Whether you are on a sales call and want your client to know how great you are or are on a date and want to impress a special someone, there are always qualities that we want to shine through. If we just blurted it out, it would come off as bragging. If we are too modest, then we risk not being noticed for our true qualities or what makes us unique or valuable.
How do you highlight your best characteristics without being considered an egotistical jerk? It is a thin line. Traditional approaches suggest using methods that show not tell. Demonstrate your skill or character, and people will recognize it. But, what do you do when you don't have the time to show?
Over the years, I have used my knowledge as a human behavior scientist and personally tested out different techniques. By far, there are two that I've found most effective.
1. Let someone amazing do the talking for you.
Warm introductions and recommendations from respected and trusted individuals make people more open to liking you. A testimonial from a trusted source is ideal. However, it turns out that even if the testimonial cannot be attributed to someone specific, it can be seen as trustworthy.
The praise should be genuine and come from real sources. However, my point is that people are more willing to trust and admire you when the praise is coming from a third-party.
2. Show a victory over the past.
My favorite approach is to use the victory over the past technique. If someone were to tell me that they just bought a Maserati, I would find it wasteful and gaudy. If they contextualize it as a victory over their past, it becomes admirable.
For example, instead of bragging about your new, luxury purchase, you could say:
"I grew up incredibly poor. When I was seven, I saw someone drive a Maserati through our neighborhood. I swore to myself that if I become successful, I would get one. I don't tend to spend a lot on myself, but after I sold my company, I decided that I could finally fulfill my childhood dream."
In that context, what would be considered bragging is now a personal victory. Whatever the item is, it is secondary to the success. It turns from talking about an expensive purchase to intimately discussing a victory of self-worth. You can use the same technique for personal accomplishments like weight loss. Instead of just announcing your new fit body to the world, frame it as:
"I grew up constantly struggling with my weight. I took it on as a personal project to completely overhaul my health and well-being. After a year of intense training, I finally feel healthy and fit."
You can use both of these techniques in a variety of scenarios. If you are sharing your newest promotion, focus on the struggle to get it or what motivated you to work so hard. If you want to discuss the success that your team is experiencing at work, look to your clients, users or other colleagues to do the talking for you. Context allows you to highlight the qualities that you want without being seen as egotistical.