How To Deal With Ego-Inflated, Arrogant, Difficult People

Arrogance is a strange disease. It makes everyone sick except the person who has it.

You know all about the Oscars and the Emmys that are given out to the very best in the movie and television industry. It’s a really big deal … with the red carpet, the bright lights, the celebrities, and all the press on hand.

By contrast, you may have never heard about the CPAE or the “Council of Peers Award of Excellence.” It’s the Oscar or the Emmy in my world of professional speaking, and in the last 30 years, only a handful of people have ever received the CPAE…. including such notables as President Ronald Reagan, General Colin Powell, and author Ken Blanchard. It’s only given to a few people who have proven to be the very best in speaking.

Well, I was given the CPAE a while back. Of course, I was thrilled. I was proud of all the hard work I had put into my career over the years, but I was also humbled by the fact that such notable people had selected me for this honor.

Fortunately for me, my wife, and my customers, I never had a chance to let the CPAE go to my head. There was no time to wallow in ego, pride, or arrogance … because within 24 hours of receiving the award, I was at my next speaking engagement … which immediately knocked me off my high horse, if I ever had one.

The speaking engagement was out west, about a two-hour drive into the prairie from a small-town airport. When I arrived at the place I would stay, I discovered that the entire town consisted of one “Mom-and-Pop” motel and one bar. As I entered the motel, I noticed a sign on the door that read, “Take Off Your Muddy Boots” and then another sign that said, “Do Not Put Fish Guts In The Garbage Can”. There was no sign of the red carpet and bright lights ceremony I had just experienced the night before in New Orleans.

Nonetheless, I checked into the motel, happy to have found it and ready to get some rest. The desk clerk must have been alerted that I was coming because she greeted me with a cheerful, “Oh, you must be the big name speaker from out of town. We saved the Jacuzzi suite for you. You’re really going to like the room. You just can’t use the Jacuzzi unless you’re willing to pay an extra $30.”

I told her no, that I wouldn’t be using the Jacuzzi. I signed in, gave her my credit card information, and she pointed to another sign and said I had better pay attention to it. It read, “No noise after 11:00 PM allowed.” I assured her I would be so quiet she wouldn’t even know I was there.

The whole experience reminded me that it was okay to be proud of what I had accomplished. In fact, it’s even healthy. But it’s never the right time to go around with a big head filled with ego, a big heart filled with pride, and a big bravado filled with arrogance.

In fact, most of us dislike those kinds of difficult people and we spend countless hours wondering how to deal with those kinds of difficult people. After all, you cannot build a healthy work team or a healthy home relationship with people who are filled with ego, pride, and arrogance. They’re too in love with themselves to care about anybody else.

So let me suggest four things you can do so you never become one of “those” difficult people. And if you’re stuck working or living with one of “those” types, you might slip them a copy of this “Tuesday Tip.” Who knows? They might recognize themselves, wake up, and change.

1. Don’t ever think you know it all … because the fact is … you don’t.

Arrogant people think they know it all … or at least pretend they do. So they often want to start at the top. They want a position that recognizes their extra-special talent. But it’s not only stupid, it’s also counterproductive.

In their book “Gifted Hands,” Ben Carson and Cecil Murphey point that out. They write, “Opportunities are there, but we can’t start out as vice president. Even if we landed such a position, it wouldn’t do us any good because we wouldn’t know how to do our work. It’s better to start where we fit in, then work our way up.”

Of course, arrogant, difficult people don’t like to work their way up. They want to start at the top … which always irritated my grandfather. Even though he never made it past the 6th grade, he worked himself up to higher management. On one occasion, he was interviewing a group of recent college grads, but they were aghast when my grandfather told them the only job opening he had was for a janitor to sweep the floors.

One candidate replied rather haughtily, “You don’t understand. I AM a college graduate. I could never do that kind of work.” My grandfather very politely responded by saying, “Oh, please forgive me. I forgot. I’ll show you how.”

By contrast, the non-arrogant, non-difficult people are willing to start where they can fit in. They’re willing to listen and learn.

It’s a point made by Coach John Gagliardi, the most winning coach in college football history and the first active head coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. When John and I were keynoting a convention together, he said, “One of the characteristics of the best football players is the fact that they’re all great listeners. They want to get your coaching. They want to know the right thing to do. So they listen. They don’t pretend they already know it all.”

So I offer this tip to all of you who may have an egotistical tendency. Be careful of moving from the Information Age to the BS Age. Remember, the person who gets too big for his britches will eventually get exposed in the end.

2. Don’t ever think you’re above hard work … because you aren’t.

I’m sure you know some people who are big on talk but short on action. They like to talk about all the things they’re GOING to do but never get around to DOING anything. Those are the difficult kinds of people who love books like “The Secret” because they seem to imply if you just think good thoughts you’ll get whatever you want.

