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10 Ways You Can Brag Without Sounding Like a Jerk

There's nothing wrong with touting our own success, but it's easy to come off arrogant (and slightly annoying). Here's how to boast your accomplishments—the right way.

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Understand the basis of arrogance

Arrogance is a cover for deep insecurity, says Sally Eames, a transformation and legacy coach from Chicago. “Bragging is about building ourselves up to look better to someone else,” explains Eames. “Take away the insecurity, and the bragging becomes a non-issue.”

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Don’t compare yourself to others

According to social psycholgist Ilan Shrira, comparative boasting is risky because it can disparage others in your company. “There’s a big difference between saying you’re good vs. saying you’re superior to others or put differently—saying that others are worse than you,” he writes in Psychology Today. Comparative boasting can also come off threatening, he says, even if that’s not the person’s intention. So instead of saying, “I’m smarter than everyone in this room,” simply say, “I’m good at this.” Sounds better, right?

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Applaud others’ achievements

One way to seem more humble is to share in others’ successes, which is something naturally charming people do. “When someone does something awesome, enthusiastically share the victory,” Eames says. “When you get into that habit, your own victories naturally come along for the ride.”

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Being gracious has a domino effect

As you work to build others up, you’ll find they’ll start doing the same for you. “Eventually, you have a team of people who not only talk each other up, you have a team of people who really like each other,” adds Eames.

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Share a lesson you learned

Maelisa Hall, PsyD, a psychologist in Irvine, California, says an easy way to share your success without coming across as arrogant is to highlight what you’ve learned. “We rarely learn in a silo, so if you speak about what led to your success you are likely to bring others up with you,” Dr. Hall shares. “This will highlight how connected and educated you are in that specific area while also sharing the skills you’ve acquired.” Here are more ways you can build trust with your co-workers.

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Consider your captive audience

Another thing to consider when sharing your success is the person listening to you, says Dr. Hall. “For example, if you know your sister-in-law is always a naysayer, don’t share with her regardless of how excited you are about your news. It will only serve to deflate your excitement,” she recommends. “Instead, think of the people in your life who encourage you and are happy when good things happen for you. Share with them.”

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Be mindful of social media bragging

According to the Harvard Business Review, people Tweet or update their Facebook status with their achievements and good fortune to gain validation in the form of “likes,” comments, and so on. So before you post, take a moment to decide why you’re really posting. If it’s validation you’re looking for, your positive sharing may come across as bragging. Also, watch out for these social media mistakes.

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Make your comments meaningful

Don’t emphasize the money you are making or the recognition/fame you are achieving, says Deborah Offner, PhD, a clinical psychologist from Boston. “Talk about why your work, or whatever you are achieving, is intrinsically interesting to you.”

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Commend those who play a role in your success

Do not attribute your success to your own innate brilliance in conversation, or even to your awesome work ethic, says Dr. Offner. “Talk about the real facts of what makes you proud, but downplay the role of your own excellence and talk about how fortunate you feel, how you were in the right place at the right time, etc.,” she says. “Make sure to credit people who have helped you while you’re talking about what you have achieved. It makes you much more likable.” Here are more ways kind gestures go a long way.

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Get to the point

Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent, says the best way to brag without seeming arrogant is to be succinct. “Don’t belabor or draw out the details. People listening (or reading your bragging note) will feel controlled by you,” Dr. Walfish says. Make your announcement but add words or phrases like,”I am humbled to share,” to tone things down a bit. “Be humble, appreciative, and grateful for what comes to you and what you have,” she adds. “So many have less.”

Erica Lamberg
Erica Lamberg is an experienced travel and business writer based in suburban Philadelphia. Specializing in family travel, cruise experiences, and tips for enriching and affordable vacations. Beyond travel, Erica writes about personal finance, health and parenting topics. Her writing credits include Reader’s Digest, USA Today, Parents Magazine, Oprah Magazine and U.S. News & World Report. Her favorite city is Paris and she dreams about visiting Greece and Israel. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park and is married with two children.