Bragging: The Bad Habit You Don’t Want to Show Off

Having confidence is a good thing. When you feel good about yourself, it’s easier to join in on conversations and make friends. But you have to be careful about how you choose to express your confidence, because if you go about it wrong, you could wind up pushing people away instead of drawing them in.

Bragging about your achievements, personal qualities, experiences and possessions can have a negative impact on your relationships. While it’s okay to talk about these things, you need to be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make others feel insignificant. When you treat your friendships like competitions, or use your successes to cut others down, you’ll likely find yourself with more enemies than friends.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t want your friends to be supportive of your successes and share in your happiness. One of the great things about having friends is knowing that there is someone else who recognizes and appreciates your strengths. So how can you enjoy this part of friendship without getting a reputation for bragging? We’ve put together some guidelines…

  1. Think About Timing. If your good news always follows someone else’s success story, it may start to look like you’re trying to “one up” them. When someone else earns the spotlight, you don’t want to give them the idea that you’re trying to steal it from them. So instead, be supportive and encouraging. Give them a chance to fully enjoy their moment, and they’ll be much more open to celebrating yours.
  2. Highlight your Efforts, not Just your Accomplishments. It’s easier for people to relate to you when they understand why you’re excited about something you’ve gained or accomplished.  If it took a lot of hard work for your project to win first prize at the science fair, talk about the effort that went into it. If picking out your new skateboard was exciting because you spent months saving up for it, let your friends know that. No one gets everything they want without ever trying, and if you make it seem like you do, your friends will think you’re more worried about impressing them than telling the truth.
  3. Share Credit When It’s Due. There’s no shame in admitting that people have helped you along the road to your success. Refusing to acknowledge that anyone else has a hand in your achievements can make it seem like you’re too tied into being the one in the spotlight. Instead, mention the help you’ve had along the way. Let your friends know that you recognize and appreciate the efforts others make. They’ll be a lot more willing to help out again the next time you need it.
  4. Don’t Make it About Winning. While a little healthy competition can be a good thing, it’s usually best to set aside your drive to win when you’re just hanging out with people you enjoy. If your friend recently went on a vacation, there’s no need to tell them about a time you went on a better one. If your friend is proud of their grade on exam, you don’t have to point out that your grades are better. Friends like to tell their stories just for the sake of sharing, rather than feeling like they have to top someone else. If you’re always creating competitions with your friends, it can make them uncomfortable, and hesitant about opening up to you.
  5. Always Support the Success of Others. If it seems like you’re never supportive when others have something to be excited about, it’s hard to expect them to cheer you on when you’re the one that’s earned it. Take a genuine interest in the success of others. Compliment the things they do well. Ask questions about the things they’re excited about. Make them feel significant, and they will likely do the same for you when it’s your turn.

Remember, it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments, and to feel happy when it seems like everything is going right for you. But if you fall into the habit of bragging, you risk pushing away friends and making people hesitate before talking to you. Learning to share credit, support others, and put aside the competition will make others much more comfortable getting to know you, and more likely to be your friend.

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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More