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How to not be arrogant: 16 ways to change for good

For many years I’ve had a deep inner belief that I’m better than most other people.

I don’t mean that in a good way.

I know it’s not a helpful way to go through life.

Stepping back to observe objectively, I can see that at times I treat people around me like shit, even my own family.

I can be belligerent, dismissive, distant, bitter, all that nasty, fucked up stuff…

Wait, I came here for confession…is this the wrong booth?

I’m going to assume I’m in the right place and continue on here with this tell-all.

Doing work on myself, I’ve come to realize some childhood roots of my arrogance and experiences in the past that made me feel a lack of inclusion and belonging.

I lashed out by creating a world in which my problems were special and I was a lonely, tragic figure whose worth other people just couldn’t understand. But in many ways it turned out to be the opposite:

I was failing to appreciate the struggles and high worth of many people around me.

Strange how life so often works as a mirror in this kind of way…

I can change (and so can you)

I know I have often been an arrogant guy in the past but I want to change.

I’m here to repent of my old ways and try to humble myself. That’s what motivated me to put together this list and try to work through the solutions and improvements I’ve discovered which will help out other people, too.

So, if you have identified arrogance in yourself or others and know that it’s something you or they might be willing to work on, the next step is to get into nuts and bolts.

It’s all well and good to know you have a problem. And to know that you want to solve it. It’s just a matter of how to do it.

Now that I have the following list, I’m going to put it into practice and do my best to become at least a little bit less arrogant.

If you’re struggling with being an arrogant individual I recommend you try it out too.

As the writer Mark Twain said of arrogance — especially when you’re younger in age:

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

First off, what exactly is “arrogance?’

If you’re like me you’re feeling a little pissed off that some random internet dude is telling you to check yourself.

“Yeah, I have a bit of an attitude sometimes, but what exactly do you mean by ‘arrogance’?”

I can hear you asking it because it’s the same thing I’d be asking.

It’s true that your situation may have a lot of different roots than mine or you may be trying to find out how to help someone else humble themselves a little, and I respect that.

But at the end of the day, the lessons I’ve learned in becoming a more humble person can apply to all of us. And the definition of arrogance stays the same either way.

Whether it’s at work, at home, in romantic relationships and friendships, or with complete strangers, arrogance displays a pattern of behavior that’s always more or less the same.

So here goes for definitions:

Being arrogant, cocky, full of yourself, egotistical, and so on means believing you’re better than others and that you deserve more respect, consideration, favors, and attention than other people do.

Being arrogant means being selfish and self-absorbed to the point of not considering the needs and experiences of others. It means living in your own little egotistical bubble.

You don’t want to hear other worldviews, perspectives, or have the interests and priorities of others put over yours…ever.

You want your own importance and superiority protected at all costs. And if you’re like me then when it pops you go berserk.

You feel that your worldview or worth has been challenged and undermined. You feel outraged that someone is questioning you and undermining you.

You react with anger, suspicion, and accusations. It’s not great.

What’s the solution to arrogance?

The solution to arrogance is humility. That basically means having consideration for others and even when you strongly disagree with them, you let them live their life without imposing yourself.

Humility does not mean you drop all your convictions or self-respect, it just means giving some space and gentleness to the world.

Maybe there are some ways in which you are more skilled, smart or gifted than various other people, who may be more skilled, smart or gifted than you in different ways.

Fine.

Humility means recognizing and really internalizing just how fragile life is and how much we are all in the same boat at the end of the day.

Becoming humble is actually a major power move.

Not only will people like you more, but you’ll learn so much more about life and those around you and be able to find all sorts of new opportunities instead of just times when you run up against conflict or proving how big and great you are.

Business consultant Ken Richardson explains how disastrous arrogance can be in many ways, including in the business world:

“Those who lead effectively are those who are able to avoid slipping into the trap of arrogance. It’s not that they don’t ever make the mistake — they just don’t make it for long. In some cases, their natural tendency to “take charge” runs a little amok for a little while.

In others, it can happen due to fatigue, frustration, or simply “having a bad day.” We’re all susceptible, although some more than others. What is important is that they don’t let it become a chronic problem for their subordinates.”

On the personal level, too, arrogance can be an absolute disaster.

