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Overcoming Arrogance 

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Overcoming Arrogance

By Catherine Kitcho

It's our nature to become enthusiastic and determined when we really believe in something - a product, a business, a venture. But what happens when we cross the line and become arrogant?

Arrogance does not serve you well in the business environment. It turns off customers and investors. They will likely not want to do business with you.

Enthusiasm is great. Demonstrating commitment is admirable. But when you stop listening and cease to consider another point of view, you are being arrogant. In the extreme case, you believe that there are two ways to do things: your way and the wrong way. I've witnessed this situation many times. An entrepreneur, during a discussion with a potential investor, said that they don't trust venture capitalists because "they're not competent enough to understand the product". This person actually said this directly to a venture capitalist! Needless to say, after that point in the conversation, the investor lost interest, and was quite insulted by the remark. Not only did this entrepreneur make a generalization that all venture capitalists are alike, but he also made a generalization that they are all incompetent. The entrepreneur did not consider that perhaps it could be his lack of communication skills to explain the product and deliver the message that was at the source of the problem.

Large companies are not immune from this. In large companies, arrogance more often arises when the product development team believes that they know more than the customer or end user of the product. "But market research indicated that they wanted this feature! They are just idiots and aren't smart enough to figure out how to use it."

Some of the warning signs of arrogance:

Do you believe that there are no improvements that can possibly be made to your product/service/venture; that it is perfect as is?

Do you discount the questions that your customers and investors ask about your business and believe that they "just don't understand"?

When challenged about your product or business, do you mention other customers or investors who "like it just fine", or think to yourself "who needs this guy"?

Do you do all the talking during an interaction with an investor or customer?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you could be perceived as arrogant. You need to start thinking about how that can impact your business goals and consider how to become a bit more humble. Here are some steps you can take to improve your behavior:

1. Become aware of what you say in these situations, and more importantly, what you would LIKE to say to this person who is challenging you. Make mental note of this.

2. Stop talking and LISTEN. The other person deserves your attention; respect their right to be heard.

3. When you have heard what they have to say, acknowledge their input. Say to them, "That's an interesting question (or point of view). Can you say more about that? - or - Why do you feel that way?"

4. Probe a little further. This is a golden opportunity for you to get feedback from a potential customer or investor. Use it. Even if the conversation does not result in a sale or an investment deal, you will receive invaluable information that you can use for the next opportunity. You may not agree with the information, but it will be useful data that you can use in making business decisions.

5. Don't take it personally. This is a business conversation, not an evaluation of your personal abilities.

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