Random Harvest 4 : Musings On Arrogance

Most of us will have come up against this kind of behaviour from others, especially if we’ve stood up for who we are and what we believe in. It can come from anyone at anytime. It can be a sudden and unexpected sharp little barb just slipped into a reply in a conversation making an attack on you personally, but going unnoticed by others, where you have to decide whether to challenge it or not. Or it can be a full blown reactive interchange where you openly challenge the arrogance and create an uncomfortable atmosphere where people say later on ‘You shouldn’t have risen to the bait. That’s what they wanted. You shouldn’t have made a show of yourself.’

Now I’ve experienced both of these scenarios because my radar for arrogance has been finely tuned from my late teens onwards. And just look at all these synonyms and meanings that encompass it:

haughtiness, conceit, hubris, self-importance, egotism, sense of superiority;
pomposity, high-handedness, swagger, boasting, bumptiousness, bluster, condescension, disdain, contempt, imperiousness;
pride, vanity, immodesty;
loftiness, lordliness, snobbishness, snobbery, superciliousness, smugness;
pretension, pretentiousness, affectation;
scorn, mocking, sneering, scoffing;
presumption, insolence;
uppitiness, big-headedness

That’s quite a big crowd of arrogant behaviours to potentially be subject to. Now when I was a young woman I reacted to it, I argued back with whoever it was behaving like this, and in my case, it was usually a man. I challenged them, because I’d adopted this pattern of learned behaviour to deal with a bullying arrogant uncle, married to my father’s sister, who picked on me in one way or another for years, while the aunt just let him. (Needless to say, neither of them are on my radar now). So when I got older, I would react on autopilot…not considering any  more measured form of behaving or employing alternative tactics. After all, they needed to be stood up to, didn’t they? Someone had to do it, otherwise ‘these people’ would think they could get away with it. If other people wanted to behave like sheep and not make a show of themselves, not upset the social niceties and wanted to cluster together in ineffectual capitulation, and just bleat and  complain about it afterwards, then that was up to them, but they had no right to expect me to join them. Case closed.

But later on, I began to see how meeting the arrogant behaviour with hostility just fuelled the behaviour. I’ll give you an little example. I was working in a department store as a sales assistant within a soft furnishing department and the staff on this department were usually female. It was just after 5pm one day, a little after finishing time with the cashing up having been done and the main lights snuffed, and this angry man strode in after closing time demanding to know why his curtain order wasn’t ready – I suspect his wife had asked him to call in after work. There were about four of us lady assistants still there after hours for him to vent his anger onto and he did so, talking down to us, using disrespectful tones, and assuming we would take it because, after all, we were staff, and the customer is always right is widely known to be one of the etched-in-stone ‘holy’ commandments within customer service. Not only that, but I think he thought he could do it because we were women. When it was explained to him by my assistant manager why his order wasn’t ready, he insisted upon seeing the manager (another woman) and when we explained she wasn’t there, he demanded to know her name. He was red in the face by now, and no one replied to him to answer his question. My assistant manager fell silent. I could sense my colleagues holding back out of fear, wariness, whatever you want to call it. He was subduing/oppressing four women with his behaviour and I reacted. I told him our lady manager’s name and spelled the surname to him. Why spell it? Because it was an unusual spelling, and we often clarified it for customers who asked under more genial circumstances. But it must have been the way I said it – matter-of-factly, boldly, no messing, and looking him directly in the eye, because he turned on his heels and left without a word.

And that wasn’t the end of it. The next day, he complained to the store manager about my attitude. We wore name badges, so he’d been able to identify  me there and then. I was shocked that he had calculatingly read my name badge on the spot during the exchange and had immediately formulated a plan of revenge – going to the big man at the top (and that is how the head store manager was viewed in this hierarchical environment). Well my assistant manager stood by me, explaining what had happened and that the man had been very rude, and in turn my manager was supportive too. So I got let off by the big man, who apparently, I was told, could have easily sacked me. I was safe, but I was warned to be more careful in the future. How did I feel about the incident afterwards? I felt I’d had no choice but to stand up to his sexist and oppressive arrogance. But I also had a sense of victory that he hadn’t succeeded in getting me sacked.

And this is where the rock musician, Prince, comes in.

