We all encounter annoyingly overconfident people from time to time—the ones who come across as if they know everything. Sometimes it’s hard not to let them get under your skin.
But there is an effective way how to handle overconfident people.
My work as an executive leadership coach working brings me in contact with top people in all kinds of organizations and industries, so I see overconfident people all the time. Part of my role is to ground them in reality, and part of it is to teach them to deal with other overconfident people.
First, though, let’s make a distinction clear between two different degrees, or types, of overconfident people. The first is the narcissist, who is not only overconfident but also has a sense of superiority and entitlement. For a detailed discussion of dealing with a narcissist, see my Inc. article How to Deal With a Narcissistic Leader
But here we’re looking at a run-of-the-mill overconfident colleague, boss, or associate—the ones who get on your nerves on a daily basis. Here are some smart strategies for coping and thriving:
1. Connect with your own inner security: The best way to deal with an overconfident person is to find your own inner sense of security. When you can find your own confidence, nothing an overconfident person can say or do will undermine you. They may be unable to relate to you and may even say obnoxious or cruel things, but you can always let it slide when you feel secure in yourself.
2. Don’t let it get to you. This is easy to say but harder to accomplish. But if you can learn to ignore the overconfident, superior attitude and try to find ways to you can enjoy each other’s company, it may benefit you you both. Deep down, there’s probably something to this person that’s worth knowing or exploring, and maybe at the deepest level there may be a person who is good and kind, with something in their background that causes their overconfident behavior.
3. Know their secret. Overconfident people are often quite insecure, and they cover up their insecurities through dominating and controlling others. They find it hard to admit being wrong, and they will often cling to a belief even in the face of evidence that it’s outdated or wrong.
4. Learn tolerance. Most of us are quick to judge. Perhaps impatience is your personal weakness, and frustration and annoyance are frequent responses for you. Maybe you feel intimidated or pressured. Whatever is happening, overconfident people present a great opportunity to learn patience, to listen without judging. Aim to tolerate the person and learn to understand what motivates him or her. Think about how you’d respond in the same position.
5. Improve your assertiveness. Over confident people can smell self-doubt miles away—and when they do, they likely will pounce. The best way to combat those who think they have all the answers is to improve on your own assertiveness. Aggressively overconfident people won’t waste their time on people they can’t push around or get a rise out of.
6. Be tactful. So you have tried tolerance and improved your assertiveness. Now it’s time for a new weapon: tact. You can still point out things that are self-evident without calling out the person’s arrogance. You can still respond assertively to things that are incorrect—just do it with kindness and empathy.
7. Change the subject. Another great tool for handling overconfident people is a simple pivot to a new topic. By changing the conversation, you can discontinue the overconfident person’s dominance. If they try to return to the old topic, politely point out that everyone has already made their views known, and return to yet another new topic.
8. Keep your distance to avoid confrontation. If you’ve tried all the other techniques to no avail, you can still lessen the impact of an arrogant overconfident person. Keep your distance to you can keep your sanity. Simply do your best to stay out of their way. It’ll buy you time to work out how to better respond, or if nothing else it will minimize their annoying presence.
Lead from within: Overconfident people are arrogant people who simply too insecure to face their own reality. As Charles Bukowski so brilliantly stated, the problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.