Relationship Resource Center

Relationship Tip: Do People Find You Arrogant?

It is not uncommon in your daily casual conversations to speak offensively to even your closest friends. For example, you tell other people they are wrong, tell them what they really meant by what they just said, or you invoke higher authorities to support your personal beliefs. You love to win arguments because it momentarily makes you feel powerful or important inside of yourself. You fail to see that you “win” at the expense of the other person (i.e. the loser).

Do other people find you arrogant?It may be true that, in any given area of discourse, you have more information than the person you are talking to. But do you really want to feel falsely inflated while making your partner feel stupid? Loving relationships flourish when you work to create a collaborative conversation in which everyone’s viewpoints are valued and folded into the final decision. You have been in conversations during which you learn new information, digest it and reach a new conclusion. When talking with someone who communicates respect and personal interest, you feel enriched by the new information and happy with your new conclusion. When the delivery of the new information seems to come from a position of that person stooping to give you what s/he knows, you grow annoyed and resentful even when you know they are correct. It is all in the delivery.

To avoid having this unintended effect, you must be aware to your tones, posture and mannerisms. Eighty percent of communication comes through the non-verbal cues you give off as you send your messages to the other person. The remaining twenty percent is in your choice of language. Let’s look at both of these areas.

The non-verbal check-in comes by attending to your attitude and your internal self-talk. If you are thinking, “You must be crazy to believe that nonsense,” or “You can be such an irrational bitch,” or “You really are a controlling SOB,” how do you think your tones will sound? On the other hand, if you are thinking, “We really see this in two very different ways,” or “You are my beloved, and I think you have bad information,” or “I will wait until you are done speaking and then share this new information I have learned,” you will inevitably sound more cooperative and collaborative.

The language you use often reveals your inner attitude. There are three common insulting forms of speech people use when arguing with one another.

1) When you are arrogant, pompous and filled with yourself, you say things such as “That’s totally wrong,” “You are so full of s—t,” “That is not what happened,” “You don’t know what you are talking about.” This is called “talking to be right” (i.e. “I know what the truth is.”)

2) A second form of obnoxious talking down to your spouse is the Emily Post Position. Here you say, “Everybody knows that it’s customary to …” This leaves your partner feeling like an uninformed idiot only because he/she has a thought that is different from your own.

3) Finally, there is “Quote The Expert.” This involves referencing some knowledgeable expert who has much more credibility than either of you and happens to agree with whatever position you are espousing.

You make these speaking errors because our culture sets you up to fight to be right, to win at all costs, and to feel personally gratified when you land a good blow (metaphorically) on your partner’s argument. To change your tones, your attitude and your spoken behavior, you need to practice living in a new relational paradigm. You must practice telling yourself that closeness and intimacy is far more important in the flow of your life than feeling a momentary burst of righteousness at your partner’s expense.

How can you talk to each other with respect, compassion and collaboration? You have heard it a hundred times: SPEAK FROM THE “I.” Your personal power is always greatest when you state your own thoughts, feelings, ideas and perceptions. Do not shoot down whatever your partner is saying. Listen to understand. Validate what makes sense in what your partner is saying. Live with the attitude, “There are many ways to handle every situation. Mine is not better than yours; it is just different. Let’s work together to figure out what we want to do in this situation.”

By Dr. Howard Lambert,
Colorado Licensed Psychologist

Leave a Reply