How to Brag Without Being Arrogant

Two Methods:Promoting Yourself TactfullyFeeling Confident

There is a fine line between self-promotion and arrogance. In many situations, like when you are interviewing for jobs, seeking a raise or promotion, dating, or making new friends, you may want to talk yourself up without seeming off-putting to the other person. People tend to feel more attracted to, interested in, and positive toward people who say positive things about themselves[1], but it can feel difficult to list positive things about yourself without feeling like you are bragging too much.

Method 1
Promoting Yourself Tactfully

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    Know when to use self-promotion. The most common situations in which people might brag are in forming new acquaintances, especially during job interviews or first dates. In both of these scenarios you are trying to demonstrate your worth to another person who has little to base their opinion on besides what you say.
    • If you are on a first date, you want the person to be impressed with you and get to know more about you, but you don't want them to think that you are conceited or arrogant. One approach is to wait for your date to ask you about yourself before you volunteer information.
    • For example, if your date has asked you if you have any hobbies, you might say, "I really like running. I got started just going for jogs around my neighborhood and kept increasing the distance little by little. I just ran my first marathon last month. Do you ever run? I would love a new running partner." This sounds more personal and less bragging than just sitting down to dinner and saying, "I am a great runner. I just ran a marathon and came in second in my age group. I am going to run 3 more marathons this year."
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    Discuss your achievements in a team-centered way. Bragging often has a competitive and self-centered edge to it, but sharing credit for your accomplishments can minimize the potential for seeming arrogant.
    • Research has shown that listeners feel more positively about people who use inclusive language (such as “we” and “team,”). [2]
    • For example, if you work at an architectural firm and your team just got a contract for a new building, be sure to use "we" instead of "I" when talking about the accomplishment. "After several months of hard work, we just signed a contract to design and build a new public library. It is a great opportunity for the team" sounds better than "I just scored an awesome contract to build a new building. It is going to cement the rest of my career."
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    Use caution when saying “I” and “me.” You clearly need to use first-person language in scenarios where you have to promote yourself, but you should focus on emphasizing accomplishments.
    • Also try to avoid superlative language like, “I was the best employee my previous employer ever had,” or “I always worked harder than everyone else there.” Extreme statements like these are unlikely to be true, even for the most accomplished of people and instead sound like exaggeration.
    • Superlative statements wherein the speaker claims to be the “best” or the “greatest” (even if they might be true) tend to be identified as bragging rather than true accomplishment. [3]
    • For example “It was my idea to create a space where employees could speak freely about their concerns,” sounds more like bragging than, “I created a space where employees could speak freely.”
    • Instead, try statements like, “While I worked for my previous employer, I tried my best to be dedicated and hard-working.”
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    Turn a bragging statement into a positive statement. By using team-oriented language and mentioning your accomplishments but spinning them in a more modest way, you can sound positive and talk yourself up without bragging.
    • One example of a statement worded as either bragging or as a simple positive statement is as follows: [4]
      • The positive version: “My softball team had its awards dinner last night. We had a good season and so everyone was in a great mood. I even got the most valuable player award. Boy, was I surprised. I played really hard this summer, but I did it for the fun and the exercise. So I was really pleased to get the award and the recognition. I was glad to help my team finish the season so well.”
      • The bragging version: “My softball team had its awards dinner last night. I had my best season yet, so I was in a great mood. They gave me the most valuable player award. But that was no surprise since I was the leading player all summer. Actually, I’m the best all-round player this league has ever seen. I could have my choice to play on any team I want next year, so I may be changing to a better team.”
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    Observe your reaction to hearing others promote themselves. A good trick if you’re still hesitant about bragging is to observe your own reactions to other peoples’ behavior: when you hear someone else bragging, think about why it’s bragging, and how they could rephrase what they said to no longer sound like bragging.
    • When you find yourself concerned about bragging, ask yourself, “Is it true? How do I know it’s true?”

