Feeling brash and sassy? Self-confidence is a good thing but when you’re always the office know-it-all it can backfire — especially if you are so full of yourself that you don’t care. The result: an arrogance that makes colleagues unwilling to work with you.

We turned to question-and-answer site Quora to find out how to deal with an arrogant person at work and beyond. Here’s what respondents had to say.

The ego at-large                    

“Arrogant people need attention like all others need oxygen,” wrote Angie Neik. “They need praise and admiration like it's the end of the world. Give it to them up front.” Otherwise, you could “walk away, or spend hours arguing (yes, arguing, because arrogant people have no concept of a conversation or dialog), that will leave you exhausted.”

But remember, Suretta Williams, noted:“People who are truly great, don't boast about it.”

The nerve!

Sometimes arrogance stems from intelligence. “My experience has been that a lot of arrogant people are either very intelligent (or think they are) or successful... or a combination of both,” wrote Anna Butler. “Those who think they're intelligent (rightly or wrongly) struggle to understand why everyone doesn't think the way they do. Those who are successful and arrogant also struggle to understand why others can't strive as hard as they do to reach the same level of success.”

In the clinical sense, “someone who is arrogant has misplaced confidence and acts superior as a defence mechanism. They are in fact not confident,” wrote Ian Withrow. “If you need to have a working relationship with such a person the worst thing you can do with their insecurities is to play games with or threaten them. Of course for this to succeed you actually have to take the time to understand what is driving the behaviour versus just fuming about them or plotting your sweet, sweet revenge.”

Too black and white

But Jill Uchiyama believes arrogance often stems from viewpoints that lack shades of grey. “Black and white thinkers often come off as arrogant,” she wrote. “It can be seen in anyone, certainly in many young people who (let's face it, we've all been there), think they know everything already without any life experience!”

Let them spout off all they want, just look away, look down, walk away.

This person might “lack depth and insight”, she wrote. “Imagine the person is wearing headphones and blinders and you are trying to instruct a class on how to do something. This is essentially the experience and, yes, it is so distressing to be in the presence of.”

She suggests three ways to deal with arrogant behaviour:

  1. Step back. Let them spout off all they want, just look away, look down, walk away. Let them know that you non-verbally disagree and you don't have the time for a one way conversation. 

    2. Simply say, "Ok, then." Smile and walk away. It tends to diffuse the situation pretty quickly.

    3. Make a joke. "I see John knows everything one could possibly know about politics (fill in the blank). Now maybe we can have a real conversation about it."

A look in the mirror

In some cases, an arrogant colleague may not even realise how their words or tone of voice is affecting others.

He was always the fool who used words he didn't know.

“I think best way to deal with ignorant and arrogant people is to be honest with them about how you feel,” wrote Ankita Singh, who suggests being diplomatic in how you broach the topic. Make it constructive by outpointing what the colleague does well and what they could improve on, for example, being “more considerate before they speak or maybe think what they would feel if someone said the same thing to them”.

Stand your ground

If the person keeps on doing it, then stand your ground and hold firm in your views, suggested Butler who added “but make sure they're backed with solid evidence wherever possible.”

“I've had several arrogant bosses that I've stood my ground with,” Butler wrote, “and, while they haven't liked it, they have respected it, which had a massive impact on the way they treated me vs everyone who tip-toed around them.”

Laugh about it

When all else fails, have a good laugh. “Be amused by them,” wrote Aakanksha Joshi. “I find arrogant people very comic, almost caricatures. They often betray their weaknesses to their disadvantage. For instance, I knew someone at work who used a lot of fancy vocabulary. He was an arrogant fellow and often made fun of how other people spoke English, how unrefined they were etc. He was pomposity personified. He was really difficult to work with and we were all kind of intimidated by him.

“One day we were discussing something and he wanted to say ‘You should expand this idea,’” she continued. “Instead of using simple language to communicate, he tried to show off his dubious language skills and told me ‘You must exacerbate this idea’. ... The whole thing almost cracked me right up. 

“After that I never was intimidated by him and didn't really care much,” she wrote. “He was always the fool who used words he didn't know.”

Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.

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