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How to brag without bragging

by Guest on April 27, 2017
Career

It’s important to be visible if you want to get ahead in your career. Becoming known and valued for the great work you do and by the people who can help you progress is a critical step to putting your leadership career on the map. However, for women, ensuring that the right people know about our achievements is not an easy task. Women don’t like to brag, and others don’t like women to brag. So how do we brag without bragging?

We don’t like when women brag

Men can stand around the water cooler swapping achievements till the cows come home and no one bats an eyelid. If women were to do the same, the conversation would screech to a halt. Why? Because when women talk about their successes as openly and unashamedly as men do, they face a social backlash. A social what? A backlash. Yep, that frustrating phenomenon where people are punished for acting in ways society deems ‘abnormal’ or unexpected.

It skews our interpretation of behaviours outside the norm. For example, women who step into the spotlight are perceived as arrogant, not confident. And instead of appreciating assertiveness, we see it as aggression. No wonder we feel sick about bragging; we know it can affect our confidence, our careers and our personal brand.

The double bind

We expect to hear men bragging, but what about women? Nope. As a society, we unconsciously hold women to old entrenched stereotypes: women should be humble, they should help others before themselves, and if their work is good enough they won’t have to brag about it. And unfortunately, it is not just men who hold these views—ladies, we are guilty of this as well. Women, therefore, are held hostage to the double bind. If we tout our accomplishments we won’t be liked but if we don’t we are invisible. What a disappointing conundrum.

If we tout our accomplishments we won’t be liked but if we don’t we are invisible.

The way forward

There are a few choices to address the situation. One is to say ‘to hell with it’ and sing our successes from the rooftops. After all, if men can, women can, and who cares about what people think! Some women can get away with this but very few feel comfortable even trying. For the most part, women are loath to talk themselves up so this could prove tough.

The alternative is to let others do it for you (thanks Sheryl Sandberg for the tip). Enter Lunch Club. Get a group of women to attend a regular lunch. Use the time to share successes, achievements and current work ambitions. Each woman is then armed and ready to brag on behalf of her other Lunch Club buddies. It’s a win, win, win, win. Supporting the work of other brilliant women is good for the sisterhood:

  1. It’s good for the woman you’re highlighting.
  2. It’s good for the organisation who learns more about that woman.
  3. It’s good for the woman supporting the other woman, because who doesn’t love someone who advocates for the great work of others?

The extended benefits

This technique is simple and effective, and best of all, it avoids the social backlash of women bragging for themselves. But there is more to it. When you brag on behalf of other women, you get to put yourself in the spotlight: you speak to the right people, and you engage with senior professionals and important stakeholders. You become known as a woman who is connected to other talented individuals; who’s not afraid of the success of others; who can speak up, show up and contribute selflessly to the group’s overall success—all without having to say a single thing about yourself. Your actions speak louder than your words which reveals more about your leadership character than bragging ever could.

So next time you’re told to be more visible, rejoice! It’s lunchtime, ladies!


As an author, speaker and communication expert (a.k.a professional People Whisperer), Anneli Blundell helps her clients improve their communication, influence and engagement. Her masterclass for Women in Leadership explores the confidence, communication strategies and power dynamics women need to actively steer their leadership careers, on their own terms. You can connect with Anneli on LinkedIn at https://au.linkedin.com/in/anneliblundell, follow her on Twitter @AnneliBlundell or connect via www.anneliblundell.com.

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