If you’re an introvert, your concerns about bragging may be heightened by your natural inclination to avoid the spotlight. You’re more likely to let your accomplishments speak for themselves. But what if your boss and your other stakeholders don’t realize they’re yours? Then you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to someone else taking the credit for them. In that case, all your hard work can go unacknowledged.
Regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you’re unlikely to clinch the promotion or the opportunity you’re after unless your stakeholders are clear about the value you provide. I’m not suggesting that you exaggerate your contributions. Nor am I suggesting that you talk excessively about yourself. I am suggesting that you polish your skills at saying what you’ve got that matters to your boss, clients, hiring managers, and/or other stakeholders.
When, if ever, should you boast as opposed to just sharing positive aspects of your contributions? “If individuals want to be liked and viewed as socially sensitive, then they should disclose positively rather than brag,” according to the “Should I Brag?” research I referred to in the first part of this story.
The research also found that if you want to be viewed as competent and successful, then—at least under some circumstances, and depending on the gender of speaker and receiver—you might be better off bragging. “However,” the research concludes, “for the highest overall positive evaluations, disclosing positively is still likely to be a better bet than bragging.”
How to talk about your accomplishments without bragging
I’m a fan of what the research calls disclosing positively rather than bragging. Here’s how you can do that:
- Content. Just state the facts succinctly—and watch the adjectives. You don’t need to say you’re the best or the smartest at something. Instead, why not just offer specific information about your latest innovation or cost cutting measure and how it helps your stakeholders?
- Audience. Ask yourself who cares about what you’ve done. How can you tailor your message to that audience? Adjust your message when you’re in front of other audiences and for cocktail party conversation.
- Nonverbals. Make sure your facial expressions and body language match your message. So instead of looking stern, averting your eyes (cultural appropriateness notwithstanding), and folding your arms across your chest, why not show your enthusiasm with a smile and your arms gesturing naturally?
- Voice. How do you sound when you’re talking about your wins? Is your voice strong and confident, boastful, or at the other end of the spectrum, understated to the point of barely audible? If you’re an introvert you may speak more slowly and quietly. Practice listening to yourself talk about your accomplishments on videotape to become more aware of how your voice and nonverbal communications come across.
- Rest up, prepare, and practice. This is particularly important for introverts. Rest up because that’s what it takes for you to recharge between social encounters. Prepare and practice because you tend to think before you speak. So to the extent that you’ve rehearsed at least a boilerplate version of your accomplishments, you’ll be all the more confident when it’s time to tailor that boilerplate to a specific audience.
- Timing. Let’s say you just got a long-awaited promotion at a time when your company is cutting jobs. Think about when it would be appropriate to share your news, how to go about sharing it, and to whom.
Take the quick quiz that follows to determine where you are on the spectrum between being a braggart and an effective self-promoter.
Indicate True or False for each of the following statements. Answer based on what you do more than 50 percent of the time.
- I do most of the talking in social situations, and the main topic of conversation is me.
- I drop names to impress people.
- When I talk about myself, I just state the facts about my strengths and accomplishments.
- I promote myself by matching my capabilities with my conversation partner’s needs.
If you answered True to items 1 or 2, it’s time to auction off your bullhorn on eBay. If you answered True to item 3, ask yourself if your message is relevant and interesting to your audience. If you answered True to item 4, you’re on your way to effective nonbragging! Of course, it’s fine if you’re just beginning to think about how to speak about your accomplishments more effectively and you haven’t actually begun to take action. Regardless, determine one step you can take today to get you closer to your career advancement goals.
Lynn Carol Miller, Linda Lee Cooke, Jennifer Tsang, Faith Morgan, “Should I Brag? Nature and Impact of Positive and Boastful Disclosures for Women and Men,” Human Communication Research, International Communication Association, 1992, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp. 364-399.