read these things. If you truly have the skills they are looking for, they want your resume to make clear what you can do and that you are good at it. They’re looking for you! :)

      From your comment its clear you write well and with that skill you can describe your abilities fairly without being arrogant or presumptuous. Concision is always a good goal – if you can concisely explain the value of your experience and skill it’s far less likely you’ll come across as arrogant than if you have a 12 page four color resume. Good luck!

  34. Bill

    One word folks, you all seem wise, intelligent, so that means your smart people, smart people have an open mind, so: Take a full five minutes and research. ” high functioning autism-HFA and Aspersers’ Syndrome. Then put in perspective of what that looks like to anyone in a social or even immediate and close relationship to that individual. Whether its five minutes, or a lifetime ” friend” the term is used lightly because “Aspie’s” do not have friends by the normal definition, and this stems from their obvious lack of empathy, their loud, awkward social mannerisms; which are usually mistaken for….you guessed it….Arrogance.

    1. Scott Berkun

      I am definitely not an expert on the Aspergers scale – but I have worked with and known some people who I think probably scored highly on it. I’d describe some of those tendencies to be cold or indifferent, which isn’t quite the same as arrogant – though I see your point that in some cases it could be perceived that way.

      Seems the way out is to give feedback – “I’m experiencing this when I try to talk with you” and if both parties are mature and respectful, they can sort out what’s going on and consider ways to reduce friction regardless of the causes.

      1. Kim

        I just read an article that states we might be looking at this confidence versus arrogance binary all wrong. In fact, the author thinks that the opposite of confidence is not confident, while the opposite of arrogance is deferential.
        This hit me like a ton of bricks because that makes a lot of sense from what I’ve seen with Aspies. My husband of over 10 years is Aspie, and early on I was always accusing him of being arrogant. Actually, he wasn’t being arrogant; he “failed” at being deferential, he wasn’t taking into consideration my feelings when he would talk about a subject he knew a lot about. He is confident, not arrogant. Duh, Kim!!! ;-) For people with ASD or Asperger’s, arrogance/deference is a difficult distinction to make because they have so much difficulty putting themselves into other people’s shoes, so to speak. It is considered a social deficit common to the spectrum (but over the years, I have appreciated his frankness and cutting-through-the-crap kind of responses).
        I realize also that I’ve always had low self-esteem which has made me arrogant sometimes, and at other times a complete doormat. Sometimes I’ve been arrogant, in the workplace mostly, because I feel like it’s the only way for me to “pump myself up” to seeming confident and self-assured. For example, mostly I’ve been the type that wants to do everything the “right way”, myself. Thankfully, I’m in therapy now…

    2. Ms Caring

      An ASPIE is VERY different from a sociopath who cares not a f*** at all. Sociopaths 4% population…1 in 25…3/4s male…really couldn’t care a f*** for anyone…family, friends, partners…NO-ONE…that’s arrogance….but, they can damn well pretend when it’s necessary. It’s a spectrum from psychopathic serial killers…to corporate couldn’t-care less money makers or religious high runners. I KNOW Aspie’s FEEL…they just find it hard to pickup on other people’s emotions, at times.
      The initial explanation for arrogance vs confidence is right…An arrogant person only feels smart if someone else feels stupid! U pick it up in their sarcasm & never out to really help anyone. A sociopath can have a real HIGH IQ, gone to Uni & all that stuff…but sadly…NO emotional IQ….that’s the big difference. I believe every arrogant person U meet…is possibly a sociopath.

      1. Kim

        I think It’s dangerous to say that sociopaths have no emotional IQ in the sense that they can’t relate to others. Sociopaths are often very adept at charming others, especially to get what they want. What they lack is true empathy, but they can be good at feigning it. This distinction is important to make because we need to be able to recognize sociopaths in our midst, and avoid them.

  35. Donna

    I am an African American woman. I bring this up because I was raised in a conservative, paternalistic environment and I was taught not to brag on myself. I learned that humility does not bode well in all professions. Over the years people who have tried to minimize me by referring to me as arrogant and I have learned to embrace the term because the term is subjective and depends on who is observing and who is being observed. Arrogance is nothing more than an opinion of one person about the behavior of another. I refuse to allow the opinions that others have about me to carry more weight than my own opinion. Some might conclude I am confident, some arrogant, but that is their issue. I have never met anyone I think of as arrogant. I am more fact based. I don’t bother with what people “think” they know. You either know or you don’t. In my profession, it is either works or it does not.

