Confidence vs. arrogance: definition, differences and tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Confidence involves believing in yourself to achieve goals or perform tasks based on your skill set and expertise. In contrast, arrogance involves an enhanced sense of importance and capabilities regardless of skill. Learning the differences between confidence and arrogance can help you recognise signs of arrogance and try to use confidence instead at work. In this article, we define confidence vs. arrogance, outline the key differences between them and list tips on how to show confidence in the workplace.

What is confidence vs. arrogance?

Understanding confidence vs. arrogance is essential for building your career and forming relationships with peers and superiors. Confidence is a feeling that involves trusting your qualities, capabilities, judgement and knowledge. This feeling originates from true self-worth and is what allows you to pursue your dreams and goals. Confident people often have a positive mindset that inspires them to improve their skills and learn from their mistakes. They possess self-awareness, which means they know their strengths and weaknesses. Confidence allows individuals to listen and learn from others and admit that they don't know everything.

Arrogance involves being aware of your strengths and positive attributes but using them to feel superior to others. Arrogant individuals often lack humility, so talking about their skills and expertise may appear as though they're boasting. They use body language that suggests a lack of interest in others. These individuals may ignore the talents and abilities of the people surrounding them and even view them as inferior. Arrogant people are usually hesitant to share their knowledge and skills with others and may feel that they have nothing to learn from others.

Related: How to build confidence at work

Key differences between confidence and arrogance

Review some of the key differences between confidence and arrogance:

Root cause

Confidence comes from self-assurance and a belief in your skills, attributes and experiences. This self-assurance allows individuals to advance their careers by learning from peers and superiors and recognising areas where they can improve. Factors that contribute to confidence include peer support from an early age. The support people receive from those surrounding them can help build an individual's confidence.

Arrogance can originate from several things, including accomplishing things others haven't accomplished. This can especially apply if the achievement occurs with minimal effort. Arrogance can also be a defence mechanism whereby an individual attempts to hide their insecurities and fears behind an arrogant attitude.

Willingness to learn

Individuals gain confidence through learning, experiencing new things and improving their knowledge and skills. Confident people are self-aware, so they recognise areas where they can improve, are willing to ask for advice and feedback and seek training opportunities to learn more. They accept their mistakes and try to learn from them.

Arrogant individuals may or may not have a lot of experience and skills. If they do, they tend to focus on these strengths without addressing weaknesses or potential areas for improvement. They have difficulty accepting mistakes and may try to blame someone else for them. Arrogance also involves an unwillingness to learn from others.

Humility and respect

Confident people are usually humble about their accomplishments. They take pride in their work and achievements but show others respect and gratitude and share praise with their colleagues. These individuals inspire others to work towards achieving goals and gain the respect of their colleagues and superiors. They don't feel the urge to boast about their achievements.

Arrogant individuals boast about their accomplishments and rarely appreciate their colleagues' efforts. They also appear to compete with their colleagues for praise. For example, if a colleague talks about achieving something, an arrogant individual might respond by minimising their success and comparing it to their own achievement. Arrogant individuals may also show disrespect, for example, by attending meetings late or using impolite language in response to people's ideas.

Related: Why it's important to treat people with respect at work

Body language

Individuals portray confidence through their body language in various ways. For example, confident individuals maintain eye contact with whoever they're speaking to and lean slightly in their direction to show interest in what the other person says. They also show confidence through an upright body posture and maintaining their head high. Confident people often have smiling or calm facial expressions that invite others to feel comfortable approaching them.

Individuals can demonstrate arrogance through hand gestures, such as pointing at people or placing hands on their hips or in their pockets. These gestures suggest aggression or disinterest in the conversation. Arrogance also involves avoiding eye contact. They may look past someone as they talk to them, as though they're looking for someone else to talk to, which suggests disinterest or boredom.

Related: 14 ways to project body language confidence (with example)

Collaboration

Confident people enjoy collaborating with others to learn and achieve goals. They're comfortable sharing their ideas and accepting constructive feedback. Confident individuals have the potential to become leaders who inspire team members. They often share their skills and knowledge with others to help boost their performance levels. Arrogant individuals may have difficulty sharing their expertise with others and often focus on the negative parts of a project or situation rather than trying to improve it.

Related: The importance of teamwork: 10 benefits of working as a team

Feedback and comments

Confident individuals are comfortable receiving comments and feedback about their work. They use this information to improve their skills and refine work tasks. Arrogant individuals have insecurities, so they have difficulty accepting criticism. They also struggle to take ownership of their mistakes. This hinders their chances to grow their skills and form working relationships with superiors and peers.

Conversation

Confident people often actively listen more than they speak. When they speak, they show respect by waiting until others finish speaking and use respectful language even when disagreeing with others. Arrogant people talk over others and interrupt conversations without listening to others. They may use disrespectful language towards competitors and colleagues.

Ways to show confidence in the workplace

Consider the following tips to show confidence at work:

Understand your strengths and weaknesses

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you portray confidence and avoid seeming arrogant. Perform a self-evaluation to determine your skills and capabilities and analyse how you demonstrate them at work. Try to be objective during this exercise to help you make optimal improvements. If you have strengths you know can benefit others in the team, find ways to share them with your colleagues.

Identify your weaknesses and think about how you can improve them. Options include attending training seminars and asking colleagues for guidance. For example, if you want to become more confident at work, search online for a course or tutorial about being more confident in the workplace or approach colleagues you see as confident and ask them for advice.

Related: What does it mean to self-evaluate? (With benefits and tips)

Show humility

Showing humility involves sharing your successes with others without boasting. You can talk about how you achieved something at work while appreciating all the support you received from colleagues and superiors. Try to find the right balance between receiving praise, sharing how you accomplished something and sounding grateful and honoured without bragging.

Learn to accept constructive feedback

Try to adapt your mind to accepting feedback as a positive thing. This feedback can help you improve the quality of your work and strengthen your relationships with colleagues. When receiving constructive feedback, listen to what the person says and think of it as advice on how to improve. Superiors may observe how you receive and respond to constructive feedback, which can impact your career advancement in the company.

Related: How to respond to and handle negative feedback at work

Accept help from others

If you experience challenges working on a project, accept help from colleagues. Confident people often accept that they don't know everything and are willing to receive assistance from people with more experience. This encourages a more collaborative work environment and allows other people to feel comfortable asking you for help if they require it.

Learn from past mistakes

If you make a mistake in a work task or project, take ownership and state that you're willing to rectify and learn from it. You can explain how the error occurred, share your plan to fix it and outline how you plan to prevent it from happening in the future. This demonstrates humility and willingness to learn from mistakes, which supervisors may appreciate. It also shows that you have confidence in your ability to take responsibility for your actions and solve problems.

Related: How to learn from mistakes: 9 steps to help you grow

Share your knowledge with others

If you have expertise in specific topics or tasks, teach colleagues about them. This demonstrates your confidence in performing these tasks and shows your willingness to help others improve. It may encourage others to ask to learn from you and to share their skills with others.

Related: What is self-confidence and why is it important to have?

Focus on body language

Adopt a body language that demonstrates confidence. Sit and stand upright, hold your head high and maintain eye contact with individuals you converse with to show your investment in the conversation. Use open body language by keeping your hands free on your sides. Try to maintain a calm facial expression that makes others feel welcome to start a conversation with you.

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