Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Response Options to
Arrogant People

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Expert's Council

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/arrogance.htm

Updated  04/11/2015

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      This is one of a series of brief articles on how to respond effectively to annoying social behavior. An effective response occurs when you get your  primary needs met well enough, and both people feel respected enough.

      This article offers useful responses to arrogant behavior. assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2

  • basic options for all responses

  • how to give effective feedback to someone

  • overviews of effective assertion and empathic listening skills.


      Try saying your definition of "arrogance" out loud. Then describe (a) the opposite of arrogance, and (b) the difference between arrogance and assertiveness. Do you know someone you feel is too arrogant? Arrogant kids and adults...

  • have exaggerated ideas of their own worth and abilities,

  • have an unrealistic sense of personal  entitlement,

  • are quick to feel discounted and disrespected (victims),

  • often rank their needs and opinions above other peoples'

  • may assume they know how you feel and think, and what you need;

  • have little genuine empathy or interest in others' welfare, and...

  • frequently focus on themselves in conversation.

       Some people feel that arrogance, egotism, and Narcissism are the same thing. Others feel egotism and Narcissism are overfocusing on yourself, and arrogance is feeling "I'm better than other people (like you)." Regardless, all three traits can be socially annoying.  

      How do you feel about arrogant adults or kids? Scornful? Resentful? Intimidated? Disgusted? Indifferent? Compassionate? Frustrated? Amused? Combative? Would anyone describe you as arrogant? If not, how would they describe you?

      How do you normally react to an over-arrogant person? Avoid them? Repress your feelings? Endure? Confront? Chide? Hint? Criticize? Feel amused? Pity them? Challenge? Gossip about them? Feel inferior? Superior? Intellectualize? How do you feel about your reaction? 

      Arrogance may indicate the person has survived a low-nurturance childhood and is psychologically wounded - i.e. is ruled by a false self. It may mask deep shame (inferiority), and/or an inability to bond and empathize with other people. Like egotism and Narcissism, arrogance is usually a symptom of significant reality distortion. This suggests that compassion is a more appropriate reaction than blame or scorn.

      Caution - labeling a person as "arrogant" may indicate that you lack self-respect, confidence, and assertiveness. Option - seek others' opinions before using this label!

      Is there an effective way to respond to arrogant people? Consider these...

Response Options

      This YouTube clip provides perspective on effective confrontations:

  • Check to see that your true Self is guiding you, and that you have a stable mutual-respect attitude. If not, make attaining those a high priority, and lower your expectations.

  • Mentally review your mutual rights as dignified people, and the steps for affective assertion;

  • Identify what you need from responding to the arrogant person - to vent or inform? To cause change? To set or enforce a limit? To avoid conflict? To respect yourself? To protect someone? (Who?) Something else?  Your response/s will depend on what you need...

  • Ask if s/he is open to some personal feedback. Uninvited feedback may feel disrespectful. If the person says "No," you have a different topic than arrogance to discuss!

To Vent or Inform

  • "(Name), I'd like to know your definition of 'arrogance.'"

  • "How do you feel around arrogant people?"

  • "Do you see any difference between arrogance and egotism?"

  • "(Name), do you see yourself a humble person?"

  • "I experience you as arrogant at times. When I do, I feel _________."

  • You seem very sure of yourself."

  • "(Name), are you aware of where you've been focused in our conversation?"

  • "When you come across as arrogant, I tune you out / lose respect for you / get impatient."

To Cause Change or Set a Limit

  • "I'm going to count how often you use the words 'I', "My," and 'Me', OK?"

  • "(Name), it's arrogant of you to assume you know how I feel or think. I need you to stop doing that."

  • "When you tell me what I need, I'm going to confront you."

  • "When you don't ask for or respect my opinion, I'm going to confront you."

  • "I feel irritated and disrespected when you interrupt me so often."

      Note the theme of these options, and adapt them to fit your style and language. When you use such responses, expect the other person to "resist" - i.e. to deny, explain, excuse, whine, protest, argue, etc. When s/he does, use respectful empathic listening to acknowledge that, and then repeat your response briefly and calmly, with good eye contact. Repeat this sequence until you get what you need, or your needs change.


      This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting effective ways to respond to annoying social behaviors. This article suggests traits of arrogant people, and ways to respond to excessive arrogance. Effective responses are based on...

  • your Self guiding your personality,

  • a genuine mutual-respect attitude,

  • being clear on your feelings, needs, and mutual rights; and...

  • fluency with the relationship skills of awareness, assertion, and empathic listening. 

See also these response options to disrespect, monologing, lecturing, and interrupting.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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