Tom AbtsThis is a pretty good topic for a golf column. It would be a good topic for any column. Arrogance is probably the most shocking quality that I encounter. I'm always shocked by it. You'd think after all of the years that I've spent on this planet, that I would be either numb or just accepting of arrogance. But no, it blows my mind every time I run into it.
I'm not talking about the random bragging or momentary puffed-upness that everybody does. I'm talking about the just fundamental trait of arrogance. Webster defines being arrogant as, "Having or showing the insulting attitude of people who believe that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people." The key word in that definition is "insulting." Confidence is a great quality. But confidence isn't insulting - arrogance is.
The other day I was talking to an old friend who used to manage a golf course, but got wise and now is a full-time golf instructor to people who enjoy golf for fun. He's a happy man - he doesn't miss the arrogant characters who used to tarnish his ex-golf course.
Besides the weather, most of our problems at the golf course come from arrogant people. I'm going to bore you with a list of typical infractions: they show-up late for their tee time; drive their cart in restricted areas; play slow and back up the golf course; play too fast and hit into people; they're loud and obnoxious; they try not to pay; they demand an extra long pour at the bar; they cut in line; they don't want to be paired up with anyone; they spit sunflower seeds on the golf course; they bring their own food and drink onto the course; they never repair a divot or fix a ball-mark or rake a sand trap; they give their playing partners unsolicited swing advice... I could go on and on. Basically they think they are too special to observe the rules of the course and the rules of common courtesy.
Do we all screw-up? Probably. But the arrogant people that I'm talking about do these things consistently. And what really defines them is that they get angry when called out for their bad behavior. They believe that they are "entitled."
Ah... being entitled... what a charming attitude! But, as a society, we've brought some of these problems on ourselves. The ridiculous statement, "The customer is always right" is flat out dangerous. So if a customer comes in and throws a rock through our front door, I guess that's ok? So money (a paying customer) trumps everything?
It's not only customers - it can be employees. Sometimes we have staff members who are "too important" to do what has to be done. Or, "It's not my job." Really? As you can imagine, those people don't last very long at Deer Run.
And politicians promise everyone everything. "Vote for me and I'll give you what you're entitled to." So with people constantly hearing that they can have and can do anything they want with no personal responsibility... it's not surprising that there is so much arrogance. Then add in that every player gets a trophy... when do people learn the values of delayed gratification and persistence? And what about the value of fair play? And what about the reality of getting what you pay for? People take pride in getting products and services for way less than what they're worth. How does that work? Shouldn't transactions be fair?
Do I live in La-la land? I hope not. I think that most people want to do the right thing. I just think there are so many messages out there telling people what they want to hear, that they've been brainwashed. Most marketing is constantly telling people they can have whatever they want, whenever they want... and at "a deal." Really? How does that work?
This gets back to arrogance - the attitude that, "My specialness means that the normal rules of society don't apply to me."
I'm not saying to be a conformist - I believe in individualism. But real individualism is based on personal responsibility. It seems to me that arrogance is a form of being spoiled. Ironically, people are always telling me that because we provide such a good golf experience that we've spoiled our customers. And I want to spoil them in the sense of giving them the best golf experience I can. Yet, "spoiling" can turn into an attitude of that it's never enough. Same thing happens to spoiled kids. I tried to raise my kids to be individuals and independent and self-reliant. And I tried to give them what they wanted. It's a tricky balance... as a parent, as a society, as a business.
I think things have to be earned. That's why that "everyone wins a trophy" thing is not good. Experiences like that develop arrogance. Spoiling kids develops arrogance. Things coming too easily develops arrogance. And then you can see how arrogance leads to taking advantage of other people - and they feel it's right.
But, how do we deal with arrogant people? What works? They feel entitled and get angry when they can't do or get what they want. I try to emphasize what is right and what is fair when dealing with arrogant people. That's the only way I can feel good about dealing with them. It's amazing that I'm still shocked by arrogance - but it's probably better than taking it for granted.
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