We all have pet peeves: loud chewing, incessant complaining, nail biting… the list goes on and it really never ends. Certain habits prove to annoy us, and they drastically affect the perpetrator’s likeability. Take, for example, the humblebraggers: these are the people that try to mask their boasting with a humble twist.
Say your friend just got a raise—instead of outright celebrating this accomplishment, she makes comments like, “Oh, it’s not a huge deal. I was just doing my job,” or, “I really don’t need all this extra money.” Sound familiar? Are you writhing with irritation yet?
Humblebragging is undoubtedly annoying to witness, but the offenders often don’t realize it—they want to make others aware of their accomplishments, without coming off boastful or arrogant. Unfortunately for them, this has worse implications then outright bragging, according to new research from Harvard and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. This study “Humblebragging: A distinct—and ineffective—self-preservation strategy”, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, says that humblebragging is widely practiced, yet largely ineffective—and we’re all better off keeping humility out of the equation.
“It’s such a common phenomenon. All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing,” said lead author Ovul Sezer, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “You think, as the humblebragger, that it’s the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient.”
Sezer’s team ran a few experiments that specifically explored how often people engage in humblebragging and how exactly it’s perceived by others. Based on 646 survey responses, they found that humblebragging is widespread—as 70% of participants could recall a humblebrag they’d hear just recently. The researchers then went on to establish two subcategories of humblebragging: one form utilizes complaints, such as, “I’m too nice—everyone always comes to me for advice,” while the other applies humility, as seen in statements like, “Why does the professor always ask for my input?”
Lastly, the researchers observed how people received and responded to humblebrags—and they were particularly interested in measuring the bragger’s perceived likability and competence. They found that regular bragging was the better approach in regard to both considerations because it at least comes off as genuine, according to Sezer. Even people that complain a lot are better liked and perceived as more competent than humblebraggers of either type, the team observed.
It’s fair to brag every now and then—everyone deserves recognition for their accomplishments and admirable qualities. Therefore, you should come right out and announce your greatness; doing so will result in the best outcome, according to Sezer: “If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions.” Or, if you just can’t get on board with that, Sezer says you should employ the help of another. “If someone brags for you, that’s the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don’t seem like you’re bragging,” she explained.
Sezer, O., Gino, F., & Norton, M. I. (2018). Humblebragging: A distinct—and ineffective—self-presentation strategy. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved on January 12, 2018 from http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-40996-001
Ducharme, J. (2018, January 10). Humblebragging Makes People Dislike You, According to Science. TIME. Retrieved on January 12, 2018 from http://time.com/5095144/humblebrag-bragging/