Mind Your Manners: Avoid the Tripwire of Arrogance

Can you see the signs?

Can you see the signs?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve harboured a strong dislike for arrogance. Even when we were young, we seemed to have a sort of internal antenna that picked up on this. Thankfully, full-blown arrogance is something seldom encountered. Most of the time it’s just someone boasting that their kid is a ‘Doctor’ or they own a villa in Spain, with underfloor heating (winter), air conditioning (summer) and 12 balconies overlooking the sea (all-year-round). A bit of harmless braggado often tells us more about someone’s insecurity than their property portfolio. But, every now and again we all encounter 22 carat gold arrogance. Here’s a recent example…

The Party: The party was in full swing. The band was brilliant and the craic was mighty.  Food, drink, dancing with the hostess. What’s not to like here? I said to one person, who’d completed an undergraduate degree as a mature student: “Are you still studying?” He replied with disdain: “No, that was almost 3 years ago”. Completely missing the signal to move on and talk to a ‘nice’ person, I continued, in a jocular manner: “It must be nearly time for you to think about studying something else”.  As best I can recall (discounting the 5 Bacardi and Cokes) he said: “You’re wrong there. I’ll never study again. When you are in the academic world, you study other people’s genius. I don’t want to do that any more.  I want to create my own”. Now, this guy is certainly clever. But genius? And, here’s the deal. Even if you are gifted – in business, in music or as a parent – would you describe yourself to someone you didn’t know well – as a genius?  Really? Hey, maybe he was taking the piss.  If so, the irony was brilliantly disguised.

Your Instruction:  In the executive coaching space – our day job is to ‘up the gas’ on confidence and assertiveness. We try to get people to set their sights high, to become the very best that they can be. We are cheerleaders for potential.  But, can the gas actually be lowered? Can you take a rough piece of arrogance and somehow forge a piece of humility? I’m not convinced that this condition is curable! My sense is that, like a spectrum condition, ‘it is what it is’. Personally, I don’t enjoy swimming close to arrogance.

Humble & Confident: In coaching, our underpinning instruction is unconditional positive regard. If someone has grandiose ideas or is having an affair with their pet goldfish – our training is to accept people as they are.  Without too much ‘judgemental’ stuff kicking into play.  But, at parties and social events, I unplug that monitor. I’m there on my own ticket. So here’s the suggestion:  If you are truly a genius, perhaps best if you don’t tell anyone too directly. For sure, keep your inner light shining. But, externally,  keep it toned down. Perhaps this is too ‘Irish’ for you. Too understated? Perhaps. But, you might be confusing humility with lack of confidence. In my experience, they are very different things. Those who are truly confident, don’t have to boast. And those who have to boast, are seldom truly confident. Wear your genius lightly. Otherwise, it’s a heavy weight to tote around.


Stupid Moment of the Month: Picture the scene. A breakfast  meeting with one of my favourite clients in McLoughney’s restaurant in Clontarf.  Now, that long room is dark, particularly on winter mornings. So, they use candles to light up the space and create a bit of atmosphere. Nice idea. I was happily chatting away about an executive development project when I started to smell  something burning. Jesus, my jumper was on fire! I pulled it off and doused out the flames. Wasn’t easy to recover dignity after that Mr. Bean moment. I’m still waiting to hear back whether we’ve got the training gig. What’s the chances?

Book Launch: Thanks to everyone who showed up for the ‘Fog Clearance’ book launch in the Harbourmaster Bar last month. The Irish Institute of Training and Development have been mega supportive as was Gary McGann who did the formal honours on the night (he was brilliant). This, my 11th book, was the most difficult to write. Mapping the boundary between coaching and counselling was complex – I wouldn’t claim that the fog has shifted entirely.The book should be of interest to anyone who wants to improve their mental functioning (you’re on a long queue right there!). It’s available in all good bookshops or directly from the Publisher Oak Tree Press. Sales ‘pitch’ now officially closed.

PS Lighter Note: A MAN’S FIRST DRINK WITH HIS SON (from Andrew O’Connell)

While reading an article last night about fathers and sons, memories came flooding back to the time I took my son out for his first pint…

Off we went to our local pub only a short walk from the house. I got him a Guinness. He didn’t like it, so I drank it.

Then I got him a Smithwicks, he didn’t like that either, so I drank it. I thought he might like some Lager? He didn’t. I had to drink it.

Then I thought maybe he’d like whiskey better than beer, so we tried a Jameson — nope! In sheer desperation, I had him try a rare Redbreast, Ireland’s finest. He wouldn’t even smell it. What could I do but drink it!

By the time I realised the lad just didn’t like drink, I was so drunk I could hardly push his pram home!

PPS Lighter Note: My brother Anthony in Canada has been following the ‘space exploration’ stuff with some interest. Here’s the first picture he sent about water being found on Mars.

Water Found On Mars

Water Found On Mars


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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One Response to Mind Your Manners: Avoid the Tripwire of Arrogance

  1. laurencemcgivern says:

    Those firemen… never around when you need them. Hope that was’nt the christmas jumper.

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