Method 2
Feeling Confident

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    Build true confidence by realizing your positive attributes. You can start this process by making a detailed list of your accomplishments, how you achieved them, and why you’re proud.
    • For example, you could be proud of graduating from college because you’re the first person in your family to do so, and you did it while working two jobs.
    • This will help you see that you truly have achieved things, and it will give you deeper insight into your accomplishment.
    • Many of us are kinder and quicker to give out praise to others than ourselves. [5] To help you be more objective and overcome any reluctance you might have to praise yourself, think about your skills and achievements from an outside perspective. You can do this by writing down positive things about yourself in the third person, as though you were writing a letter of recommendation or endorsement about a friend or coworker.
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    Avoid the sound of your own voice. Arrogant, self-centered people (and people who are insecure) tend to go on and on about themselves and their exploits, even when the people they’re talking to have stopped listening.
    • Learn to spot body language cues like glazed eyes, glancing at the watch, or picking at fluff on clothing. These cues can show you that you're getting tiresome and you need to stop bragging. Stop talking about yourself and ask the other person about himself or herself.
    • Aim to listen and to give summary feedback that reveals that you understand what the listener has said. For example, "What I hear you saying is..." Doing so is both a compliment to them and an excellent reflection on your character. Listening will always impress people, especially when you make it clear you understand.
    • Be concise. If you can get your idea across in a 1 or 2 sentence statement, what you say is more likely to stick in people's minds. If you ramble on about yourself for 15 minutes, then people are going to run away from you the next time they see you coming down the hall because they'll think you're arrogant and annoying.
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    Make goals for improvement. At the same time that you acknowledge your accomplishments, do not ignore areas you want to improve. Ignoring your potential areas for improvement can make you appear like a braggart.
    • Acknowledging areas that you can improve can actually give your positive statements more credibility and make you sound even more knowledgeable about a field.
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    Emphasize your skills if you are a woman. While the accomplishments of men tend to be attributed to skill, the exact same accomplishments of women are more likely to be attributed to luck. [6] Women who boast are often judged more harshly than men who boast. [7] This means that if you’re a woman who is trying to demonstrate her positive accomplishments, you should be sure to promote your skills in addition to your accomplishments.
    • You can do this by elaborating more on what you did to earn your achievement: for example, if you won an award or a scholarship, spend more time describing the work you did to win that award than the award itself.
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    Ask for help if you need it. If you struggle with low self-esteem, depression, or social anxiety, you should seek out the assistance of a mental health professional. These issues can make it difficult or impossible to be able to speak positively about yourself to another person.
    • For example, individuals who suffer from extremely low self-esteem can find it impossible to find anything positive in themselves, and as a result can be filled with sadness, anxiety, or fear.
    • Mental health professionals can give you tools to build confidence and work through social anxiety or depression issues and help you to examine ways you can change your thoughts and behavior in order to improve your life.
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    Give sincere compliments to others. Compliment people often for the things they do that you genuinely admire. Never give a compliment that is phony.
    • When a person compliments you, don't launch into a discussion of how great you are. Be humble, accept the compliment and say "thank you." If you need to say more, say something such as, "I appreciate that you noticed. This is something I've really been working on in my life."
    • You don't always have to return a compliment if you don't have anything sincere to say. A simple "thank you, I appreciate you saying something" is sufficient.


  • Before you brag about something, imagine you were the person that you're bragging to and think if you'd be turned off.
  • Don't start accumulating material things just so you can brag about them. If you have a fantastic new sports car and a Rolex, but you're empty on the inside, no amount of bragging about your possessions will make you feel better about yourself.


  • Different cultures have different attitudes to bragging. For example, Americans tend to be brought up to value individualism, and they talk about their accomplishments. People in some other countries are brought up to be very modest with others and to think that it is gauche to talk of their accomplishments openly. Be respectful of these differences before you start bragging.

Sources and Citations

  1. Gilbert, S.J., & Horenstein, D. (1975). The communication of self-disclosure: Level versus valence. Human Communication Research, 1, 316-322.
  2. Gilbert, S.J., & Horenstein, D. (1975). The communication of self-disclosure: Level versus valence. Human Communication Research, 1, 316-322.
  3. Gilbert, S.J., & Horenstein, D. (1975). The communication of self-disclosure: Level versus valence. Human Communication Research, 1, 316-322.
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Categories: Assertiveness & Self Esteem