By Manny Roman, CRES
A while back, I had a few friends over for some refreshments and conversation. One of the friends was visiting from another state so he was relatively new to my usual crowd of neighbors. He was talking with my neighbor about problems he has had with his boat’s engine.
Now, my neighbor builds engines so he is what I would consider an expert. The conversation became technical with my neighbor asking relevant questions and providing likely causes and solutions to the issues. Since I know nothing about engines, I hastily retreated and joined a group with a less technical discussion regarding unimportant issues. Now this is a subject where I hold considerable expertise.
After my out-of-state friend left town, I asked my neighbor if he had provided adequate information for fixing the boat’s engine issues. My neighbor said, “I don’t think he was listening.” I replied, “Then he was not complaining, he was bragging.”
I have employed numerous ways of irritating people over the years. One was to often ask, “So, are you bragging or complaining?” I cut back on this a long time ago so I was a little surprised at my reply to my neighbor. I decided to explore the “bragging or complaining” topic and share some insights with you.
Humblebrag is an actual word that describes “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.” It is a fake modesty. People do this all the time. They brag in a complaining way to extract a compliment or self-back-pat.
Harvard and UNC conducted studies on humlebragging. Some findings are: Those who humblebrag on social media are perceived as less likable, less sincere and less competent. Seventy percent of job applicants humblebrag with a negative effect on hiring. Humblebraggers have a more negative impression than actual braggers and complainers. Humblebraggers are seen as less honest than actual braggers.
Humblebragging takes two forms: complaint and humility. The complaint sounds like this line from a TV show, “…No matter how haggard you look at the gym, some guy is gonna hit on you.” The humility is when I say, “Why do I always get asked to speak at conferences when I don’t like doing it.”
Bottom line: Humblebragging is counterproductive. False modesty doesn’t really fool anyone since it is easily recognized. So just go ahead and provide people with an actual brag. They still will not like you, however they will respect you more. Better yet, get someone else to brag on your behalf.
I suggest that when someone is humblebragging in your general direction, the best response is to allow it to happen. Look interested, nod your head and speak only in agreement with their emotion, not their words. This allows them to vent their false modesty. At an appropriate pause, redirect the conversation by asking a question or contributing a redirecting statement.
Actual complaining is also easily recognized because it will not contain the elements of false modesty. Complaints may be factual or fabricated. Real complaints contain specific information and generally are devoid of generalities and broad speculation.
I suggest that a real complaint should be addressed with an end solution in mind. This, of course, assumes that you have the capability to assist in the solution or have some specific relevant information.
A fabricated complaint is full of inaccuracies, generalities, speculation and emotional bias. I suggest that this complaint be acknowledged without agreeing with the words, only the emotional state. A great question that generally brings reality to light is, “What would you like to see happen?” The complainer is now forced to look at solutions that are attainable.
I am humbled that thousands each month eagerly await my small tidbits of wisdom in the Roman Review.
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