Alexa Hamilton writes:

“An arrogant person talks to his spouse rudely and does not care whether they are in front of their children or someone else. Being arrogant in relationship undermines your partner’s self-esteem, it destroys self-worth.”

Adding that:

“We have to keep our arrogance aside and it is very important not to agree with everything the other person says but at least listen to what they have to say. Unfortunately, a lot of us are so arrogant that we don’t even recognize what it is doing to us and those around us.”

So, it’s clear that arrogance is not something we want to be falling into and we need to come up with ways to address it.

So, here’s the recipe for humbling yourself…

Here are 16 ways for how to not be arrogant

1) Fess up

It’s taken me years to get better at just admitting when I’m wrong or fessing up to making a mistake.

“I’m wrong” or “Yes, it was me,” can be hard words to say.

But learning how to say them — and mean them — brings you one giant step closer to being a less arrogant person.

And what’s even more important is not only to admit when you’re incorrect or made an error, it’s to do your best to make up for it. If you can do a favor or help out to try to fix what went wrong then do it!

Relationship blogger Patricia Sanders puts it well:

“A person who admits to being wrong doesn’t lose respect, they gain it. People admire the honesty, integrity, and self-confidence of a person who is strong, confident, and humble enough to admit to being wrong.

But some people don’t realize that — probably because, as mentioned above, they had early childhood experiences where they were mistreated and made to feel weak when they did something “wrong.” In their world, being wrong was terrifying.”

2) Give people credit

If you’re arrogant, you usually want all the credit for yourself. In your mental universe, there’s a pyramid and you’re always on top.

At work, any accomplishments are all you: those who helped out are just rungs on the ladder.

As you can imagine, this is a really unrealistic and toxic way to approach life. Whenever possible, give other people credit for their contributions and input.

As I’ve become more humble, I’ve been amazed to notice all the hard work, positive input, and contributions of people around me that I formerly had barely noticed.

Let people pitch in and give them credit for what they do! Sometimes these aren’t always the flashy superstars, either.

Sachin Jain emphasizes this in the Harvard Business Review, noting that:

“The best contributors are often the quietest. For whatever reason, they are not worried about credit and are happy to take a back seat. But people in the guts of an organization often know that some of these individuals are the lynchpins who sustain a project or unit.

Taking the time to identify and reward the quiet heroes can generate goodwill across an organization because it creates the sense that there is real integrity.”

3) Laughter is the best medicine

The truth is that all of us are more skilled than others in some way but when we approach life so competitively, we end up bringing ourselves and everyone else down.

Laughter can be the best medicine and antidote for a world that’s obsessed with status, achievement, and outer accomplishment.

Even if you’re in the middle of a whirlwind of stress and confusion, you need to learn how to laugh in the face of chaos.

All of us make mistakes and try to do our best whenever we can.

Many of us are fighting “invisible battles” that nobody else really knows about or can understand the depth of. That’s life, and sometimes you need to just join in the laughter about this crazy trip we’re all on!

Another big benefit is that laughing is literally good for you.

As HelpGuide notes:

“Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use.”

4) Remember things

One of the main symptoms of my arrogance in the past has been that, I just don’t listen to people when they talk to me. I could blame it on being forgetful but that’s not exactly true.

I was never forgetful about when someone owed me money or pissed me off. I was never forgetful about things I’d accomplished or been through that I felt made me more special or entitled than others.

Remembering things is a sign of respect and interest. It can start with just making an effort to remember the names of people you meet casually and go from there.

If you have a lot on your plate then consider keeping a small notebook or file on your phone where you update basic info about people you meet.

As an added bonus, add one special item about them each. For example, Karen loves chocolate, Dave is really into hockey, Paul loves writing…

Keep this info on hand and pop it into conversation (naturally) now and then. You’ll generally get a great reaction because people love to hear their passions mentioned in a conversation.

Remembering birthdays, special dates, important appointments, condolences for those who’ve lost someone. You’ll find that this is one of the best ways for how to not be arrogant.

5) Lower the demands on yourself

Part of the reason for my attitude in the past has been secret feelings of inadequacy inside myself.

I felt not good enough, insufficient, and “behind”.

These deeply-seated emotions, which I’ve also been approaching and learning to find the value in through shamanic breathwork — were part of what caused me to inflate my self-importance and approach to the outside world.

