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The Ultimate Secret for Career Success: Portraying Confidence Minus the Arrogance

written by: Matthew Craig•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 7/14/2011

Are you confidently arrogant or arrogantly confident? How about both? Some people don't understand the difference between portraying confidence and portraying arrogance. If you fit into this category, it's time to stop alienating your peers. Confidence doesn't have to be cocky.

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    Goodbye Arrogance, Hello Confidence

    Everyone can spot the "know it all." They rattle off the latest stats with ease, typically don't respond well to criticism, and make you feelconfidence 1  your information or suggestions don't matter. It probably goes beyond being the "know it all." Another word that comes to mind is arrogance.

    Most arrogant (not confident) people are compensating for a lack of confidence or other inadequacies. Nothing new here. Surprisingly, the confident among us are usually mistaken for being arrogant. Here's the real problem: how can head strong, Type A and otherwise decent people display true confidence without arrogance at work? That's the million dollar question.

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    Attitude vs. Ability

    The popular poet, Maya Angelou, is known for saying: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Tuck this quote away for future use.

    No one cares how much you know, what college you went to or how much better your solution is, if you don't know how to speak to humans. Tigers growl at each other; people speak. Most languages have millions of words for a reason. Your co-workers have automatic "off-buttons" when someone doesn't approach them like a human being. Yes, facts are facts and what you're saying might be superior, but people tend to listen to approachable people. Confidence means having the respect of your peers, which means things can be said in a respectful way.

    Motivational speaker and business coach, John Maxwell, said something interesting: "If you fancy yourself to be leader, it's wise to turn around every know and then. Otherwise you're just a person taking a walk." If you think yourself to be confident and no one listens to you, its time to re-evaluate your definition of confidence. Attitude is everything when dealing with people.

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    Real vs. Fake - You Can't Have Both

    OK, so you've decided to work with people and show a confident attitude. The smile is ready. Speech and handshake all polished. Somehow you've got it in your head that people are stupid, and they won't be able to see through your corporate schmooze and woo act. The goal should not be a lack of arrogance... rather a force of confidence. Hence the word force, not show. Everyone has their favorite reality show -- they don't need another one at work. Confidence doesn't mean trying to make friends with everyone or get certain people on your side. Also, confidence is not the ability to "convince" people of what you believe. True and sincere confidence comes from being yourself and guiding people towards a larger goal.

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    Mistakes Are Allowed. . . Sometimes

    Most people don't want to work with careless co-workers, or people who can't get the job done. This is understood. Its OK to be wrong, every now and then. Arrogance is never wrong. Confidence knows harrogant 1 ow to own up to mistakes. As the saying goes, "it's only a mistake if you do it twice." Forgot to send the attachment? Don't make an excuse in the next email. No reason to rush down and offer some concocted defense and blame your inept secretary. Arrogant people love excuses and are good at crafting them. Again, show real confidence and accept responsibility.

    A great way to build respect and drop the arrogant label, is when someone brings a mistake to your attention. They'll be watching closely to see how you react and deal with your mistakes. This is a great opportunity to build trust and say something like, "Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It's important I correct this and get it fixed... Oh by the way, how is your project going?" Check out the two important aspects of this response. 1.) Ownership of the problem, and, 2.) Interest in what they have to saying and doing.

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    Be a Coalition Builder

    There's a reason why leadership is mixed in with confidence. "I can do it myself," is a common pattern of the arrogant. Want a real way to show confidence minus the arrogance? Form teams and bring people together. Collaboration is not something people generally do naturally. It takes someone with real confidence, and a desire to work with people, to help others work together and form effective collaborations.

    Believe it or not, there's no better pathway to success than to show you form partnerships and alliances. There's also no better way to open up doors for meeting people and managerial positions than to be a confident leader. Again, confidence has a ton to do with leading people vs. treating people. Most people expect to be treated well. Show confidence without arrogance and do both. Surprise them, will you?

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    Author's own experience

    Image Credits: Both Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos