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10 Phrases That Can Make You Sound Like an Arrogant Jerk

Don't want to be thought of as arrogant? Do your best to avoid these phrases.

When you become a parent, it’s only natural to look inward and ask yourself some probing questions, including What bad habits do I have that I should work to remove? One area to investigate: Do you come off as arrogant? While no one wants to gain the reputation of someone who is overly cocky or self-assured, it’s easy to say or do things that give people that impression. For instance, do you sometimes lie out of embarrassment for fear of coming across as inferior?  That’s a more subtle sign of arrogance. Now, everyone has their moments where their behavior might be described as arrogant because confidence is respected and the line between the two can be blurry. But the last thing you want is for coworkers, friends, neighbors, or family to peg you as such. So, how can you avoid that designation? One way is to avoid the phrases below.

1. “I really can’t do this right now.”

Yes we all get busy and find ourselves spinning multiple plates throughout the day and it’s certainly okay to not have the bandwidth for certain tasks. But saying that you can’t do a particular job or “I’ll get to it when I get to it” sounds rude and dismissive, making people feel invalidated and embarrassed for even approaching you. A better way? “Explain why you are not able to be present for the other person,” says Dr. Michele Goldman, a psychologist and media advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. Instead, she suggests saying something like, ‘I was distracted just now and was not fully attending to you, I’m afraid I missed what you were just saying.’”

2. “I know you’re wrong because I’m right.”

Sometimes there’s clearly a right and wrong in a situation; other times there is more of a grey area where there can be different points of view. Even if you are right, stating it out loud brashly can make you sound pompous and full of yourself. Be open to other ideas and, when you are right, be humble about it. “Insisting another person is wrong puts them down,” says Goldman. “It can make them feel small or stupid. That’s not the impact we’re wanting to have.”

3. “I need you to stop talking.”

This is not only incredibly rude, but it’s combative as well. This is the kind of statement that shuts down everything and lets the other person know that you don’t care about what they have to say.  “It is okay to need a break from conversations, especially if they are emotionally charged,” says Goldman. “It is, however, your responsibility to communicate that to the other person.”

4. “I wasn’t really listening to you just now.”

It’s understandable that, in the midst of a busy day or having a lot on your mind, you might not be fully present in a particular conversation. But it’s rude and arrogant to say that to the person you’re talking to. It lets them know that their feelings are not as important as your own. “It’s okay to be self-focused some of the time and we need to find a balance when we are present and focused on others,” says Goldman. “Either let them know, ‘I can’t fully be attentive to you because I’m finishing this task on a deadline’ or say‘Let me stop what I’m doing, give me two minutes to wrap this up, and then you have my undivided attention.’”

5. “This is easy, I don’t get why you’re struggling.”

Not everyone works or learns the same way. It’s fine if you’re better at a task than someone else, but pointing out that fact just diminishes the other person and serves only to embarrass them. “Be mindful, there can be a fine line between confidence / assertiveness and cocky / arrogance,” says Goldman. lIt changes the statement to say, ‘This has always come naturally to me, I can help you with that if you want,’ or ‘I’ve worked really hard to excel at this, do you want me to tell you a little of what I’ve learned?’”

6. “Any intelligent person would agree with me.”

This effectively closes off any further debate and makes it so you have the last word. After all, if the other person or people don’t agree with you, they must not be intelligent, right? It’s a childish and arrogant way to end an argument or disagreement. “Listen to what others have to say whether they agree with you or not,” says Jose Caraballo, a licensed clinical social worker and the creator of Myenrichedlife.com. “You may learn something, you may gain greater conviction in your original opinion. Either way there is no loss in listening to what others have to say.”

7. “Oh, yeah, I knew that.”

We’ve all been there: You’re at work or with friends and someone drops a fact you don’t know. Instead of copping to the simple fact that you aren’t familiar with what they’re talking about, you turn into a real-life Tim Robinson sketch and act like you know. This stubbornness comes from insecurity, and it’s not uncommon but it is easily identifiable and can be mistaken for arrogance. Keep an eye out for moments when it might appear.

8. “It’s common sense.”

Is it? Here’s a very demeaning statement that could almost be construed as gaslighting as it works to make someone believe that your point of view is common knowledge when maybe it isn’t. And, even if the point you’re making is common knowledge, what do you gain from pointing it out to someone? “The person asking is simply trying to either learn or get clarification on something,” says Caraballo. “Telling them it’s common sense is a subtle way to jab at their intellect. There is no real need except for your possible insecurities.”

9. “I’m an expert in…”

Here’s a helpful hint: no one really cares about your credentials. Anyone who needs to know your expertise in a given topic probably already does know. Announcing to people that you’re an expert in anything is likely to only prompt eye rolls. “If you are speaking to people you already know, there is very little reason to ever flash your credentials,” says Caraballo. “Same goes for most other environments. If you’re on a panel of experts introducing yourself and establishing credibility, then it’s appropriate. Every chance you get simply screams of desperation.”

10. “You’ve probably never read…”

Presuming that someone hasn’t read something that you have is wrong on a lot of levels. It makes it sound as though you believe the other person isn’t as smart as you. Or worse, it makes it sound as though they’re not smart at all, and you know it. Ask about what they’ve read or what they know, don’t just assume. “This is not a race for who is the smartest or most well-read,” says Caraballo. “It’s a conversation between two people and we should treat each other as such, with adequate integrity and respect.” That’s what it’s all about, anyway.