Passive-aggressive. Bossy. Non-stop talker. Pessimistic. Needy. Smarmy. Stingy. Vulgar. Nosy. Selfish. Complainer. Worrier. Arrogant. Lazy. Hyper. Greedy. Unintelligent. Rude. Temperamental. Liar. Bragger. Competitive. Unreliable.
The list could go on and on, I suppose. I am talking about the qualities or personality traits that are the most unattractive in people. I might even go so far as to say repulsive. There are those individuals in your corner of the world—relatives, co-workers, acquaintances, store clerks, salespeople, neighbors, teammates, classmates—whom you really, REALLY want to avoid. You do your best to be courteous and keep your interactions brief, but you know deep down that if the two of you were locked in a room or on a long car ride, one of you just might not make it out alive. Any bells ringing yet?
I am a pretty unsocial guy, so I avoid most conversations outside of my home and my workplace. Thankfully, at least for the sake of this discussion, my job provides more than enough characters and situations to expose these not-so-lovely traits. I teach tennis, mostly to adults. I work with some people privately, some in groups, and I am involved in their competitions with others, often needing to speak with both sides simultaneously after a tough match. All of these situations provide ample opportunity for me get to know various sides of people’s personalities: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And believe me, it gets ugly! If you have a mental picture of someone for each of the different characteristics I listed at the top, I get to meet all of them at work tomorrow. Lucky me!!
So, of all these special folks, who rubs me the most wrong? Who can get under my skin just walking in the door? That’s easy: ARROGANT. Definitely arrogant. I am no fan of the complainer or the lazy, sure, but arrogance brings out something different in me. It makes my blood boil a bit. I can think of a player on one of my teams who makes me work REALLY HARD to be pleasant to her for 90 minutes. Her teammates can barely stand her, and after every match she plays—even if there is no big blow-up during the match—her opponent is ready to tear her head off. The woman oozes arrogance. It drips off of her.
That is the interesting thing about arrogance compared to most of the other unappealing traits: you can see it. It is embedded in every mannerism. Nonverbals never screamed so loud before. They say, in no uncertain terms, “You are beneath me. I am better than you. I dismiss you!” Other personality traits often require some lengthy and intimate experiences with a person to come out. Arrogance announces itself at the outset. It comes right out of the pores. I picture the Billy Zane character in “Titanic”. That guy had arrogant down. Last night I was watching “Sofia the First”, a Disney cartoon, with my five-year-old, and she told me she didn’t like Princess Amber “because she thinks she is better than everyone else.” She got to learn a new vocabulary word: arrogant. It turns out that it even oozes from cartoon characters!
What I want to know more than anything is this: what does it say about me that arrogance is the one that pushes my buttons most? What does it reveal? I believe that our “enemies” are really our greatest teachers, and that what annoys or angers us in others often points to an issue we need to resolve in ourselves. So, why me and arrogance?
I have a couple different theories on my issue with arrogance and its unhealthy power to make my blood boil. First, there was a time in my life—high school—when people certainly believed I was arrogant (“stuck-up” is the high school word for arrogant, or at least it was at my school). And, while most of what anyone thinks or finds important in high school is utter nonsense—oh, how insecure we are at that age!—through the lens of 20-plus years later, I don’t know that it was all wrong about me. While I think I have eradicated most of that in all this time and found some humility to replace it, I still have to catch myself in moments when I find my intellectual snobbery creeping in. So, perhaps what boils my blood is seeing in the arrogant person the worst part of myself. It’s an ugly reflection.
My other theory on my strong reaction to arrogance centers around a shot at my ego. Like most people, I like to think of myself in positive terms. I try to embrace the good things about me and am probably in denial about the bad stuff. In any case, I have a pretty strong self-esteem. As I mentioned above, everything about the arrogant person screams, “You are beneath me.” My ego simply does not want to hear that. It feels like an assault on me every time I encounter arrogance. My defense mechanisms go up and I feel the urge to cut that person down to size just so they are clear that I am NOT beneath them. My ego really wants to teach them that lesson. (I am honestly just uncovering this about myself as I write this to you, and it is a pretty tough realization. What a waste of my energy! I need to get over it. Now.)
So, how about you? What’s your trigger? Open up your journal and your mind; it is time to write it out. Which personality trait gets deepest under your skin? Think about all the people you know? Is it your passive-aggressive sister-in-law, your unreliable co-worker, or your nosy neighbor? There are many unattractive traits, but which one really pushes your buttons. Then, what do you think that says about you? Is there some of that repulsive trait in you—like my arrogance–that you feel ashamed of? Are you able to see these people as teachers, or is it just too hard to get past the repulsion or anger? Maybe writing it out in your journal can build that bridge for you. Give it a shot, and then leave me a reply. I want to know: who rubs you the wrong way?
The answer is within,