    Yes, I admit that mediocrity frustrates me and I don’t feel obligated to read a book and provide cliff notes to people who don’t want to read the book themselves. Yes, I do push back when my ideas are dismissed as if they are not as valuable as the ideas of others, or when the errors of a teammate threaten the quality of my work product. Arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. I have found that friends and co-workers who have similar work ethics, don’t find me arrogant, enjoy my company and working with me and in some instances, staff and coworkers have followed me when I switched jobs. Those who found me arrogant remain comfortably in the same position.

    I found the comments as interesting as the article.

  36. Blake

    Great articles and insights.

    It seems that the times I get called arrogant or “You just think your better then everyone else” is from people that are not that confident and have little life experiences or successes. With these folks it is hard for me to just share in a conversation some things I have done and or accomplished so I try and sit quietly so I do not upset or come across as better or “Oh, this is WHAT I did”!.

    The folks that never call me arrogant are folks that are successful, have done a lot in life, their knowledgeable and we can talk about a broad range of topics.

    I find that if people have different life experiences, choices and successes will dictate how others see you as Confident, Arrogant and or Humble. I feel everyone should be secure in what they have done in their lives, one thing a persons decides may seem crazy to another but boring to someone else!

    You should not talk down to people or up to people or feel threatened by others life choices just surround yourself with like minded people and you may avoid this, what I call, a Trap, to bring you down by someone that feels they have been less then but then truly do not they just have different life choices.

    I do know that when the people that I know call me arrogant, I personally know that their lives are a mess and have had many bad life choices.

    Bad choices are a learning tool not a life sentence.

    So that’s my Arrogant, Confident or Humble Opinion…..? ;>)
    Sorry for the bad grammar and punctuation and probly spelling . lol

  37. Gravity

    Some of you mistake NPD (narcissistic traits which are result of low-selfworth) as arrogance, for example Sometimes Im cocky with women… Im arrogant but Im also humble empathetic and carring I dont insist on being always right and I can admit when I made a mistake and when I didnt acted as my true-self but out of my ego. Some times Im hard on others because I think this is the only way they can snap out and take responsibility when Im addressing other men to stop being needy children in theyr early 30s by being hard on them, with the intention this will have an effect for them to man up, snap back to reality and stop blaming outside sources as excuses for theyr own misery. Does that make me arrogant ?

  38. Katrina

    I don’t think there is a distinction between the two. If you are confident, you will be perceived as arrogant. Society has not leveled up to being able to distinguish the two. I get called arrogant all the time for simply saying good things about myself, despite the fact that the good things I say about myself are never trying to negate anyone else’s accomplishments. People see humility as good, arrogance as bad (and, in turn, confidence as bad). And as much as people say that confidence is a good trait, they basically mean “be confident but be quiet about it.” You can be confident but never, ever show it, lest you be arrogant. It’s hugely hypocritical. It’s like other people are turned off if you say something nice about yourself. You must always be negative or self-deprecating to be seen as a good person. We live in a society where we are expected to be confident but told to hide it.

  39. Leem

    PErhaps it is easier to see confidenc as something that stems from external validation – we know we are good at something because we have the experience and have seen the results of applying the skills we learn, we have external reference points that confirm achievement and that we can check our “inner knowing” against, outin the shared external reality world. Arrogance would be internally checked – measured according to personal belief or psychological habit, perhaps accompanied by rejection of data from shared external reality. Believing that “attitude is everything and i can do anything” doesn’t get us far past “i feel better thinking great things about myself” and woe if it leads to “i reject any evidence that counters this internal belief. So arrogance would be internally measured assessments, confidence would be verifiable externally. Whether or not we can act with humility really depends on being sure we’re not making things up and also not using our achievements to put other people down.

  40. Devon

    To me arrogance is when you have an inflated sense of your own competence in whatever area is relevant to the situation. For example, a confident person has a realistic view of their intelligence as compared to others and is confident when exercising their actual intellectual abilities. An arrogant person would tend to think they’re smarter than everyone whether they are or not, and ignores evidence to the contrary.



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