Social Behavior

Humblebragging Doesn't Show Off Your Accomplishments, But It Does Make People Like You Less

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Studies show that humblebragging, that very specific type of boast that is couched in false modesty, doesn't work. People find humblebraggers insincere and just plain annoying, and are less impressed by an achievement than if that person simply bragged about it.

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Why It Matters

"Ugh, I hate group projects, everyone always wants to partner with me." Ah, the humblebrag. It's part complaint, part show-off, completely annoying, right? According to a study from a team of Harvard Business School researchers, humblebragging, while seemingly more and more popular since the proliferation of social media, is a sure way to turn someone off. The researchers studied 300 participants' reactions to a number of statements, including brags, complaints, and humblebrags. For example: "People mistake me for a model" (brag), "I am so bored," (complaint) and "I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model" (humblebrag). What they found is that "although people often choose to humblebrag when motivated to make a good impression, it is an ineffective self-promotional strategy," researchers Ovul Sezer, Francesca Gino, and Michael I. Norton wrote in the study. "Humblebragging has both global costs – reducing liking and perceived sincerity – and specific costs: it is even ineffective in signaling the specific trait that that a person wants to promote." In other words, humblebrag about your smarts, and you're in for double trouble: people will like you less, and they won't even think you're that smart.

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Why People Should Know

False modesty isn't a new invention, but social media seems to have inspired an onslaught of it. People want to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to show off their accomplishments, but they don't want to come off as cocky, so they resort to the humblebrag. Consider this a piece of free advice: If you want to brag about your accomplishments, just do it. Or, as the researchers explain: "Faced with the choice to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former – and at least reap the rewards of seeming sincere."

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