Humble Pie

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

How you choose to share personal achievements on social media says quite a lot about you. But watch out: You might not always be creating the impression that you’re hoping for…

Suppose that you have achieved pretty much the most prestigious award available in your line of work. How would you share the news on social media?

(a) Not at all

(b) Drowning in interview requests since I won that Oscar – Sorry if I’m slow getting back to you – just can’t keep up with them all!

(c) Still can’t believe they gave me an Oscar – What were they thinking?!!!

(d) I WON AN OSCAR!!!

(e) Can’t keep up with everything – stressed out!

If you said (a), I congratulate you on your restraint – you’re not like most of us! If you said (b) or (c) then you are officially a “humblebragger”; someone who tries to tone down their bragging with a dose of either (b) complaining or (c) humility. If you said (d), you are just a straightforward bragger; If you said (e) a straightforward complainer.

Interestingly, a recent study conducted at Harvard Business School found that both (b) complaint-based and (c) humility-based humblebrags were less effective than (d) straightforward brags or even (e) straightforward complaints (without the brag). Both types of humblebragger were rated as less likeable and competent than straightforward blaggers or complainers. What is more, (b) complaint-based humblebrags (the most common type) were rated as worst of all. So if you’ve achieved something great and you just can’t keep it in, don’t humblebrag, just brag!

Reference

Sezer, O., Gino, F., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Humblebragging: A Distinct–and Ineffective–Self-Presentation Strategy. https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/14725901/15-080.pdf?sequence=1

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Are You Smarter Than A Chimpanzee? by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £12.99) for £11.04 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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