How to Be Confident Without Coming Off as an Arrogant Jerk

An important life skill.

Derek St. Hubbins, the front man of British rockers Spinal Tap once said that there was a fine line between clever and stupid. The same could be said about the line between confidence and arrogance. And it’s a line that can become quite blurry for a lot of guys. Not enough confidence and you look weak, but carry yourself with too much and you can come off as a cocky SOB that no one wants to deal with.

“Finding the right amount of confidence can be tricky for many men,” says Dr. Gilbert E. Franco, a professor of psychology at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla. “Many want to be confident, but do not know how. Some men may have not had confident male role models; others may be experiencing inner factors such as depression or anxiety.” Understanding how to act confidently without coming off as arrogant is an essential skill, one that can help with relationships with coworkers, friends, and family. It’s also something that can be hard to recognize. Here, then, are some tips on how to act assuredly and not give off the vibe of a cocky a-hole. The world could use fewer of those.

Make Eye Contact

Sure, this might seem like confidence 101, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle it. People tend to either opt for no eye contact or too much, both of which are wrong when it comes to displaying confidence. When greeting someone, look them in the eye, shake hands and smile. Don’t get into a staring contest, though. Keep your eyes engaged but not locked in.

Try Not to Talk About Yourself Too Much

No one likes a braggart. But chances are they also aren’t particularly thrilled about hearing about all your accomplishments. At least not to the exclusion of everything else. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. If you’ve done enough that’s worth noting, people will want to talk about it. “A confident person is secure to the point that they do not brag about themselves or their accomplishments to others,” says Franco. “Instead, they behave in a way where other people talk about you and brag about you.”

Take an Interest in Other People

When you’re having a conversation with someone else, ask questions about them and listen, truly listen, to their interests and engage with them. People will appreciate your interest and, even subconsciously, recognize that you’re confident enough to not have to make it all about you. “The cocky man wants to spend the conversation talking about himself in order to boast,” says Patrick Kenger, a Men’s Image Consultant for Pivot Image Consulting.

Relax Your Body

Just as poor posture can convey weakness or discomfort, having a rigid, inflexible body type can convey the wrong message and make you look not only arrogant but standoffish. Having your arms and legs crossed might give you the illusion of confidence, but most people can see through the smokescreen. Just relax and take charge of your personal space. “The confident man appears relaxed,” says Kenger. “The cocky man appears like he’s being ‘tough.’”

Own Your Wardrobe

Dress well, yes, but don’t feel as though you have to be a slave to whatever trend the fashion world is following at the moment. If you are comfortable and relaxed in what you are wearing, then that will come across to the room much more so than the guy who is quite obviously trying to appear fashion-forward. “The confident man knows how to dress well, but he wears what he likes and actually thinks about his taste rather than just following the herd,” says Kenger. “I would strongly encourage men to develop more of their own personal style as a means of communication a sense of confident individuality.”

Carry Yourself Accordingly

Arrogant people tend to try and control a room by being the loudest person there. They draw attention to themselves and put others down in an effort to build themselves up. Those with natural confidence, however, earn a good reputation by not feeling the need to brag or boast. “The biggest factor, I believe is body language,” says Ryan Ewalt, a personal trainer who has worked with NFL players. “They walk into a room and know that they belong, there is no insecurity. They compete with themselves. Cocky individuals seem to measure their worth based on how they stack up to others.”

Be Secure in Your Talents

Many people who come across as overly confident are actually deeply insecure. Their arrogance stems from the worry that they don’t know as much as they should and are terrified of being found out, a psychological affliction known as Imposter Syndrome. You have talents, so use them. Invest in your skills and bring them to the fore so that, when you find yourself in a social situation, you can be confident in what you’re bringing to the table. Says Anne Brackett, CEO of Strengths University.“Being confident is understanding who you are and who you aren’t. So stop worrying about being perfect and start being you.”