Posted on April 23, 2021 · Posted in Blog, General, Memo Plus Gold, Personal

Of all of the tendencies that diminish the quality of our relationships, few, if any, are as damaging as that of arrogance. Arrogant as defined by the American heritage dictionary comes from “arrogate” which means “to appropriate for oneself, presumptuously; to claim without right” and “to be overly convinced of one’s own importance.” One of the unfortunate consequences of arrogance is that people who are guilty of possessing this trait often have no awareness of it and when confronted by feedback that suggests that they may be grabbing more ground than they are actually entitled to, often become highly defensive and even combative, which ironically demonstrates that they probably are.


Not surprisingly, when arrogance shows up in a relationship it can be a conversation-stopper since it is likely that there will be an insufficient willingness for the arrogant party to loosen their grip on whatever it is that they are committed to being right about. Arrogance is often an expression of a desire to avoid being ridiculed, punished, or controlled by others by whom one feels threatened.


It is a commonly held belief that if you do not contest or disagree with another perspective that you are implicitly agreeing with it. This is, however, not necessarily true. Not arguing or trying to invalidate another’s point of view with your own does not constitute agreement. When you respond to arrogance with a counter-position it almost always results in an inflammation of the tension and antagonism between the two parties. Rather than trying to invalidate or discredit another point of view or the person holding it, a response that can be more productive is to simply acknowledge the other’s perspective, even it is spoken as a fact rather than an opinion, and resisting the temptation to “win” the argument. A conversation can only deteriorate into an argument if both parties are trying to convert each other to their point of view.


Aggressive strategies that are driven by the desire to ‘defeat’ the other person and strategies that are designed to accommodate and tolerate arrogance or disrespect are both doomed to fail. Although the vulnerability that is present in a non-reactive response to arrogance can enhance the likelihood of greater mutual trust and understanding, this result is not always the outcome of all encounters with arrogance. When your partner says that he or she is not interested in hearing your point of view, you can respond by asking them to let you know under what conditions they might be, since it is important to you to feel that there is some degree of care and concern about your perspective. It is not about who is “right” but rather it is about being heard, respected, and understood. When these conditions are met, a mutual understanding can usually be worked out.


In dealing with arrogance, as with so many of the other “learning opportunities” that relationships offer, Gandhi’s advice to “be the change you want to see in the world” or in this case, “in your relationship,” most definitely applies. The quality that we may most need to cultivate in ourselves if we are to influence another’s arrogance is its exact opposite; that is, humility. There is, of course, no guarantee that your partner will immediately thank you for enlightening them through your example and drop their defensiveness and open their heart to you. That may take another go-round or maybe two, or more. But if you make your best effort and do what you know is the right thing, you will have the comfort of knowing that you gave it your best shot and at the very least, you did not become part of the problem. Plus, who among us could not use a bit more humility in our lives? So regardless of the outcome, something positive will be gained.

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