I conduct a fun exercise during my Self-Promotion for Introverts® workshops at the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies. The participants are from many walks of life, including computer programmers, doctors, architects, advertising executives, lawyers, bankers, artists, and entrepreneurs.
The point of the exercise is to demonstrate the differences between bragging and effective self-promotion. We brainstorm and the participants say things like: bragging means talking at your conversation partner, carrying on a monologue about yourself, and even namedropping for good measure. Boo hiss. We all agree that bragging—both performing the nasty and being on the receiving end of it—is distasteful.
So I ask someone in the class to brag. Shamelessly. Mercilessly. To the moon. And in front of the room. We do a role-play in which she runs into a colleague at an office holiday party. The braggart doesn’t stop bragging until she makes her colleague cringe. She talks about herself, throws in lots of fancy factoids of no interest to anyone else, and she tries hard to impress—she mentions how her son just got into Harvard (she drops the “H” bomb within the first 30 seconds!).
When I facilitate this exercise at a major mutual life insurance firm this past week, a dapper young actuary plays the windbag. He one-upps a colleague with such a litany of empty boasts that the audience roots for him to be thrown into braggarts’ jail. Next the class brainstorms about what effective self-promotion would be like—to get the actuary pardoned.
Asking about the other person, they say. Finding ways to help your conversation partner by offering useful information, introductions, and insights. Showing genuine interest. And succinctly saying what you do best, what types of organizations or individuals need and value what you do, and how your conversation partner might consider helping you. Yay!
I ask the two volunteers to shift gears and start over. Now the one who formerly played the braggart engages in an exchange and we hear two people connecting and advancing their relationship. They compare notes about the projects they’re working on.
At NYU, the former braggart says that she’s reached a plateau in her current job and is exploring her next steps. Her conversation partner asks how he can help. He also shares what he’s looking for and the former braggart engages, shows interest, and helps. Simple, but effective. Quiet applause.
So self-promotion doesn’t have to involve bragging. As introverts—or those who refuel during our solo time as opposed to our social time—our sweet spot is building relationships over time. We can position ourselves as the “go to” people for our area of expertise and share, share, share. And when we need to look for our next opportunity or build our businesses, we’ll already have the relationships in place—people who are happy to reciprocate our thoughtfulness. That doesn’t have to make anyone wince.
How do you advance in your career and stay out of braggarts’ jail? Stay tuned for more….
Adapted from Nancy Ancowitz, “Self-Promotion for Introverts®: Get Heard More. Even If You Talk Less,” ChangeThis, October 2009, pp. 7-8.