Beware of Humble Bragging

Humble bragging may be a term you are familiar with and you probably smile when you hear it.  It sounds like an oxymoron. The term humble bragging originated with the late comedian, Harris Lee Wittels in 2010. Humble bragging means to be self-deprecating or act modest with the goal of bringing attention to something admirable about yourself. Most likely, you have done it with the best intentions. I have done it, as well. However, once I started digging into some research, I now know that humble bragging is received as negative by others.

Ovul Sezer, when an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, along with Francesa Gino and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School conducted 9 different studies and developed some interesting findings about humble bragging. They found that humble bragging is usually presented with either humility or a complaint. Examples of humble bragging with humility would be: “So many people have been commenting on my weight loss, but I have so much more to go.” OR “One of my clients offered me a job because they like my work so much, and I’m not even looking for a job.”

Humble bragging with a complaint looks something like: “I’ve lost so much weight that it’s irritating that I don’t have any clothes to wear anymore.” Or, “I’m getting so many invitations to go places, and I don’t have the time for that.”

The researchers then carried out experiments to see how people responded to humblebrags, with a particular focus on the bragger’s perceived likability and competence. “They found that regular bragging was better on both counts, because it at least comes off as genuine,” Sezer says. She goes on to say, “sincerity is desirable, and seen as particularly fundamental to a person’s identity.”

People are smarter than we give them credit. When you look like you’re trying to impress people, others start to wonder, “are you really that good? And if you are, why do you need to humblebrag?” Humble bragging can also appear that you are seeking attention. People who seek attention can appear as low-self-esteem or even desperate.

Don’t use the excuse to refrain from humble bragging to start bragging. Let your accomplishments speak for you. However, when the situation does call for you to claim something that you have accomplished, simply say it proudly rather than humble brag.

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