When is confidence a positive attribute? When does confidence cross the line to become arrogance?
Those questions have been on my mind and I’ve been pondering the answers because of something that recently happened to me.
Several weeks ago I had the privilege of delivering Presentation Skills Training to a large corporation. I was brainstorming the curriculum with one of my partners, and she asked me to repeat my thought. After I repeated it, she said we should include that statement in our curriculum. And so we did. We stated it verbally and put it in the materials as a quote with my name under it.
As I always do after training, I gave the participants a survey in which they could give feedback about what worked well and what didn’t. This was one of the comments:
“Quoting yourself seems self-promoting, a little arrogant.”
When I read this I wasn’t offended or hurt, but I was surprised. As I do with all the comments I get, I turned it over and over in my mind, trying to determine if I was indeed arrogant and if I needed to change the materials.
I started researching arrogance and confidence in the workplace and here’s what I found:
How Children View Confidence In Each Other
I turned to one my favorite books about communication in the workplace, Talking from 9 to 5 by Deborah Tannen. Tannen is an expert in understanding how and why men and women communicate differently with each other. She sheds some light on how we are conditioned as children to communicate:
Boys are expected to put themselves forward, emphasize the qualities that make them look good, and deemphasize those that would show them in a less favorable light. Too much of this is called arrogance. Girls are expected to be ‘humble’ (not try to take the spotlight), emphasize the way they are just like everyone else, and deemphasize the ways they are special.
She also says,
From childhood, girls learn to temper what they say so as not to sound too aggressive – which means too certain. From the time they are little, most girls learn that sounding too sure of themselves will make them unpopular with their peers.
Our childhood training about gender communication does stay with us. And whether we are aware of it or not, we still use those gender norms when evaluating people in the workplace.
I don’t know if the person who called me “arrogant” was a man or a woman. But I do think Deborah Tannen’s assessment of gender communication is fascinating.
What is Your Experience with Gender Views of Confidence?
Has something like this happened to you? Have you ever found yourself holding back so as not to sound arrogant?
Shut the front door! There are more posts like this? Yes!
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