ISSUE 58 ISSN 1712-468

What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.

Roman Stoic Philosopher
AD c. 50 to AD c. 135

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This Week´s Inspiration

The Cost of Conceit

Conceit: excessively high opinion of one’s self or ability

Arrogance is akin to conceit. When I mention conceit in this e-zine, please link it to this definition of arrogance: offensively exaggerating one’s own importance.

In my e-zines, I communicate personal events. In recent weeks, several individuals have exhibited high levels of conceit and arrogance. I had forgotten how offensive those two mannerisms can be. But before I talk about the cost of conceit and arrogance, I want to clarify that those attitudes are different than “confidence.” Confident individuals feel good about themselves and their abilities; they are not offensive and excessive. Nor do they feel they know it all; that is an attitude fed by conceit. 

There is a fine line between confidence and conceit.

Before I earned my Master’s Degree, I had a nickname for the place where academics dwell—the Academic Abyss. Now that I have my degree, I more strongly believe that is a valid assessment. Of the people entrusted to teach others and to have an open mind, a significant percentage of them feel pretty high on themselves and their abilities. 

  • During a phone call with a university professor―we were discussing how CRG resources would integrate into her university curriculum―I suggested she would receive value from attending our Train-the-Trainer session, to learn and better understand our unique CRG models and processes. She said that would not be necessary because she had a PhD from Harvard and there was nothing she could learn from us. 
  • Standing in line for the BBQ at a social event, I noticed an individual who had previously met with some of the CRG staff. Although the lady and I had not yet met, I was familiar with some of her thoughts on CRG resources—one of our team members had passed them along to me. I introduced myself. After some small talk, I suggested it would be good to arrange to meet to discuss some of her professional opinions. She said it was obvious I did not know she was a psychologist and that I was not in a position to teach her anything. (I had wanted to understand her position, not change it!) She didn’t have the listening skills to discover the focus of our conversation. Ironic, don’t you think? A psychologist who knows it all!
  • At a lunch appointment, I met with a TV personality working in the area of relationships and communication. We were investigating the possibility of co-writing a book about dating and relationships. I suggested he could attend CRG’s training to understand how CRG resources are used in these contexts and applications every day. Again, I received an instant negative response; he said that because of his TV show and his PhD degree, there was nothing we could teach him or that he could learn from CRG. 
  • Years ago, at a National Speakers Association annual convention, a famous man with a seminar business (you would all know his name) joined me on the elevator. I said Hello. He didn’t respond. I thought he had not heard me, so I asked him a question. He ignored me again. The result? For the past 16 years, he has received no credibility from me or CRG. (He also has a PhD.)

Do you find it interesting that those who are teaching and coaching others to change can have closed minds? They have embraced their level of education and fame to the level of conceit. The attitude most dangerous to themselves and others is this: They no longer feel the need to expand or grow. Isn’t that conceit and arrogance at their worst?

Note: I am not painting all individuals with advanced degrees as conceited, but those were my experiences.

We all can find examples of elite sport athletes, professionals, and prominent personalities who are full of themselves. Why do we tolerate their attitude? Because of their abilities? Should we tolerate it? What message does their conceit send to children and to adults?

How do you feel when you interact with/or observe conceited and arrogant individuals? Do you want to engage them? Do you respect them? Do they have credibility with you? Your answer is likely No, No, and No! 

What’s the price of acting conceited?

  • In Relationships: Because they are self-centered and self-absorbed, those individuals find the needs, wants, and desires of others quite irrelevant. Confident people will avoid them. 
  • In Learning and Knowledge: If they already know it all, how can anyone possibly teach them anything? That won’t happen. They are not teachable.
  • In Wisdom: No matter how sharp and experienced they are, someone else will have more wisdom. People with closed minds do not discover new insights.
  • In Potential: Many conceited and arrogant individuals are gifted and talented. They have simply let it go to their heads. Their challenge is that opportunities for them to grow and expand will be missed; others will avoid working with them.
  • In Peace of Mind: Those on the extreme end of the conceit and arrogance scale generally seem unhappy, agitated, and argumentative—certainly not at peace. Their overall health and fulfillment in life is significantly reduced.
  • In Lives: When individuals are responsible for others’ safety, conceit can cause death, for example, in the case of the space shuttles and engineers or doctors. 

A couple of decades ago, a seminar speaker made this wise statement: “If you have to tell the world you are great, you are not.” 

Now before you tell yourself or others that you are not conceited or arrogant, be mindful or your thoughts and actions. Those two traits can be situational. In a specific environment, you can have a tendency to be conceited or arrogant. Are there situations in your life where that is true for you? 

Low self-worth can lead to boastful behavior, where we are trying to mask our insecurities with arrogant mannerisms. The impact, however, is usually the opposite―the behavior drives people away and further damages the boaster’s feelings of low self-worth. I know. I’ve been there and done that.

The bottom line is that everyone is valuable and should feel valued. But no one knows it all or is everything to everyone. Openness in mind and heart builds community and leverages knowledge. The opposite closes our heart and limits our growth. The challenge is to strike a personal balance between confidence and conceit. Confidence is self-assured; conceit is self-absorbed behavior.

No one is beyond learning and becoming better. To help you on this quest, I suggest you consider completing the Learning Style Indicator so you can better understand the way you prefer to engage new knowledge. Completing the Self Worth Inventory will help you address any area that is causing behavior that you would like to diminish.

As always, I suggest you take a common sense approach to this process. Be aware of your mannerisms. If you are unhappy with them and you are not getting the results you want, let them go and move on. Don’t beat yourself up . . . unless of course you think you are perfect. In that case, you already have your answer―you have work to do in this area.

This Week´s Action Steps

The Cost of Conceit

  1. There is a difference between being confident and being conceited. Be clear about that point!
  2. How do you feel around people who behave in a conceited and arrogant manner? Do you want to spend more or less time with them? Why?
  3. Conceit can be situational. Is there an area in your life where you think you know it all, where you look down on others and believe no one can teach you anything? What would others say about you?
  4. What is conceit and/or arrogance costing you and the others you care about, in the areas of relationships, knowledge, wisdom, opportunities, personal peace, and beyond?
  5. Is there one behavior or attitude you can adjust so that you appear more open and humble?
  6. Do you think you are always right and better than others? Hint: If your answer is Yes, it’s time to go to work on that!
  7. Do you hang out with any conceited or arrogant individuals? How is that affecting you? Is there a way you can limit or avoid that contact? 
  8. If conceited behavior is present in a personal relationship, try not to be dragged into that abyss. Refuse to participate; see it for what it is―insecurity and self-absorption on the part of the other party. It is his or her issue, not yours.
  9. Lighten up. In spite of importance of this topic, don’t take yourself so seriously, you will be amazed at the number of doors that will open for you.

Until next time, keep Living On Purpose!

Ken Keis

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