It’s called “humblebragging” when someone makes a self-deprecating statement (often veiled in a faux complaint) with the true purpose of drawing attention to something they’re proud of (as in, “Darn, I lost so much weight I have to spring for a new wardrobe.”) But studies show the humblebrag is not a good tool for self-promotion in business situations, especially job interviews.
According to recent research by Harvard Business School’s Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton, cited in Forbes, when given the option to brag or to humblebrag, the former is better. The researchers hypothesized that humblebrags create negative impressions because they seem insincere, compared with pure bragging or pure complaining. Their supposition was tested in a series of five studies, detailed in their paper, “Humblebragging: A Distinct—and Ineffective—Self-Presentation Strategy.” The takeaway: By public perception, complainers are better than braggers. And humblebraggers are the worst.
Why do people humblebrag? “I think people have a tendency not to say something negative about themselves because that makes them vulnerable,” Gino says. But as we have said before, showing vulnerability can often have extremely positive results. We all appreciate honest people who can learn from their mistakes. It’s fine to brag if the brag is merited, and it is also fine to admit you could improve—because we all can!
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