In this tiny clip he has this great expression of not suffering fools – and I can totally identify with it. Of course he oozes arrogance himself here, and he was pretty arrogant in real life, but he knew his own worth and protected it up to the hilt. So his expression is one of disdain for, let’s say,  idiots, as he sees them, but he is also walking away, and walking away is a very powerful thing to do. So this demonstrates a second behavioural method of dealing with arrogance – just walk away and that arrogant behaviour has nowhere to be channelled. The challenging arrogance is left seething.

The third way of handling arrogance is the most subtle. Firstly it involves  an understanding of where the arrogance may be coming from within the person, and secondly, learning how to respond to it in a constructive rather than destructive way. I learned this for myself within a couple of role plays on my counselling course. I think role plays are an incredibly powerful way of learning about human behaviour. In this case, we were asked to consider what kinds of people or behaviours we personally would find it hard to tolerate or listen to effectively. What would press our buttons? My own button to be pressed was arrogance, and we had to go off and role play our chosen behaviour for ourselves, in this case with me creating and acting like an arrogant character, disdaining the counselling process as having any value in my own special case whatsoever, with my partnering student being the counsellor trying to placate me. So I set about it, losing my temper, standing up and looking down on the counsellor (literally and figuratively) and having fun for a little while, but I was soon feeling something I hadn’t expected. And as my student ‘counsellor’ remained seated and talked calmly, I felt an insecurity build inside my character…I sensed the putting on of a front to save face, using a narrow-minded constructed method of survival to protect my ego from being hurt, and so going on the offensive. And as the counsellor continued to stay calm and reasonable, and not retaliate to the aggressive behaviour coming from me, my defensive armour began to fall away. I began to feel a little stupid, and as I sat down at eye level again, I found myself more willing to be sensibly practical and more amenable. My fellow student was dealing with the arrogance and heat of emotion in an assertive way, not the kind of assertiveness that bites back (that isn’t assertiveness at all really), but that remains calm in the face of fire and helps to take the heat out of the situation. So ever since then I’ve been more circumspect about arrogance and I contemplate the person in question. I ask myself what may be going on inside them or in their lives which might explain their protective behaviour, and then I consider what response seems most appropriate, rather than to immediately go on the attack.

Can creative people be arrogant? Yes, they absolutely can. An example from this week. Writers who think a lot of themselves may criticise a fellow group member’s grammar in a facebook group engagement. I saw this happen this week concerning someone who’d been bullied in this way being invited to hop over to ‘our’ far more friendly group, with great repudiation towards the offending group. If criticising grammar in other writers’ ‘off the cuff’ posts isn’t small-minded and arrogant, I don’t know what is. And artists can be arrogant too, in believing that their kind of art is superior to other styles and subjects – I’ve seen plenty of this for myself over the years. But it really is no way to be for one’s own sake and for the sake of fellow creatives. We should support each other, not create snobby divisions.

Some fitting quotes on the qualities of arrogance:

Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Arrogance is being full of yourself, feeling you’re always right, and believing your accomplishments or abilities make you better than other people. People often believe arrogance is excessive confidence, but it’s really a lack of confidence. Arrogant people are insecure, and often repel others. Truly confident people feel good about themselves and attract others to them.   (Christie Hartman)

Arrogance diminishes wisdom. (Arabian Proverb)

Arrogance is a self-defence tactic to disguise insecurities.   (Caroll Michel)

Arrogance is an illusion of superiority one perpetrates upon their self. Some may ultimately find their way through the illusion, but only after many losses. (Debra Crown)

Arrogance makes you stronger from outside, but even weaker from inside. (Ujas Soni)

How great some people would be if they were not arrogant. (The Talmud)

An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – becoming a better person. (Leo Tolstoy)

And as they say in counselling circles, we’ll leave it there for today, shall we?

(Prince gif from Giphy.com, which I’ve been yearning to find a use for!)















