Science Says Don’t Humblebrag

It's Actually Worse than Being a Narcissist or Complainer

You probably worked with or work with someone who is always the expert at whatever you’re talking about or the more accomplished in the experience you undertook. Regardless of who they are, he or she is the person you think is most disliked person in your life. Surprisingly, people actually hate someone even more than the braggart.

You may not believe this, but what makes people hate you more than being full of yourself is when you mask your self-adulation with false humility. As the comedian and producer Harris Wittels from Parks and Recreation coined it – Humblebragging.

The sophisticated, online dictionary Urban Dictionary reports that Humblebragging means to “try to get away with bragging about yourself by couching it in a phony show of humility.”

I found some hilarious examples of Humblebragging I’m sharing with you:

“The least enjoyable part of traveling the world? Budgeting three months in advance.”

“The fact that Wikipedia lists me as a notable alumnus of my college speaks ill of the reliability of crowd sourced information.”

“Graduating from 2 universities means you get double the calls asking for money/donations they get really pushy too. . .”

“Just won GQ style award . . .. I wonder how long till they come take it back.”

Some of these are amusing and were likely written for that purpose, but the reality of humblebragging in the workplace is less amusing and brings with it negative consequences.

Humblebraggers are considered insincere.  To put that more plainly, humblebraggers are viewed as hypocritical, devious, and dishonest.

The false modesty of humblebragging was found in one study to cause co-workers to dislike and distrust the humblebragger more than the complainer or the braggart because the latter two are viewed as more genuine. Don’t miss the irony of this – the adage that you should hide your bragging behind self-deprecation will actually make you appear less authentic and be less likable than the person who complains all the time or the narcissist who can’t stop boasting their accomplishments.

Humblebraggers are also viewed as less competent than the complainer or the narcissist. People pick up on the fact that humblebragging is a ploy used to elicit both admiration and sympathy. The response, however, is almost always the opposite. In one study on humblebragging, the authors of the study found that people exposed to humblebraggers would look down on the humblebragger quicker than anyone else in their social sphere.

What should you do instead of humblebragging?

Boast your accomplishments with specificity and then let it go. It’s okay to brag about something you did and are proud of accomplishing.

Use second-hand braggers – one study suggested even a staged “wingman” was more effective for garnering admiration for an accomplishment than humblebragging.

Wear, hang, or display your reasons for pride. Whether you graduated school, competed in an event, or finished a big project, display the tangible reward of your effort. Others will see it and talk about it.

I am an author, speaker, and leader with a passion for developing people into practical leaders who put their principles into practice. I am the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts with best-selling author Dillon Burroughs, the Chief Operations Officer at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and an independent leadership consultant to up and coming leaders and start up nonprofit organizations. My greatest joy, however, is serving Christ and his Church. I am the proud husband of Shay and father of two great boys. We live in Chattanooga, TN. #NoogaStrong

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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