How to Say What You Think Without Sounding Arrogant

By Mel Sim

Get others to agree with you, not avoid you

Being confident is a wonderful thing for your career. It makes you successful. People look up to you. Your boss knows he can count on you. Your colleagues trust and respect you. And you know it in yourself that you have what it takes to get ahead.

But being confident has its downside too; the most common is coming across as arrogant. There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and unless you know how to play it right, there will be times when people will find your confidence annoying and condescending... even if that’s not how you mean to come across!

And this is most apparently when you are having a meeting or discussion at work. You want to show that you have great ideas and know what you are talking about but at the same time, you don’t want others to assume that you think you’re all that. Which can easily come across as that way, especially if you are pushy with your ideas (we know you’re just really passionate about them!)

So how do you maximise your confidence but not appear arrogant? How do you share your ideas but not come across as cocky? Try these approaches.

#1 Be sincere in what you are saying
Arrogant people don’t care about the other person’s feelings; they only care about themselves. That’s not you; you are confident but at the same time respectful. When sharing ideas, comment positively on the other ideas as to how they have a valid point as well. Don’t be fake though; be sincere about how you think these ideas as just as good and maybe they can work with your ideas as well.

#2 Don’t be pushy
Of course if you think your idea is the best, you want to push for it. But that doesn’t mean you disregard everyone else’s contribution. Who knows, your idea could be better when combined with theirs. So instead of being one-tracked mind, open up and hear what others have to say. Still think your idea is the best? Be sure to back it up with the reasons why because just saying that because you think so and you know better is not going to cut it.

#3 Listen!
With all forms of communication, you need to listen to engage. So give others the chance to finish what they are saying before you butt in with your suggestion. Jumping in halfway when someone is speaking is definitely a cocky move.

#4 Be humble!
OK great – everyone else thinks your idea is the best! Now, don’t say things like “I told you guys so” or “Should have gone with my idea first” even if you mean it as a jokey remark – others may interpret it as you being arrogant. Instead, just thank the rest of listening and ask how you can all move forward now with your idea.

#5 Be prepared to be wrong
Your idea could be a great idea... but only to you. When you share it with others, they may be able to see how it can potentially not work since they are not as invested in the idea as you are. It happens, even to the best of ideas – circumstances may not render it workable. When this happens, don’t sulk when your idea has been revealed as not do-able. An arrogant person thinks they are always right; a confident person is able to see the wrong and learn how to make it right.

#6 Don’t say this before sharing your ideas
“That’s all great ideas but....” When you say this, you don’t really think those ideas are good; you’re just buffering it so that you can tell them why your ideas are better than theirs. It sounds condescending and like you’re belittling their suggestion. Instead, say this: “Sounds good, Jamal. I have an idea too that maybe we can see if it works with yours?”

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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