Why You Should Be Careful How You Brag

It can often seem as though we live in a world where self-promotion is everywhere. In such an environment, it can often be difficult to toot your own horn without coming across as arrogant. It’s spawned a new form of behaviour called the humblebrag, whereby you mix in a boast with a complaint of some form.

The term humblebragging is thought to have been coined by executive producer Harris Wittels, and whilst you might not be familiar with the term, I’m sure you are familiar with what it represents (you may even have used it yourself). It involves a false use of modesty to provide a background that reflects how wonderful you really are.

The Humblebragged Interview

This can be particularly tempting in a job interview situation, especially when faced with the classic request to describe what your biggest weakness is. Such a line of enquiry is usually met with responses such as being a horrible perfectionist or being just that little bit too likeable.  Indeed, in a recent study conducted by researchers from Harvard University, it emerged that when faced with the aforementioned ’biggest weakness’ question, some 77 percent of us turned out to be a good old humblebragger, with just 23 percent of us brave enough to reveal a bona fide weakness.

It emerged that far and away the most common response to the question was being a perfectionist, followed closely by being a workaholic and being far too nice and helpful for our own good. Oh, and we also like to humblebrag about our fairness and honesty too.

Whilst we might think such a strategy is a good one, the study actually found that recruiters are less likely to hire a humblebragger than the individual who fessed up to an actual weakness.

Humblebragging on Social Media

Social media is another classic environment for humblebragging, and the authors found it was extremely pervasive online. They found that on social networks such as Twitter, humblebragging was linked with trying hard to be liked and/or competent in our work. Whilst we probably do it in order to promote ourselves, the study found that people actually rated such individuals less highly.

Interestingly, the study found that given a choice between a humblebragger, a straight forward bragger, and a run of the mill complainer, people tended to like the complainer most of all, followed by the regular bragger, with the humblebragger bringing up the rear.

In other words, if you engage in some humblebragging, you’re likely to come off pretty badly. Such people were percieved not only as less likeable, but also as less attractive and less sincere than the bragger and complainer.

So if you feel the temptation to blow your own trumpet, the study suggests that you’d actually be much better off doing so in an upfront way.  Likewise, if you want to have a grumble, just get on and grumble, and don’t try and cover it up in some way.

Do you recognise some of these behaviours from your own life? Will you change your habits having learned how you come across?