March 24, 2015

Boyfriend Material vs. Arrogant Alpha: The Science of Pride.

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I’ll bet that if you were to write a formula for “Boyfriend Material,” confidence would be in the first five key ingredients.

But how can you tell the difference between confidence and arrogance? They often look and sometimes even sound the same. This is because both confidence and arrogance are based on pride. However, not all pride is created equal.

Arrogance is based on hubristic pride. It is a feeling of superiority and dominance over others. According to the Hubristic Pride Scale, people with this type of pride tend to be smug, snobby, conceited, stuck-up, egotistical, pompous and—you guessed it—arrogant. You can spot this type of pride because it results in extremely anti-social behaviors such as aggression, hostility towards others and manipulation.

People with hubristic pride tend to have low levels of internally generated self-esteem. Ironically, they behave arrogantly because their internal confidence is relatively low. This drives them to constantly top up their external sources of self-esteem. Arrogant men often do this by asserting dominance. They boost their pride by picking fights (physically and verbally), by talking over people, by pushing them around and by publicly highlighting the flaws of their “competitors.”

A more subtle indicator of Hubris is a guy’s conversational style. Arrogant men constantly turn the conversation back towards themselves. Their stories always somehow end in them being the hero. They are generally uninterested in listening to others speak (unless it’s about them) and they have a poor attention span.

Arrogant alphas don’t make very good boyfriend material because men with Hubristic Pride display extremely low relationship satisfaction. A study by Olderbak (2010) found hubristic men to be more promiscuous; they take more risks and often manipulate their partners.

Even worse, if they do “knock you up,” according to Olderbak, they are likely to offer “little to no parental investment.” So, if you are after a long-term boyfriend, the characteristics of hubris should act as major red flags.

Confidence, on the other hand, is based on authentic pride. It is positively associated with altruism (he cares about others), a strong social support network (he has healthy long-term male friendships), long-term thinking (he has a career or at least aspirations to have one) and achievement.

The key defining characteristic between confidence and arrogance is this:

Confidence is based on internally generated self-esteem (such as self-compassion, self-acceptance, altruism, achievement and connection).

Arrogance is based purely on external sources of self-esteem (such as status, recognition and dominance).

The final word comes from a UWA address given by musical comedian Tim Minchin. In it he describes how he makes important decisions about his future based on how the person treats the wait staff in the restaurant where their meetings are being held. He says,

“I don’t care if you’re the most powerful cat in the room. I will judge you on how you treat the least powerful.”

This is one of the simplest ways to distinguish between Boyfriend Material and Arrogant Alphas—how do they treat other people, particularly those who aren’t as important or powerful as they are? Pay attention to the next few guys you meet. Are they engaged, or are they simply waiting for their turn to speak? Are they interested in what you have to say, or only in your opinion of them? Do they spend more time listening or speaking? These are the real indicators of authentic pride.


Relephant read:

A No-Nonsense Guide to Finding Love.


Author: Garrick Transell

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Laineys Repetoire/Flickr

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