About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: lynnefisher.wordpress.com Art: lynnehenderson.co.uk Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnefisherheadtoheadhearttoheart/ Artists page Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynnehendersonartist/
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15 Responses to Random Harvest 4 : Musings On Arrogance

  1. A really interesting read, Lynne. I share your dislike of being patronised by rude condescending men. Unfortunately I tend to either freeze up or get defensive and bite back, which as you rightly say isn’t always the best way of handling it. I’ve also noticed a certain arrogance in literary circles, especially people who make fun of genre authors and their readers. I do think a lot of it stems from insecurity. If you’re confident in your own tastes, why should you care what other people like to read or write?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A.P. says:

    I think I like the third way. The second way doesn’t always work because you can’t always walk away from the arrogant person. The third way is the most challenging but it also has the most substance.

    I’ve been called arrogant, by the way, throughout my life and have always been somewhat baffled and depressed by this categorization. I think of myself as a very insecure person with an excessive need to prove himself, and it is possible that in trying so hard to prove myself, I come across as arrogant without knowing it.

    When I asked my pastor why people think I’m arrogant, he immediately replied that it’s because I think a lot and draw a many conclusions on my own; so that then when a certain subject comes up, I’ll begin to pontificate about it, as though I were an authority, without letting the others get their words in edgewise.

    I was astonished by this analysis. What actually goes on in my head when I’m “talking too much” is this incredible self-consciousness that somehow translates into my not being able to find a period at the end of any particular sentence. The quiet Introverts (like my pastor) “clam up” when self-conscious. We chatty introverts turn into babbling fools when self-conscious. (Just ask my ex-wife.)

    Again, an outstanding, thought-provoking post. I’m re-posting on Twitter and Google Plus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks for sharing Andy. Well I identified with Princes’s reaction all too easily, the sneer of disdain (probably got that from my father who didn’t suffer ‘fools’). I have one of those looks but I don’t really do it in public at the time of the challenging behaviour. I know what you mean about babbling on, once the thoughts have begun to be vocalised…everyone suddenly listening and you don’t know where to stop. I can empathise with the coming across as arrogant with this ‘spiel’ of heartfelt externalising.

      However it is worth questioning why people take this as arrogance. Is it because they can’t share that fervour? Is it because they don’t know their own mind or haven’t considered your topics before and feel adrift? Is the reason they can’t get a word in because they don’t interrupt (which I would do) or just don’t know how to contribute to the discussion and feel a little silly and unassertive? In all these cases their natural defences can so easily turn to calling that person arrogant. My hubby and I were once invited round to this bigwig’s garden next door to where we were living to play a grass game – I can’t remember what it was. But my hubby set to sorting out how to play it because of their confusion, he kind of took the lead (INTJ) and the guy next to me says ‘he’s a bit of a smart arse, isn’t he?’ So you see what I mean?

      So if I were you I’d try to simply stay true to myself irregardless…and by the way, you’ve never come across as arrogant to me whatsoever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A.P. says:

        Yes, I think it is a good idea to question one’s assessment of another as “arrogant,” especially if the other person knows in their heart hat they do *not* consider themselves in any way superior or authoritative.

        There might be something involving the “pace” of the conversation. Many people think and act a lot slower than I do, not that this is good or bad, just that their natural clocks are slower than mine. Relative perceptions of time may slowed, such that what to them is a “short pause” seems to me to be a “long pause.”

        So, to me it seems that during the “long pause” they don’t have anything to say on the matter. So nervously, I continue — since I do have something more to say. It’s possible that I am continuing before giving them the “chance” to say anything, because they might have spoken, had I waited just a fraction of a second longer.

        So all this stuff has nothing to do with genuine arrogance, but only the perception thereof. It seems to me that real arrogance involves “expressions” that indicate some kind of disregard for the opinions of others, or at least an idea that we are not on an equal playing ground. I am certain my expressions are not caustic but rather warm and cheerful, smiling, chuckling, and in every way accommodating the other person. But I’m just faster, and perhaps more nervous, since after all it is a social interaction — and this is not my strong point.

