How to Brag

An integral part of living your personal brand is sharing your growth and success with your stakeholders. Not in the same way Donald Trump does, but in a way that truly shows the value you are generating for society. If you’re an introvert, you likely find the idea of self-promotion even more difficult.

First, what not to do.

How many times have you encountered the dreaded and duplicative humblebrag?

“I’m exhausted from Labor Day weekend; it’s so hard to leave the Bahamas. #funkytanlines”

“My story was featured in the Huffington Post, but I forgot to share it with my friends. Here it is! #accidentalauthor”

“I need to get rid of my Range Rover… I’m always getting pulled over by the cops. #fancyandfastcar”

“Another promotion… and I’ve only worked here nine months. #whydoesmybosslikemesomuch”

What other examples can you think of?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, humblebragging is “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.” Basically, humblebragging is bragging masked as a complaint.

Three researchers from the Harvard Business School co-authored a paper, Humblebragging: A Distinct–and Ineffective–Self-Presentation Strategy, to shed additional light on how people deliver, and react to, humblebragging. Through five separate studies, the researchers studied humblebrags on social media, humblebrags in interviews, and complaints, brags, and humblebrags in person to determine sincerity and how people react.

Two fundamental goals in life are to get people to be impressed by us and feel sympathy for us,” said Michael Norton, one of the researchers. “People think they can get the best of both worlds by being indirect. Instead they are perceived as insincere because humblebragging fails to leave a favorable impression on others.

Now, what you should do.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t brag, I’m simply suggesting that you should brag using the following guidelines –

  1. Gratefulness – for many of us, success doesn’t happen overnight. And, it doesn’t happen as we plan it to. When it does happen, show sincere gratitude and graciousness for your blessings.
  2. Self-deprecation – when asked, play up the not-so-sexy parts of the journey to success. It’ll help those around you let their guards down and become more comfortable in asking the truly interesting, vulnerable, and meaningful questions about how you did what you did.
  3. Have Someone Else Brag For You – humans are naturally more receptive to a third party bragging for, or recommending, you. Attend social events in pairs to talk one another up and give and ask for LinkedIn recommendations.
  4. Positivity – similar to the bullet points from your resume or your 30-second elevator pitch, develop short statements that truly share your accomplishments with important facts and figures… without seeming disingenuous.
  5. Humor – my name is Mike Seaver. The same as Kirk Cameron’s character in the ‘80s sitcom Growing Pains. I often use this comparison to remind audiences the power of personal branding and the name we use when we brand ourselves in the marketplace. In Google, search “Mike Seaver”. Then search “Michael S. Seaver”. Notice a difference?
  6. Personal – the most memorable thing about you will be different to every person you talk with because the lens through which he/she sees the world is different. Listen to the person for three or more minutes and then deliver a tailored pitch about yourself that touches on points that resonate with him/her.

By talking openly about our accomplishments, we have a greater chance of being remembered and not forgotten. Great stories make life interesting and more enjoyable. If you elect not to brag, you might lose out on promotions and key projects. Bragging, using the guidelines above, allows you to reveal your true, authentic self and allow deeper, more meaningful connections to be created.

I encourage you to live your personal brand, not through humblebragging, by simply being grateful for your success, being positive and humorous, and being very personal about sharing your stories and accomplishments.