The Bottom-Line on Bragging


You are Awesome graphic
It’s been three months since How to Live an Awesome Life came out and I am deep into the marketing process. I’ve been trying to balance this whole self-promotion thing with the whole don’t-talk-about-yourself-ever-or-you’ll have-no-friends thing.

It’s a toughie for me. How do I tell you about what I love — the writing, the book, the message – in a way that inspires you, (and sells books so that I can keep writing them and feed my cats) without sounding boastful and annoying? I’m not a particularly modest person. I’ve worked hard to craft a career and I am committed to doing it well. I am equally as honest about my failings and what a nutcase I can be.

But how can we share the success, without sounding like a braggart? How do you do it?

Do you share your accomplishments with others? Do you shout them to the world? Do you own the compliment and acknowledge your talents?

Most of us don’t do this well, according to psychologists. Too often we go over the top coming off as cocky or self-absorbed. OR, we don’t do it enough, or at all. Instead of sharing our success we suppress it. Instead of accepting the compliment, we’re more likely to deflect, dismiss, or share the wealth without taking it in.

“Well thank you, but it was really a team effort…” or “this old thing….?”

Is there a middle ground? A way to comfortably mention our achievements and share our successes, without sounding boastful?

Be Authentic and Sincere

In one study published in the Journal of Marketing Research, Wharton professor Deborah Small found that sincerity and intent make a difference in how people are perceived when they are bragging.

If, for example, you brag about making a big donation because you want to enhance your reputation or otherwise improve your social standing, that brag is going to work against you. People can SNIFF THAT OUT. But, if you sincerely do good and you share that goodness, without any ulterior motives, your brag may not be seen as boastful at all. It will seem meaningful and informative.

Here’s another tidbit from the research, as if humans need to further demonstrate their complexity: If you are already known for your generosity, then bragging about it is considered a social faux pas. If you aren’t perceived as all that generous to begin with, but then you do a good deed and talk about it, your brag is actually seen as informative – something people want to know – and that kind of brag isn’t so bad.

Bragging is a form of information exchange. When the information provided to others is new and interesting, it’s not a considered annoying. When, you are simply telling people what they already know or think about you, then it is more likely to hurt your rep than help it.

Practicing the Brag

Recently more than a couple of people suggested my unwillingness to share certain things might be dragging me down. Of course one was a book publicist who gets paid to brag on behalf of me and others. The other was my coach Andrea Mather who was getting tired of me short-selling my creative accomplishments. She challenged me to OWN the experiences, share them with people.

Then, another thing happened: a friend noticed that my daughter has a hard time accepting compliments. She is nine. AT the peak of self-absorption and declared awesomeness, and yet when she is recognized for something meaningful or important, she shrugs it off. And I so don’t want her to do this.

We must be accountable in our lives, for all if it. And if we are going to take responsibility for all the crap that comes down that we sure as heck should own the success.

So we practice around the dinner table each night. We first share a goodness, something we are grateful for, and then we give a big ol’ brag for something we did really well. The first night, we all had a hard time coming up with anything to say. Now, it’s second nature.

We are doing good things in the world and it feels good to share it.

What about you? What are you doing that you want to shout about? Let me hear your brag.

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