Although false modesty is by no means a new phenomenon, a new word for such behavior is: “humblebrag.” Bragging while acting like you aren’t bragging can make you seem insensitive, dishonest, or just plain arrogant—none of which are endearing qualities.
People who humblebrag may find their friends become less and less interested in being cheerleaders. Companies can engage in humblebragging, too, which can turn off loyal customers. And whether boasting is thinly disguised as self-criticism or not, braggarts are rarely our favorite people.
Here are a few things you can do to not be the humblebragger your friends or customers start to avoid.
- Exercise transparency. Social media has trained us to present the veneer of perfection to the world, never mind how far that image is from reality. By sharing more of your real-life experiences (that includes your cooking disasters, anxious moments, and bad hair days) you become more authentic as a whole person others can relate to.
- Strip down your statement to its simplest form. Before you hit send or post online, try to read your sentences without their colorful descriptions to get to the root of what you’re saying. “My diet is going so well that I don’t fit into my clothes anymore” can be boiled down to “I have lost a lot of weight,” and adding the faux complaint at the end makes it harder for others to share your excitement and may make them resent your success.
- Celebrate success with humility. None of this means you shouldn’t celebrate your successes—quite the contrary! We are enthusiastic supporters of people we love, so long as they don’t make us feel like that enthusiasm is an obligation. If you’re surprised at winning an award, be straightforward and sincere. If you get praise for a work project, acknowledge and express gratitude toward those who helped you.
If you’re concerned that you won’t recognize your own humblebragging, try the “tone detector” on Grammarly (grammarly.com) to gain insight into how your writing might sound to others.