I've traveled the globe and observed time and again men from all different cultures and backgrounds doing one thing that makes women doubt their security.
What is it?
Most men are terrific at self-promotion. In fact, studies suggest it is one of the main reasons why men are able to rise the corporate ladder faster and earn fatter paychecks than women. (That's despite women doing all the right things and being completely competent.)
Research cited in the book The Confidence Code states that men regularly overestimate their abilities by 30 percent. Whether or not men actually believe they are better than they are, what IS important is that men generally see it as a sign of true confidence that one states and promotes their own abilities.
But, when tooting one's own horn, men should be aware of who their audience is.
Women have been socialized to be nice and don't perceive self-promotion as a sign of strength. Instead, they believe blatant self-promotion isn't only obnoxious but actually a potential red flag that someone is insecure or lacks confidence. It turns them off both professionally and personally.
But because self-promotion has proven to be such an important tool in career advancement, it shouldn't be discarded. Instead, it should be refined.
Here are three alternatives to telling us how great you are--but still being able to make a good impression:
Show us, don't tell us.
Here's not an atypical conversation between a man and a woman:
Woman: How are you, Robert?
Man: I pulled together my management team brilliantly! We're up in sales 3 percent and I led the team through amazing accomplishments.
Women: I'm doing well, too, thanks.
Actions speak louder than words. Instead of telling us why you're amazing, show us through your accomplishments--your financial success, your ability to lead a team, your success in developing products and services. And let others speak about your wins.
I can't tell you how often I've shown up on a new client's site and had women ask me if I need anything. Men, on the other hand, often leave me on my own to find the bathroom or water.
Nothing screams insecurity more than self-centeredness. So, be thoughtful and do something nice for other people and/or support a cause. Practice good manners, be selfless, care for others before yourself.
Listen more than talk.
I was once sitting next to a couple on a first date at a dinner in Palo Alto. I watched as the guy talked and talked, volume rising, and the woman didn't say a word. When she went to the restroom, I intervened, suggesting he start asking questions. He did, and I bet they had a second date.
It's so important to ask about our day, our interests, our thoughts and dreams. Show others that you value their opinions and empathize with another's concerns. A good rule is the 70/30 rule: you talk 30 percent of the time, the other talks 70 percent (particularly as a man talking with a woman).
Self-promotion is crucial for career advancement, but there is more than one way to do it. As with any communication, it's important to consider the receiver of the message before you send it.