Bragging existed long before the Internet was invented. But with the rise of the Internet and social media there’s been a rise in the “Look at me! Me, me, me,” kind of bragging. Bragging is a bad enough strategy to use with friends, unless you’re 12 years old; but it’s a horrible strategy to follow in business. But, if you don’t tell people how great you are, who will?
Here’s the deal, if you feel you need to brag to show how significant you are. . . you’re not that significant. In fact bragging does the opposite of what you’ve intended. Bragging does not convey confidence; it conveys the feeling that you’re making up for something you lack. And that’s exactly why you need to meet and master the humble brag.
The humble brag is where you convey confidence to your listeners. It’s how you brag in a way where people can recognize your strengths, without you having to pound your chest and let out a Tarzan yell, or grow extra pectoral hair.
1. The Confidence Mindset: That mind of yours controls everything you do when you present yourself. It controls the tone of your voice, the energy of your presentation, and your overall feeling or vibe of confidence. Before you can exude the kind of confidence that makes people around you swoon, you have to be absolutely convinced in your own mind of your superior talents and abilities.
This mindset immediately gets you out of the bragging mode (where you need to prove to others how wonderful you are) and puts you in a confidence mode (where you’re careless about proving yourself, because you already know you’re awesome). That kind of energy is contagious, and people will feel it, without you saying a word.
2. The Confident Stance: Our body language is the most powerful form of communication we have. If you slouch or have slumped shoulders and poor posture, people know you don’t believe your own story. If you’re avoiding eye contact people will think you’re lying. Stand straight and look ‘em in the eye. Practice in front of a mirror if you have to.
3. Ask Questions: Braggers keep spewing more and more information. They use the classic “show up and throw up” approach. But the people who are the most confident ask questions of their listeners to gauge how much they know. Only when they find something the listener doesn’t know, do they gently present what they know. For example they may say, “That’s interesting. My experience is somewhat different, and I will gladly share if you feel it may be of value…” and then they are positioned to deliver the humble brag.
4. Use Non-Confrontational Language: If you ever say “You’re wrong,” or “the truth is,” or “no;” you’re starting a confrontational dialogue and you will be perceived as a bragger. Humble braggers give the other side an escape hatch. They use language that starts with “That’s really interesting. My experience is…”, “I once observed…”, or “I have heard of a situation…”. In every instance, they are giving the listener an opportunity to hold on to their own story, while deflecting the potential for conflict. This allows the listener to “save face,” to still have confidence in themselves, to be non-defensive and be influenced by, or integrate their experience with the speaker’s knowledge.
5. Be Vulnerable: Braggers position themselves a superior to others. Humble braggers position themselves as the equals of others, just with different experiences. We are all fans of other people who are like us, so the humble bragger shows how they are the same as the people they are speaking to. Then they simply highlight their different experiences, not a superior knowledge.
6. We Rules: Humble braggers use “we” way more than they say “I”. When the humble bragger has a victory, she points to the success of the entire team, and to the people who are involved directly and indirectly. Humble braggers say “we” a lot. They use “I” to point to their own responsibility for problems. Other people getting kudos indirectly gives the humble bragger the kudos they cherish. As they say, “all boats rise with the tide.”
7. Let Actions Do The Talking: The most important quality of the humble bragger is the way they use their actions, not their words, to get noticed. It is the way the humble bragger conducts themselves that gets the well deserved recognition they deserve. They walk the talk, not spout the talk.
If you recognize yourself as more of a bragger, not a humble bragger, congratulations. You’ve taken the first step to becoming a humble bragger—recognizing and owning your actions.