The Subtle Art of Being Confident Without Being Cocky

One thing to make a world of difference

At first, being confident without being cocky may seem like a fine line to walk. We may first think of the rich and famous, or maybe professional athletes.

Don’t they need to be both to achieve the successes they have?

Not exactly.

Being confident can happen without being cocky. And being cocky can happen without being confident.

Oftentimes, cockiness is only a mask to hide insecurity or inadequacy or a lack of skill within a certain domain.

In reality, there could not be two more divergent and different attributes.

Cocky people primarily talk about themselves

The primary difference between cocky and confident people is the things they talk about.

Cocky people talk about themselves, first and foremost.

They talk of their accomplishments, credentials, degrees, their hot ex’s, their affluence and intellect.

Rarely will they ask a genuine question unless they are only asking it in order to later answer the same question and prove how supremely accomplished they are.

There’s a joke about Harvard (of course not all Harvard grads are like this, it’s a joke that makes a point though):

How can you tell if someone went to Harvard? Don’t worry, they will tell you themselves.

This does not come off well, it simply comes off way too strong and usually way too soon.

But this makes “cocky” easy to spot.

Confident people talk about the person whom they are speaking with.

They ask genuine questions, and they listen with genuine curiosity.

True confidence means you are comfortable in your own skin, and you do not feel the urge to constantly prove yourself to others.

Bragging is not something confident people do. They will answer honestly if you ask about their success, but rarely do they feel the need to bring it up first.

They are good listeners because confidence goes hand in hand with being humble — you are comfortable in your own skin so you see others as people who you can learn something from — Cocky people, in contrast, think they know everything, so they instead treat people as less intelligent or accomplished as them.

Here’s an example that illustrates my point:

If you are telling everyone how tough you are, you are probably not that tough. You are likely more cocky than confident.

This is not the type of person to worry about in a fight.

The person you should worry about in a fight is the silent one, the one who is watching without saying anything.

They do not need to tell anyone how tough they are, because they are confident enough in their abilities that they can simply show their strength if necessary.

Confident and cocky are really not that comparable. There are subtle, yet critical differences that separate the two.

Phil Rosen is a travel writer and journalist. His new book is available on Amazon. If you want to see more of his ideas, check out his travel and lifestyle blog and Instagram.

A similar post first appeared in one of my Quora answers in July 2020.

Bestselling travel writer. Columnist. Author. USC Annenberg School of Journalism.

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