We’ve all met arrogant pricks whose pretentiousness takes your breath away.
Arrogance can often reveal itself in conversations. I see three types of conversation people: someone who talks with you, someone who talks at you, and someone who talks to you.
Someone who talks to you implies a lecture. A one way street. Mr. Busy Guy with Mr. No Name Who Should Thank God He Is Even In My Office. Someone who talks to you feels like his life is simply more interesting than yours.
Someone who talks at you still implies a one-way conversation, but I have more sympathy for these kinds of people. In this case the guy or gal may be too arrogant to ask what you think or let you say a word, but there’s a kind of raw energy flowing from them that can make it worthwhile. These kinds of people are usually so wrapped up in their own life and work that they forget they’re with someone else!
Someone who talks with you engages in a real two way conversation. This kind of person usually isn’t too arrogant, or at least he has the wherewithal to see each meeting as a chance to learn something new. He remembers that if you want to spend an hour bragging it’s better to call your mom than call a business contact. He remembers that people want to feel important and asking the other person what’s new in his life is a good start.
I want to add that some ego and arrogance is good. Staunch self-confidence can often border on arrogance, and that’s OK, since self-confidence is so important. Chris Yeh and I have joked about our own narcissistic personality disorders. Hell — most every blogger falls in this boat! But self-confidence in private is different than a live interaction with another ego-filled human being.
Also, just because someone is arrogant doesn’t mean s/he is not genuniely smart or right. As the line in the Big Lebowski goes, "You’re not wrong, Dude, just an asshole." For example, the word is that Larry Summers‘ preferred style of participating in meetings was to paraphrase what everyone said: "So what you’re really saying is…" And of course it was was they were really saying — Summers is a genius — but his style screamed asshole, and he ultimately lost his job.