When it comes to how people talk about themselves and their gifts, talents, or accomplishments, I find that most fall into one of two camps: 1) they don’t, because they feel like they’re showing off or bragging if they acknowledge their excellence in any area, or 2) they shout it from the rooftops and all points in between—to the point where they make your skin crawl.
Case in point, I was spying on other business owners doing some competitive research earlier today, when I came across a website that got my attention. The business owner, a writer, talked about how he was a “rock star” at what he did. Lest we doubt that the blood of Bono runs through his veins, he provided plenty of social proof—testimonials from happy clients—were sprinkled in between every few lines of website copy. I was caught up in his flow, bobbing along wave upon wave of hyped-up text, when suddenly, I choked on the following phrase: “My brilliance is unmatched.”
Okay, now that you’ve finished choking, let’s carefully consider this phrase and discuss why it’s not only untrue and not confident, but obnoxious.
Your unique and perfect gift
Each of us was born with a unique gift or talent, something we do that—although second nature for us—blows the socks right off people who witness us do it. It might be singing or playing sports, acting or solving complex math problems. For me, it’s writing. But here’s the thing: neither you nor I am the only person on the planet who has this gift; there are millions of gifted singers, athletes, actors, mathematicians and writers. But it’s something about the way we do what we do that makes people take notice.
Our gift might make us awesome, or amazingly talented, or absolutely brilliant in some respect. But that awesomeness or talent or brilliance is not unmatched. Unmatched means, simply put, that no one on earth is as brilliant in a particular area as we. No one.
The writer in the example above didn’t get this. In using this phrase to describe his talent, he thought he was showing how superbly confident he is in his work. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sound confident. He sounds like an arrogant ass. Which brings me to my next point: do you know the difference between confidence and arrogance?
Confidence v. arrogance
Confidence sounds like this: “I am a highly intuitive writer. I really listen to my clients, so I can find the underlying message in their story. Clients say I read minds, but I know I just listen. Plus, I’m meticulously detailed, work super fast, and have never missed a deadline. I’m sure I’d be an asset to a high-production, high-stress business like yours.”
Confidence basically says we can all get along. It says that I can let my light shine, yet still appreciate yours, because I know it takes all types of people to make success happen. I don’t have to make myself feel “more than” or make you feel “less than” in order to do my best work or prove I have value.
Arrogance, on the other hand, sounds like this: “I’m the best there is. Look at my work. You need my unmatched brilliance.”
Arrogance is the bastard stepchild of collaborative creation. It’s based on me. Me. Me. Me. Did I mention that it’s based on me? I don’t care what your real issue is. He-lloo? The real issue here? It’s me.
Now, it’s your turn. Think about your own communication style and ask yourself, are you truly confident, or are you arrogant? Has your confidence ever been mistaken for arrogance? Do you refrain from talking about your achievements for fear that others will think you’re arrogant?
Let us hear your thoughts about confidence versus arrogance, in the comments below.