Do you consider the fine line between being teachable and arrogant? I love to listen to small children share enthusiastic accounts about something they learned or they discovered. It is cute to watch the younger ones compensate with body language when they cannot find the right word.

Like children, we enjoy the discovery of learning and the joy of problem solving. Learning is a natural motivator. Most people seek cognitive challenge. It encourages performance and dampens boredom. Learning is especially fun when we share it with others. However, there is a fine line between sharing what we know and becoming arrogant.

The challenge with arrogance is that we never seem to see it in ourselves. I think all of us project arrogance at one time or another. It may not even be a case of true arrogance, but a judgment by an insecure person based upon their unwarranted perception of us.

I remember a vivid example where my shy demeanor was mistaken as stuck-up arrogance. I was a high school junior. I was part of a small team responsible for producing our school newspaper. I was a bit intimidated by one member of our team. She was blonde, cute, quiet, and smart. Of course, I did not engage her in conversation. Finally, toward the end of the year, she confronted me with her assertion regarding my arrogance. I was shocked! I was thinking the same thing about her!

Arrogance is one thing I want to avoid either by action or by perception. As a person who loves learning, I need to guard against it. Here are some ideas I use to help guard against arrogance?

  • Work on developing an attitude of appreciation and gratitude toward yourself and your circumstances. Most people forget life’s blessings. It is important to feel good about our contributions as long as it does not go to our heads.
  • Consider your view of the other person. Ask yourself if you other people with respect and dignity. If you see yourself as superior, you will probably come across as arrogant.
  • Identify any immaturity¬†you are hiding and address the root cause. It is tempting to compensate for immature or feelings of inferiority. This often times leads to a persona of arrogance.
  • Develop a propensity to listen before responding to the other person. Quiet listeners come across as wiser and less arrogant compared to those who like to talk.
  • Ask more questions before you make assumptions. Take the time to understand all the relevant facts. If people feel that you understand them, they will seldom view you as arrogant.
  • Share what others need to hear, not everything you know. Pay attention to the context and environment of the conversation and discern if what you have to say is appropriate.
  • Ask a trusted and honest friend or group leader their opinion about how you come across. Encourage them to be transparent with you by sharing why you are concerned about being seen as arrogant. Simply thank them for their input without making excuses for your behavior.

I believe the best prevention against arrogance is maintaining a teachable attitude. If we seek to learn from others, without making judgments or adding commentary, we will not come across as an arrogant know-it-all. The danger is that the more we learn, the more we have to offer. The more we offer the more risk appearing arrogant. There is a fine line between being teachable and being arrogant.

How do you keep arrogance in control? How do you deal with the arrogance of others?

The Fine Line between Being Teachable and Arrogant
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