Confidence vs. Arrogance: Know Your Gift to Boost Your Personal Power

We have all been there:  you meet someone at a competition or a reception or a class who dominates the conversation, talks only about himself, projects an aura of knowing it all and could care less about you or other people around him.

What’s your reaction?

“Boy, am I intimidated! Why can’t I be that confident?”

Or perhaps

“What a turn-off!  Let me go and talk to someone else.”

And is that person really so confident?  Maybe the veneer of confidence is sheer arrogance.  And in the end, how useful is being arrogant to creating a successful and sustainable career?

For music entrepreneurs, knowing one’s gifts and projecting confidence are essential to creating the positive mindset that is at the heart of being successful.  Let’s take a closer look at how be confident without spilling over into arrogance.

In my class this semester, this issue has come up in our discussions of how to create career success in a number of contexts where musicians have to interact with others in advancing their careers:
•    Branding:  how to craft a unique and distinctive message about yourself that connects you with your ideal audience member so that you will be hired;
•    Networking:  how to meet and connect with others with whom you are in sync and can help and support each other;
•    Marketing:  how to get in front of your target audience and offer your products or services or increase the audience’s awareness of you;
•    Public Speaking:  how to forge a powerful connection with audiences so that they will get even more out of your performance.

In all of these areas, confidence is essential to creating success because it enhances one’s music making and makes it easier to deal with the outside world.   And arrogance actually undercuts one’s effectiveness as a musician.
Let’s take a closer look.

Confidence is an essential ingredient of success

Confidence comes from being your best authentic self.  In the words of one of my students, when you are confident, “You channel Flow”.

We have talked a lot about Flow in my class.  Flow is confidence backed by positive energy.  It is palpable.  And it is a far cry from arrogance because at flow, all that matters is that you are in a heightened state of creativity.  You are not measuring yourself against anyone else.  You are motivated to keep going because the experience is so powerful for you. You feel comfortable in your own skin.  In that state, when you can touch other people, they feel it too.

Indeed, Flow is one of the best way to develop and project confidence because you are aware of what makes you stand out.  The confidence that this generates helps you to radiate positive energy and connect more powerfully with those around you.

Some of my students felt that projecting confidence is inconsistent with humility, and they tended towards self-deprecation for fear of being arrogant.  Yet they learned that knowing and being comfortable with one’s gifts is essential to success as a musician.  A number of my students were able to overcome this belief by learning how to project this confidence in an authentic way. As one of my students wisely observed:

“The idea of approaching someone and presenting oneself as a “great artist” can seem arrogant and off-putting. It is easy to avoid this if one taps into the higher energy levels of service and flow. I realized that if I confidently approach a concert presenter like with this mindset, I’m simply presenting myself as a passionate artist, ready and willing to perform for an audience of music-lovers.”

Interestingly, what you say is less important than how you say it. Did you know that in any given message, the words constitute 7% of the importance of the message, whereas tone of voice is 38% of the message and body language is 55 %?

Therefore, when you deliver your message confidently and positively through your tone of voice and your body language, you are projecting positivity and you are more likely to connect authentically and powerfully with the people whom you are eager to touch.

The Pitfalls of Arrogance

Arrogance is when you think you know everything and that you are better than others. Typical thoughts are

“What’s wrong with those people who practice all day?  I don’t need to do that because I am better than they are.”       0r

“Why should I bother to talk to this person?  She can’t help me get ahead.”

That translates into smugness which are often conveyed by the tone of voice and the body language.  And in conversation with others, it is offensive to be around such people because we can sense their disdain.

In essence, arrogance means that you do not care about other people: instead, it is all about you.  Arrogant people lack sensitivity to others and are often manipulative so even when they are “charming”, it smacks of inauthenticity.
Think of what it is like being around someone arrogant.  That person tends to monopolize the conversation and talk about himself.  It is as though you do not matter.  They do not listen to others and therefore lose an opportunity to forge genuine connections with others.

Perhaps some supremely talented musicians can get away with being arrogant because their talent is so huge.  For the vast majority of musicians, being a great colleague is often as important as being a wonderful musician because it enhances your chances of getting hired and rehired.  Indeed, the four professional musicians who spoke to my class as well as the two members of So Percussion who visited Yale this spring have reiterated the importance of being a good colleague in order to get hired and rehired.  So being arrogant is not going to help you advance in your career. 

Arrogance is inconsistent with being an artist because artists are constantly growing and changing.  Arrogance is inconsistent with Flow.  And it gets in the way of authenticity to which my students are fiercely committed.  And arrogance is often a cover for fear and insecurity, which is the opposite of Flow because at Flow, you know what it is like to be at your best and you have overcome your fears of not being good enough.

So in the end, arrogance can undercut one’s effectiveness and success as an artist.

How can you develop confidence and avoid being arrogant?

1.    Know your strengths and your best self. Create a best-self affirmation so that you know what you are like at flow.
2.    Notice when you begin to compare yourself to others. Ask yourself if you are compensating for your fears of not being good enough.
3.    When these thought arise, notice your behavior and your body language. How effective are you in this particular social setting?
4.    Replace those negative thoughts with your Flow affirmation.
5.    If you find yourself thinking that you are better than others, stop and listen closely to what the other person is saying.  Perhaps you will discover something special about that person and find a way to connect with him or her. 

How to manage yourself around arrogant people:

1.    If you find yourself becoming intimidated around someone arrogant, remind yourself that the conversation does not reflect on you.  Chances are that this person is not listening to you and is focused only on himself.
2.    Reinforce your positive self-image with your Flow words.
3.    Make a choice and leave the conversation to speak to someone else.
4.    If you choose to continue talking with this person, see what you might learn from him or her.

These strategies can help you retain your personal power and project authentic confidence.  See how great it feels to be projecting positivity and forging genuine connections!