It takes time to develop the right balance between touting your accomplishments and being really annoying about it. For starters, always be attentive to the feedback of your listener, as that can be a major clue about how you’re coming across to others.
Consider some of the following tips:
Be genuine. Highlighting your accomplishments isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to be genuine. Think about your motivation for talking about yourself. Is it simply to bask in the admiration of others? Or do you think you have a valuable, interesting, or important contribution to make to a conversation?
Share your excitement. Other people are much more likely to be enthusiastic about your unique accomplishments if you’re excited about them. Think about your favorite project from work. As you talk about it, you’re naturally going to want to talk about how awesome you think it is. As you continue, your accomplishments will come to the forefront almost without you realizing it. This allows others to learn what you feel passionate about as well as what you’ve accomplished in a particular area, without the sense that you’re bragging.
Ask questions. People who are great at touting their accomplishments often listen more than they actually talk. Ask questions of the people you’re talking to, and add your perspective as you go along. Go into the conversation with a mission of learning more about a topic, rather than impressing others with your knowledge. This is a great way to make people think highly of you without knocking them over the head with your bragging.
Be brief. When the time comes to talk about something specific you’ve done, keep it to a single sentence. For example, you might say “I was recently asked to join the executive board of XYZ nonprofit, and it has been such a learning opportunity for me about the ways we can address the problem of poor literacy in our community.”
Be strategic about the information you share. If you’re meeting with someone important, it’s natural to want to impress them. But rather than inundating the person with a verbal recitation of your resume, ask yourself, “What’s the one thing I want this person to know about me?” Frame your conversation around that specific achievement.
Help people understand you as a person. In an office place, sometimes it’s more about your personality than your abilities. Nobody wants to work with someone who is constantly talking about the great things he or she has done. Instead, focus on connecting with others as a person. Did you both grow up in small, rural communities? Do you have a shared love of college hockey? Sure, these things don’t directly help you toot your own horn, but they do give others a glimpse into what makes you tick. Sharing your personal side also makes you more memorable to new people.
Talk about the impact. Maybe you started a fitness program that has spread to studios across the country and generates millions of dollars in revenue. Rather than talking about how great it was that you thought of your idea, focus on the impact your work has had. “It’s so fun when people tell me how excited they were to lose 50 pounds and run a 5k for the first time.”
Don’t sound too humble. Humble bragging can easily fall flat. If you sound too self-effacing and eager to dismiss your own contributions, it can easily come across as a different form of arrogance (“I’m so great that I don’t even need to brag about how great I am.”) Instead, strike a realistic tone that shows gratitude for your success. It’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments — everyone will expect you to be! — but it’s good to make it clear that you don’t take them for granted.