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Confidence versus Arrogance
few years ago, I had an interesting verbal exchange with my oldest daughter. She made a condescending comment about someone (I don't remember what), to which I responded, "You are arrogant." She was genuinely insulted by my comment. In the following conversation/debate, she said to me "You are the one who is arrogant." I, like her, was insulted. Since that cherished family moment, I have been thinking/rationalizing about my arrogance, or, hopefully, lack thereof. I don't consider arrogance a trait to strive for, but am I guilty of it? It was time for some self-psychoanalysis by an engineer: observe, collect data, compare with theory, then fix it (or at least manipulate the data I obtained to prove that I am not arrogant). It's so easy that all psychologists should be engineers. Let's start out by looking at the meaning of the two words. Confidence has a positive connotation, while arrogance has a negative connotation. People who are confident are certain about their ability and have faith in themselves. It is a personal thing that does not make any inferences about other people. On the other hand, people who are arrogant feel superior and are overbearing and presumptuous. Arrogance demands respect from others, while confidence is quiet. Arrogant people are covering up their feelings of inadequacy. We call arrogant people snobs, overly proud, overbearing, condescending, and haughty. We may even say they have superbia and hubris, if we know what those words mean.
My favorite movie of all time is Chariots of Fire. It is a mostly true story based on two British athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell ("The Flying Scotsman"), who ran events in the 1924 Olympics. It is also an excellent comparison of two people: one arrogant and one confident. Harold was very insecure and arrogant. He constantly had to prove himself and be the center of attention. He was never satisfied, and would do nearly anything to win and be the best. In their only competition, Liddell blew Abrahams away in the 200 m race. Eric had the quiet confidence that resulted in a much more humble appearance. Both became tremendous runners, and both won gold medals in 1924 (in different events). I had the honor of visiting the University of Edinburgh, where Liddell's gold medal is on display. His quiet confidence, coupled with his exceptional life is very inspiring to me. Some differences between arrogance and confidence include (http://www.communicationconfidence.com/confidence-vsarrogance.html): 174
Confident people know their strengths and weaknesses. An arrogant person usually doesn't acknowledge weakness, and concentrates on strengths.
Arrogant people need to compensate for areas of weakness. They often ignore weakness, so they can pretend that it does not exist. Confident people find the root of their confidence in self acceptance, and they recognize their weaknesses or faults, even though they may not like them. This acceptance allows the confident person to gracefully deal with faults.
An arrogant person brags, and dominates other people. A confident person acknowledges that other people will have strengths and weaknesses, too. Confident people don't need to make life a competition, so they tend to be more enjoyable to be around. They also have the confidence to build up other people. An arrog(\llt person is cocky and difficult to reason with.
Body language is different between arrogant and confident people. A confident person has an open and easy posture that is inviting to others. An arrogant person appears more aggressive and harder to approach.
I'll close with two quotes about confidence and arrogance from Mark Twain: "To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence." "The offspring of riches: Pride, vanity, ostentation, arrogance, tyranny."
Yes, I am still writing this column, even though I threatened to quit last year. I have three reasons for continuing: 1.
Nobody volunteered to take over.
IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009
Kendra Cook and David Thiele wrote four of the six columns last year, giving me a break.
I was shocked by the number of people who read this column and enjoy it. I feel that being editor of this column is more important than any technical paper I ever wrote, or other volunteer activity that I have done for the IEEE AP-S.
So, for the foreseeable future, I will remain your humble ethics columnist! The final installment of "Should my daughter become an engineer?" will be published soon. ~~)
IEEE Antennas and Propagation MagaZine, Vol. 51, No.1, February 2009