Humblebraggarts: Pick a side


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Oh that thing I did that you could never do – it’s no big deal…

Blame social media, the internet, or human nature—humblebragging is a phenomenon that happens frequently enough that it has a name.

The more or less official definition of humblebrag is, “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.” It’s hiding bragging.

And basically no one likes it:

the problem with humblebragging is two fold: it involves bragging, which no one likes, and a feeble attempt to hide it, which people easily notice and recognize as insincere

via The rise of humblebragging, the best way to make people not like you

Humblebraggarts—those who humblebrag—seem to be messing up finding a balance: wanting to brag, but not wanting to appear to be bragging. We’ve discussed precisely this balance earlier, that of humility and boasting (you can read the full post here).

This balance between being humble and boasting—like all Balance Challenges—can be hard one to find. But it seems that humblebraggarts are trying to have it both ways: in an attempt not appear to be on the extreme side of boasting, they are cloaking their bragging in humility. That’s not real humility, and other people know it. According to researchers from Harvard Business School,

“Humblebraggers experience the positive effect from bragging and the positive feeling that they are not actually bragging, while recipients react negatively to both the self-promotion and the attempt to mask it.”

In sum:

Humblebraggarts want to brag but not to appear to be bragging, so that others aren’t bothered. But it doesn’t work, because others both recognize the bragging, and are further bothered by the insincerity.

What to do? Bustle has some concrete examples of how to avoid humblebragging. It essentially comes down to this: If you don’t need to brag, don’t do it. If you’re going to brag, brag. Own it. Basically, be honest.

But here again is another case of the “muddiness” of the social world: the lesson seems to be, it’s better to be honest and sincere than hide boasting. Yet be careful about taking that advice to its extreme—there are only too many examples of being too honest that can end badly…