        In other words, when I meet somebody who behaves as I do in conversation, I personally don’t view that behavior as “arrogant.” But I suppose I asked my pastor, and he gave an honest answer. It also seemed something he had thought about before, judged by the readiness with which he supplied the answer. It might be worthwhile to get a second opinion.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynnefisher says:

        Nicely thought out, Andy. I know what you mean about the length of pauses – I probably do as you do. And similarly, unless those expressions of disdain are there to see, I don’t judge anyone who talks a good deal or ruminates out loud as arrogant at all. It has to be something in their manner that crosses the line into arrogance that twitches my arrogance detecting antannae!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I found this fascinating Lynne, and one of the reasons I haven’t got back to you yet is the mayhem someone’s arrogance is, and has been, creating in my life – more on that later…
    Funnily enough as I was writing my next blog I mention that I played a wonderfully arrogant and stupid Lady Catherne de Burgh in the school play of Pride and Prej…
    I was very intrigued with your role playing of arrogance, but wondered if it would apply to all cases of arrogance,… in the experience I’ve been having, I find it hard to imagine the other is insecure, knowing the cherished childhood he had…
    I read the synonyms carefully, and was fascinated by how many aspects of arrogance there are – and they all ring true . I counted twelve that apply in the situation I’ve been coping with !!!
    Your blustering bully in the shop sounded a shocker !!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you Valerie. I did wonder whether because I’m not naturally arrogant I quickly saw the insecurity in it. I suspect for a naturally arrogant person those layers would take some peeling away, more so if they’ve led a very priviliged life filled with the same kinds of people and similar values and never had their world unduly disturbed to shake them up a bit or question themselves – it can probably be deeply entrenched where any challenging from someone is merely a fly to be swatted.

      On a bike ride round here a few years ago, I stopped to take a photo over someone’s fence – a huge place and I was at the far end of this amazing garden, on the legal side of the fence. A neighbour from the opposite bungalow behind me in the country lane I was in, came out and asked me what did I think I was doing, that I had no right to take a picture. Did I have the landowners permission? I told him I lived around here and was an illustrator and I was taking it for reference, his reply was ‘And I’m Father Christmas’. He carried on having a go while I walked away, with us shouting ‘get losts’ to each other. I was determined not to hurry, while pushing the bike, rather than riding it. I was furious! mainly with the way he had spoken to me, I kind of wanted my hubby to go there and tell him what for, which would have been silly. But I felt this man was a habitual bully and was used to speaking to women like this (and yes, I felt it was women he would target). He was really aggressive and rude. (Just sharing because I thought you’d appreciate this real life little happening)

      Well good luck with the current situation!


  4. Good overview of the topic Lynne and very good thoughts upon how to deal with people who display this attitude. Arrogance in any form is ugly and not acceptable. However, as you make clear, we do need to stand back and consider what is really going on. And this does not only apply to arrogance, whenever we see people behaving in a manner we consider odd or anti-social we need to step back and consider there may be other forces at work within the person.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Very well said T.R. Yes, it applies to many anti-social behaviours. It’s kind of liberating when you get into the habit of considering where the behaviour may be coming from within the person. I could have done with learning this earlier in life, but better late than never!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Gratitude List 803 | Eden in Babylon

  6. galenpearl says:

    You have covered a lot of ground here, in your article and in the comments and responses, so I have little to add to the substance. I’ll just tell you a couple of stories.

    I found as a contracts lawyer that the easiest people to negotiate with were arrogant men. They made so many assumptions about being in charge and being smarter than everyone else, especially a woman lawyer, that they were easy to maneuver around! I usually took a deferential attitude and let them think they were rolling right over me. But I was the one who left the table with the better deal. They never had a clue. And my clients loved me!

    The second isn’t so much a story as a quote. When Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist, was asked in an interview if he was really “that good,” he responded, “If I say yes, you will think I am arrogant. But if I say no, you will know I am lying.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Galen, I bet your clients loved you! What an interesting insight into your experiences with this behaviour – I can see how arrogance can be full of fast assumptions, this is very key, isn’t it? And nice quote from Bruce Lee. I was stimulated into this post because of the wee video of Prince which I loved when I first saw it, and I did used to find Prince a fascinating character, and at the time I loved some of his music, especially Purple Rain (still do love that one). He kind of fits with Bruce Lee’s quote for me, and he’s off my hook, so to speak. Many thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. invajy says:

    Arrogance ….. The word itself summon up negative images. But if you look at it with different perspective, it can change your dreams to reality and those can see the day of light. I am sharing it this perspective here, please read and give your views on the brighter side of arrogance.

    Liked by 1 person

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