Five Ways to Brag (Without Being a Braggart)

There’s an artful way to brag about yourself without having to condescend, one-up, or put down others. Use these tips to tout your accomplishments with grace.

Associations are doing important, worthy work. So why is it so difficult for some association professionals to talk about their own successes? Well, you’re just not supposed to do that. As the sayings go, “Let your work do the talking,” “It’s just not polite,” and for women in particular, “It’s not ladylike.”

But according to Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, these notions—what she calls “bragging myths”—hold professionals back.

“Studies have shown that you will stall and/or derail your career if you’re not able to talk about your work, and your value to the team and the organization,” Klaus says. “I think humility is a lovely virtue, but not when it renders someone ineffectually humble.”

You can tout your accomplishments in a way that conveys pride instead of ego but that also doesn’t veer into the humblebrag, which can also come off negatively. Use these tips to toot your own horn in a positive way.

Break the Bad Bragging Behaviors

Of course, there’s a wrong way to tout yourself, and Klaus emphasizes the distinction between someone who’s proud of themselves and someone who’s a braggart.

“We all know braggarts: Those are really obnoxious, self-aggrandizing, boorish people,” Klaus says. She explains that braggarts doing the following things:

  • Talk incessantly about themselves.
  • Don’t listen to others.
  • Only listen for an opening in the conversation where they can turn the discussion back to themselves.
  • Try to one-up colleagues’ experiences or accomplishments.
  • Steal credit from others.
  • Condescend to others.
  • Lie about their accomplishments.

Avoid these traits so that you can show pride and passion in your work without coming off negatively.

Keep Your Brags Brief

It’s about saying the right things, but it’s also about not saying too much. If someone asks you about your work or accomplishments, keep what Klaus calls your “bragalogue” to a minute or shorter; a “bragalogue” being a short story or pithy monologue about yourself that includes memorable bits of information, or “brag bites,” about your accomplishments.

That way, you don’t dominate the conversation or come off as self-absorbed. And other participants can easily interject with follow-up questions or keep the discussion going by sharing their own experiences.

Share Information in a Conversational Manner

When talking about yourself and your accomplishments, speak with a delight and a positivity that reflects the passion you have for your work. Share positive information about yourself through short anecdotes, with phrases such as:

  • “I never thought I’d be working here for X years”
  • “This promotion was a great opportunity for me because X, Y, and Z.”
  • “I was working for [previous employers] doing X, Y, and Z, but then I got a call from [current employer] and I love the work they do.”
  • “My favorite part of my job is X because I get to showcase my ability to Y.”

In her interview with speaker and career coach Sara Holtz, Klaus offered a full “bragalogue,” using Holtz as the example:

“I have always been an advocate and passionate about working with women and helping them to succeed. I did it as a lawyer, I did it through coaching, and now I have this incredible opportunity where I host a podcast where I bring in experts from all different kinds of professions to help women at every stage of their career to advance.”

By sharing your “brag bites” through this sort of short monologue, you can talk about yourself in a compelling way while still being your authentic self. Simply listing your accomplishments won’t endear you to others.

“Do it in a conversational and enthusiastic manner, which will create interest and excitement in your audience,” Klaus says. “It’ll draw people in.”

Show Enthusiasm

When asked about your accomplishments, Klaus recommends putting yourself in the right frame of mind:

“Before you open your mouth, say to yourself, ‘I am so excited to tell Peggy about this. Wait until she hears this. I love my job.’ That immediately warms you up to deliver it in a really enthusiastic, passionate way,” Klaus says.

The key is to showcase the joy you have for your work and why you do what you do, not to go on about how amazing you are at something. Talk about what you’re passionate about and your strengths will come up naturally.

And without enthusiasm, you may come off as distant, glib, or unmemorable. Klaus says that answering the question, “What do you do?” with something like, “I’m an accountant,” in a monotone, monosyllabic way, you won’t display pride in your work or inspire others to inquire further about your experiences.

Create a “Brag Bag”

Did a colleague or client pay you a compliment? Klaus recommends writing it down in a “brag bag,” a notebook or document where you track the positive things that others have said about you. When you have a list of genuinely positive traits to draw from, you won’t need to overcompensate or exaggerate your accomplishments when talking about yourself.


(Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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