How to make a good impression? Don’t brag

Photo: Xubayr Mayo

Photo: Xubayr Mayo

Do you know anyone who is always boasting about their accomplishments? How does that make you feel when they do that? Okay, okay, enough about you! Here’s the real question, what do you think is going on in the other person’s head? Most people tend to tune off or get annoyed by overenthusiastic, self-absorbed show-offs, but one study says out that boasters actually believe that others appreciate hearing about their accomplishments. This is the case even though if the situation were reversed, they themselves would not take to another person’s bragging particularly well.

Study co-author Irene Scopelliti, a behavioral scientist at the City University London in England, said, “Most people realize that they experience emotions other than pure joy when they are on the receiving end of other people’s self-promotion. But when we ourselves engage in self-promotion — either on social media or in person — we tend to overestimate people’s positive reactions, and we underestimate their negative reactions.”

In the study, which was conducted online, people were asked to fill out a short survey in which they reported a time they bragged about something or when someone else bragged to them. Participants were asked to describe their own emotions and what they imagined were the emotions of the other person in that situation.

Scopelliti and her team found that self-promoters thought that the listener was happier and prouder of them than they were in reality. In fact, people in the listener situation often reported being annoyed, upset or angry. Moreover, although some on the receiving end reported feeling inferior or jealous, braggers have an exaggerated sense of how jealous others feel.

So if a person is bragging in order to make himself or herself look good to others, the effort may end up having the opposite effect.

Even when a person makes less of their accomplishments or complains, it can put other people off, because the conversation is still about that one person. Instead, a person should try to strike a balance and let others also speak about themselves. This is the same advice that Dale Carnegie gave in his best-selling book, How to win friends and influence people.

In situations where a person wants to make an impression, asking a colleague or friend make an introduction would work much better, according to Michael Norton, a behavioral scientist at Harvard Business School in Boston. Norton was not involved in the study.

“If someone else brags on your behalf, it’s a fantastic way to get the message across because it doesn’t feel like you’re the one looking for credit,” Norton said.

The study was published online in the journal Psychological Science.

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