I felt that I myself was not good enough and I then projected that on people around myself.

Why is everyone else so shitty and dumb? I would wonder (while also secretly feeling shitty and dumb myself).

Since this is an honesty zone, I’ll admit I’ve called crisis lines in the past. My life hasn’t always been the total breeze it is now (joking, of course).

In one especially bad meltdown feeling like I couldn’t go on with life, the woman on the other end made a point that really stuck with me because of its simplicity but also because she was right.

I needed to stop blaming myself for everything and trying to hold myself up to impossible standards. Things in life will often go wrong but when we make it all about us, it’s actually very illogical.

If someone breaks up with you or you lose a job or you get mistreated, you can be sure that in most cases there is as much or more going wrong on the other end of the equation than there is on your side.

So stop blaming yourself for everything and overcompensating with false bravado.

6) Stop taking things so personally

Arrogance is generally a defense mechanism and a distortion. It makes things personal and seeks out offense and problems in order to demonstrate supposed superiority and being “right”.

I can’t count how many times I’ve taken things personally and gotten into drawn-out, dramatic arguments when I could have just let it be.

And the worst thing is every time, I do it I know I’m starting an unnecessary conflict and I still do it.

Taking something personally which isn’t really about you can be as simple as overanalyzing a comment someone makes and then deciding they don’t get you and giving them a bad attitude in the rest of the conversation, or just getting furious when some motherf**ker cuts you off in traffic.

There are so many situations in life that would be improved by not taking them personally.

A lot of what happens to us in the storms of life is truly nothing personal. It just happens.

But when we make it into part of our inner monologue and narratives, we feel so much worse and begin taking on all sorts of self-limiting beliefs and traumas that could otherwise go on their way without interrupting our flow.

It’s nothing personal. Let it go and move on, seriously.

7) Being right isn’t everything

Admitting you’re wrong is key, as I wrote. Part of this is recognizing that being right isn’t everything.

What I’m saying here isn’t just to admit when you’ve messed up or are wrong. It’s to realize that sometimes even in situations where you are 100% certain you’re correct, it can be the best move to let it go.

Whether that’s a discussion of something which happened in the past that someone else misremembers, or taking the blame for something trivial that could balloon out into a major disagreement: just let it go!

You’re not going to be put in jail and dropping the need to be “right” and hand your ego more wins is going to smooth over so many situations, you’ll be flabbergasted at how much less stressful life becomes.

Let go of the need to be right!

McCumiskey Calodagh advises:

“The ‘need to be right’ — keeps us holding on to old hurts rather than moving forward and making the best of things. It prevents self-growth and learning. For your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your relationships with family, colleagues, and others, letting go of the ‘need to be right’ can free up much space, time, and energy for the deeper joys and riches of life.”

8) Try on some new shoes

Walking a mile in another person’s shoes is a humility hack. Plus, then you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

But seriously…Try putting yourself in another person’s place and never, ever assume.

We have something that psychologists call confirmation bias which is really powerful.

For example, if someone cuts me off in line at the store, I may fit it into my perspective that most people are rude, ignorant, and aggressive.

What I might not know is that the man in question just got the news that his sister has cancer that morning and has been an emotional wreck ever since, barely even noticing what’s going on around him.

Try to give other people the benefit of the doubt and when you can and you know them well enough to do so, try walking in their shoes!

9) You don’t need to always be the boss

In some cases, you’re literally the boss and you need to make the decisions and be in charge. But in many other cases, that’s your arrogance talking.

You don’t always need to be the boss. You can let others shine, too.

Doing so is a power move that also lets you notice and appreciate the talents and contributions of others more.

Remez Sasson has it right here:

“If you cannot change a situation, you need to let go of anger, resentfulness, and negative thoughts and feelings. By letting them go, you free yourself of them, and all the stress and unhappiness they cause.

You need to get loosen your involvement with the thoughts, feelings and reactions that are holding you down and causing you suffering and stress. It means letting go and detaching yourself from them, so they will have no power over you and cannot affect your state of mind.”

10) Learn the difference between confidence and arrogance

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with confidence, in fact being confident gives other people the green light they often need to also let their inner confidence shine.

Learning the difference between confidence and arrogance has been one of the most crucial ways in which I have learned to dial down my egotism.