Now don’t get me wrong. No one believes in the power of the mind more than me. It’s a strategy that I teach in great detail in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” program and the results are always exciting.

Take Luella Cooper from the Social Security Administration, for example. After she came back from the “Journey,” she wrote to tell me, “One other very important thing that I learned at the ‘Journey’ is the use of positive affirmations. When I do my positive affirmations in the mirror each morning, I can feel the positive transformation of my spirit. Even more importantly, I have encouraged my grandson to do positive affirmations each morning before he goes to school. Dr. Zimmerman, instead of the teacher’s reports of disruptive behavior, most of the reports now just say ‘WOW’. The teacher says she doesn’t know what we’re doing but keep on doing it. I cannot describe in words how exciting it is to see that change in my 9-year-old grandson. It’s awesome to say the least.”

So, yes, change starts in the mind but finishes in your actions. That’s why author Waldo Waldman says, “The winners in life create the reality of their futures in their minds, but then take action to make it happen. They understand that W-I-N stands for ‘work it now,’ and realize the beautiful premise that in order to win, sometimes you just have to sweat and sacrifice, period!”

Difficult people, people with oversized egos, and people filled with arrogance forget the W-I-N part. They feel “entitled” to benefits … without working for them … or feel they’re just plain “lucky.”

I think the famous scientist Louis Pasteur had it more correct when he said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Even worse, if the arrogant folks got everything they wanted without working, they wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. Ginger Rogers was right: “The only way to enjoy anything in this life is to earn it first.”

The truth is … to all you big-headed difficult people … you’re not lucky and you’re not above hard work. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, knows. He said, “Luck is a dividend of diligence. The harder you sweat … the luckier you get.”

3. Don’t ever think you’re better than others … because you’re not.

Arrogant people think they’re pretty hot or rather cool, however you want to phrase it. But they’re not as powerful as they want you to think they are. As humorist Will Rogers put it, “If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around.”

The trouble is … arrogant people often think the rules don’t apply to them. They think they’re better than that. They think they can come into a job interview, looking sloppy, wearing chains, spouting tattoos, speaking slang, and wonder why they don’t get the job of their dreams or at least get hired.

It’s a lesson Michael Altshuler had to learn the hard way. His story, as told in Harvey McKay’s book, “We Got Fired! … And It’s The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Us,” describes Michael as having an arrogant attitude problem. Even though he was a born salesman, Altshuler constantly found himself at odds with his supervisor.

The manager put him on notice for dressing too casually and looking unprofessional. The headstrong Altshuler vowed to stand his ground. He would continue wearing the clothes he wanted to wear … professional or not … or quit.

He explained his predicament to his father, a veteran sales pro. The elder Altshuler suggested they talk things over at their favorite seafood hangout.

“Would you like lobster or a hot dog, son?” Altshuler’s father asked once they settled into their seats. The young man was confused. Why on earth would he order a hot dog when he could have lobster?

“If you’re going to quit your job and blame others, you will spend the rest of your life eating hot dogs. If you want to chow down on lobster, you will have to become accountable for your own actions.” answered his father.

That analogy helped the younger Altshuler realize the crucial role he played in his own success. Once he invested in a new wardrobe and an improved attitude, Altshuler began his steady path to success. And today he is an achievement coach that helps other people become their best.

Unfortunately, ego-driven, difficult people have a hard time recognizing their own faults and changing them. They get suckered by flattery rather than be guided by truth. They forget the creator of the “Dennis the Menace” cartoon strip, Hank Ketcham’s advice, . He said, “Flattery is like chewing gum. Enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.”

A word to the arrogant ones. You need to remember the difference between prominence and significance. For example, your nose is prominent, but if you lose your nose, it’s not a big deal. But if you lose your liver, it’s significant. You die.

So arrogant, difficult people, your behaviors may make you prominent, but that’s a far cry from being significant.

4. Don’t ever make excuses for your performance … because you are responsible for what you do.

Coach Gagliardi knows that. After some 60+ years of coaching, he emphatically pronounced that the best players “never alibi.” They never blame and they never complain. They take responsibility for their own performance … while the arrogant ones, he said, are almost always “big complainers” and “lousy players.”

It comes down to telling the truth rather than stretching the truth. In fact, it may be a lesson that the infamous billionaire Warren Buffet is learning at this very moment. In his words, “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”

And maybe he is swimming a bit naked. While it may be true that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, it’s also true that he pays himself less than his secretary. So of course he pays a lower tax rate. He takes most of his millions in capital gains which is taxed at a lower rate than income taxes.

A final word to those affected by ego, pride, and arrogance. A final word to difficult people. Be very careful when you speak out. And be aware of those times when you should shut up. As Will Rogers put it, “After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.”

Action:  Do you have any of the four qualities of arrogant people? If so, what are you going to do about it?