The Art of Bragging

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Management

I like it when my coaching clients brag. In fact, I make my clients brag. 

I recently asked a client to brag about his work.

He squirmed in his chair. “Well, I think I’m okay at…”

I jumped down his throat, the poor man. “That’s bragging?” I cried. “Try harder!”

He put his head down on the table.

“I don’t think I will ever stop worrying about the other shoe dropping,” my client said. “I undermine myself with doubt.”

One of my client’s direct reports is a superstar.  Another is a screw up. My client is quick to take full responsibility for his screw up’s mistakes (“I could have looped him in earlier”, “I could have communicated better”, “I could have done a better job staying in front of him”).  But he can’t seem to take responsibility for his superstar’s outstanding work.

That’s where the bragging comes in.

Humans’ internal dialogue has a negative bias. Most of us innately look for the negative, remember the bad, listen most closely to the self-sabotaging voice in our head.

I have my clients brag so they hear a list of success coming out of their own mouth, in their own voice. So they will hear – and can remember – themselves when the self-sabotaging voice threatens to drown out their confidence.

“I am doing a great job at being insightful, at thinking bigger picture,” my client finally said. “I’m acting like a leader.” I prodded him for specifics, for examples of insightfulness and leadership and big picture-ness. I want his positive voice to have lots of ammunition when he looks over his shoulder for that other shoe.

Soon he won’t need to check.  I can’t wait to see what he will do instead.