Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Tactful bragging, part of Communication Tips Weekly.
- There I was standing in the middle of the hallway of our business school right when the dean, the most important administrator in the school, asked me how the student trip to Greece was. Startled, and not having a well-crafted answer I said, "It was great." As we walked away I could have kicked myself if I didn't look too awkward doing it. "It was great," Tatiana that's all you had to say? The inaugural business education effort on this top ranked business school, and all you said to describe it to the main decision maker was that it was great? I was so angry with myself, but I quickly realized what happens to many of us when it comes to self-promotion.
We get caught off guard, we have not given our responses any thought, and therefore we have just nothing substantial to say on the spot. Tactful bragging is about making a connection with the person you're interacting with, while sharing something about yourself that will help you stand out. Peggy Klaus, in her book BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Horn Without Blowing It, says that bragging in today's culture is not a choice, it's a necessity. A successful brag, like the one I missed my chance of making with our dean, would have a few components, in fact three important ones.
Focus on results versus titles. Describe a little bit of how you do what you do versus given your job title. For example, when someone in sales management is asked for what they do it's better to say, "I lead a sales team that scored "five national accounts last year," versus saying, "I'm a project manager." When someone asks me what I do I always like to say, "I coach professionals to be exceptional speakers," versus saying, "I teach a business communication course." Second, focus on process versus job description.
This is similar to the introduction of your self-promotion, but it goes a little deeper into the logistics of what you accomplish daily. Caution that the level of self-promotion you do might depend on the occasion and the overall timing. If you're talking to key company representatives at a social event, it's appropriate for you to delve into logistics of your work. Always read your audience, and self-promote accordingly. Back to the project manager being asked to describe what he does, he's better off saying that he manages by promoting autonomy and creativity for his team to reach their highest potential, versus saying that he oversees staff in five different regions.
Back to my teaching example, I always add that I focus on experiential learning since speaking is a coachable skill, versus saying that I have X amount of students, and I've taught for X amount of years, and I have X amount of sections that would be too boring. Finally, loop back to your audience, because bragging belongs in the category of networking, connecting and building rapport when you describe your accomplishments and methods it's always a good idea to reflect back on your listener. Find the right loop back, to bring them in, and connect the dots.
Did they hint at what they do? Is there something you discovered that the two of you have in common, or do you have an inkling as to what they may be interested in? The sales manager who talks about his team may loop back by saying, "I heard you mention earlier "that you work with a team, "do you find that autonomy is a motivator?" In my case, the social interactions where I present myself follow some type of meeting or keynote speech. In this case, I usually like to say, "Do you think our speaker today "received some coaching at some point?" If I could turn back time, and meet our dean in the same hallway I would have sounded a lot different.
"Tatiana how was your trip?" I would say, "Thanks for asking Dan, it was a big success. "We made several business visits, "and we connected with alums in Athens. "Our students are well versed on the "European Union's economic crisis and Greece's role. "We had dozens of hands on experiences "that the students will go on and on "when they talk to recruiters. "You know the importance of teaching our students "to have a global mindset since you just got back "from Korea, how was your trip Dan?" Self-promotion is something you cannot afford not to do.
Read more about the art of BRAG! In Peggy Klaus' book, and take the BRAG! test. Stay on your toes in social situations, and practice your skills as much as possible. You will only get better and more comfortable with time.
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- Making small talk
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