Do you have to introduce yourself to someone at a business function (or worse – a NETWORKING function) and just feel like an ass for trying to describe what you do in an interesting way that shows you have real value?
Or around performance review time, it’s easy to feel reductive when thinking or (worse yet) talking about your own achievements. It can start to feel like you’re just exercising your ego, and trying to trumpet “I’m great! Don’t you think I’m amazing?! Let me tell you all about me me ME!”
But more and more we need to be able to talk competently about ourselves in a variety of situations. And the truth is more interesting and subtle than just “I sound like an ego maniac.” There is an art to being about to talk about yourself without sounding crazy. And the good news is that it can be learned.
A lot of it has to do with what you know about yourself. Knowing what your strengths are and being able to talk about them honestly doesn’t have to come across as being conceited. In the end, we all want to be valued for what we can bring to the table. And there’s a big difference between knowing why you’re a great person to be on a team and thinking that you don’t need a team in the first place. Part of that difference is knowing what unique attributes that you bring, and the other half is knowing (and being able to say) why you can (and do) contribute in a unique way.
People who shine from within don’t need the spotlight.
If you think about star performers that seem self-confident without being jerks, then you can start to see how their self-confidence is not grounded in just how great they are, but in how great their team is. Don’t they often seem really engaged in how everyone else is doing? That’s because they are trying to bring out strengths in other members of their team — and that is a great way to make sure that your team is going to remain a winner, by building up the strengths of every single one of the members. They shine their light freely, offering encouragement to others, and applying their own gifts jointly with their team. When these people win, you can’t help but cheer for them. When they talk about victories, everyone feels included.
On the other hand, if you think about someone who seems only interested in self-promotion, they don’t seem very concerned about anyone else on their team, right? Oftentimes they don’t even respond well when directly asked to help out someone who’s on their side. And let’s be honest, when you see someone who is completely full of himself cut down to size a little, it’s hard not to feel that a little dose of reality is just what those people need.
Another sure sign that someone is center-stage in the ‘Me-Me-Me Show’ is when they feel the need to define themselves as the ‘only person who does x’ or someone who ‘never does y.’ I have bad news for all those folks out there who think in terms of simple absolutes — just run a quick search on Twitter for the phrase “the only person on Twitter who” and just sit back and smell the hubris. People who are really unique don’t usually spend time talking about how unique they are. They are busy having a point of view that engages the people around them. And they can talk for hours (if need be) about their perspective. That’s their point of difference: it is a real, authentic viewpoint of theirs, not an opinion about how cool or rare their viewpoint is. They can talk without bragging, because they talk about the work, and don’t just describe themselves.
I’m a fan of Dorie Clark. I think her posts and books are great resources, and in one of my favorite posts she talks about how to promote yourself without coming across like a jerk. She explains how your attitude is a big factor in how successful you’ll be, and that after you get your facts straight, and pull them into a good story that resonates with people, then you can focus on making sure that you keep your ego in check while you relate to people.
I feel that the most important part of her advice is the admonition to stick to the facts when you’re finding the core elements about how to talk about yourself. And then you can move on to telling your story to people, and that’s when you bring in the “WHY.”
Telling people WHY you do things is the real secret to avoiding sounding like a braggart. When all you do is talk about what you did, you risk leaving people hanging outside of your story, and you don’t let them into your motivations for doing the work, or making the achievement, or climbing that particular hill. To talk about your WHY, you have to be willing to spend some time to dig up real insights about yourself, so that you don’t just list accomplishments, but you take people on a journey with you. Talk about the fact that made you decide to take on a project, or accept a job offer. it’s more engaging for people to hear about why we do the things we do, rather than just what we do. Which of the following do you think you’d respond to better?
A: I beat my sales targets for the last nine quarters. Eventually moving 100,000 units in 30 weeks. Let me tell you how I did it.
B: I wanted to see if our team could do more sales than we’ve ever done, 100,000 units, but also increase our engagement and have FUN doing it! Let me tell you how I did it.
No contest, right? Joanne Tombrakos runs a marketing consultancy specializing in social media, and she recently wrote a great article about how bragging isn’t really bragging if it comes from a place of truth, She ends her piece saying that there are only two times when bragging will not benefit you:
1. When you are lying.
2. When you don’t believe in yourself.
Which of course makes perfect sense — because if you’re full of yourself to the point that you can’t keep it real, and be yourself, then you’re not likely going to be able to come across well to others. So you have to know why you’re talking about yourself in the first place: knowing your unique self. And then you can focus on making that connection to another person in a relevant way.
That’s knowing what your worth is. it’s knowing why you do what you do, and why someone else should care.
Eventually, the difference between having a huge ego and knowing your worth will have an impact in how successful and happy you ultimately are. So it’s worth investing the time to fight against the bragging, and strive for the self-knowledge that can drive you forward.
MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique personal branding. Find out more here.