If you want to learn how to not be arrogant, learn how to be confident.

Confidence takes joy in the accomplishments of others and loves teamwork. Confidence steps up to get a job done but never cares much about the credit. Confidence is about doing not talking.

11) Asking for help is a good thing

Back in my more arrogant days I never wanted to ask for help, even when I needed it.

If somebody asked me a question and I didn’t know the answer, I’d bullshit rather than admit I just didn’t know.

When I was confused about how to do a task at work I’d just wing it and risk screwing up instead of simply asking how to do it.

I got angry and more resentful the more I screwed up and the cycle continued.

Don’t be me. Ask for help when you need help. It makes life a lot easier.

It also makes you much more successful, as Ryan Engelstad writes:

“Instead of giving up in the face of frustration and telling ourselves “I can’t do this,” we would be much better served by reminding ourselves that when we get to this point that “I can’t do this alone.”

12) Stop seeking external validation

For me, group belonging is one of the most important things for me. I care a lot about what others think and value belonging deeply.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in my view, and can be put to positive use in the right context.

But when it becomes a codependent crutch for basing your worth on external validation and the affirmation of others, then it becomes a major impediment to empowerment and personal authenticity.

Over the past years, I’ve opened my eyes more about this topic and watching shaman Rudá Iandê’s free masterclass on finding true love and intimacy also made me realize that seeking validation externally is a losing game.

13) Boost up those around you

Giving out fake compliments is worse than giving none at all but do your best to notice things about what others do and who they are that make you want to show appreciation.

Boost up others around you whenever you can.

The more you give out positive vibes and encouragement, the more it somehow makes you feel more capable and ready to take on the world as well.

Funny how that works, but it really does. Try it and you’ll see.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of 100 compliments you can give right now.

14) Ditch the Darwinian worldview

I’ll be the first to tell you that Charles Darwin was right about many things. But his judgments about “survival of the fittest” and evolution also came with a certain mindset that can lead to a lot of arrogance.

Weakness, vulnerability, compassion, and defect are viewed as “bad” while dominance, strength, and health are viewed as inherently “good.”

This creates a “do or die” way of looking at the world that can cause you to become very arrogant and see other people and even entire cultures as inferior.

In fact, belief in survival of the fittest and social Darwninism is a big part of what led to the horrific First World War.

Don’t fall into the Darwinian-Nietzschean trap. There’s a lot more to the world than just strength and weakness.

15) Don’t judge people based on status

Related to the last point is to judge people for who they are and how they treat you, not just for their status.

Fortunately, I do not think I have generally judged people by their status, partly because my life experiences early on showed me that often those with the most money and status are the most boring and fake (not always), so I lost a lot of curiosity about them…

But in general, it’s a trap that hierarchical, class-obsessed societies fall into.

Judging people on money…

Judging people on appearance…

Judging people on their job title.

There’s much more to people than dollar signs. Try judging people based on their authenticity, you’ll find it a big improvement.

16) Talk with your body

Body language is one of those things we often hear about but sometimes dismiss as just guru talk.

Sure, sure, I’ll get around to it.

Plus, nobody wants to look like some douchebag pickup artist or motivational speaker moving their hands around self-consciously like a mannequin.

But body language doesn’t have to be like that: you can make conscious changes that become part of your body language’s natural disposition.

Look people in the eye. Face those you are interacting with. Speak more slowly and kindly while paying attention to whether the other person is interested or is understanding.

All of this helps make you humbler.

My final (humble) thoughts on this subject

Becoming a humbler person is worth doing for many reasons.

It’s not just so that other people will “like you more.” After all, like I wrote, you should move your focus away from what other people think of you and external validation.

Sure it’s a nice side-effect of humility to be more well-liked but it’s really not the point.

The point of humility is actually to start noticing what’s around you and engaging with the world in a more effective way.

When you’re full of yourself, you aren’t just annoying to be around, you’re basically limiting yourself and what you can experience in life.

I’m still saddled by arrogance sometimes and it’s something I’m working on every day.

But as I’ve moved a bit more into humility, I’ve made many valuable new friendships, learned amazing things I would have otherwise overlooked, and been able to help people I might have formerly ignored.

And that to me makes it all worth it.

Written by Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer. His upcoming book Cultworld will be out later this year. Follow him on Twitter @paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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