"Tadpole," Dharma said, "You have many qualities that I admire, but I think one of your best traits is that you don't brag about your accomplishments. I consider you an excellent writer, a wonderful friend, a supportive mentor to your little brother, and a devoted son to your parents. yet you remain very humble." I must admit that I was quite surprised by Dharma's display of affection so all I could manage to say was, "Thank you, Sir. It's kind of you to say." And, as it turned out, the value of humbleness was my lesson for the week.
"Son, the frog who knows does not speak. The frog who speaks does not know. Do you know what is meant by this?" I thought about it for a few moments and told Dharma that I thought I had a grasp on it but would he please go ahead and enlighten me. Dharma explained that very few experts in their field feel the need to spout off about their accomplishments...or to brag about how wonderful they are. When frogs, and humans too, begin to spout off, unsolicited, about their excellence and all they have accomplished, it is a sure sign that they suffer from low self-esteem. Often they talk about doing things that they have only dreamed of. Then Dharma asked me a strange question. "Irwin, is bragging always a bad thing?" "Yes, I think it is," I replied, not feeling very confident in my answer. "Isn't is best to say nothing...or let others do your bragging for you?" "I can see where you might think that, Little One, but there are times when bragging is acceptable. Human and frog self-esteem and self-confidence are wrapped up in our ability to take pride in our accomplishments. It's not only okay but healthy, to do a little bragging. It's like giving yourself a little 'mental pat on the back.' You don't always have to hide your light under a barrel." So, Dharma, how can we brag about our accomplishments without looking boastful?"
Dharma then gave me the dos and don'ts about bragging.
1. The least desirable way to brag is to directly draw attention to your personal qualities. Without confirming evidence, others aren't likely to believe what you say. These qualities include being smart, well-liked, or being talented. Generally-speaking, it violates the social norms to portray yourself in such a positive light. As an example, it's not considered okay to portray yourself as "great" but it is okay to portray yourself as "stupid." You do have to be careful with this, however, because it can come off as if you're fishing for a compliment. this is especially true if you because overly self-deprecating.
2. Drawing attention to something you've done. You might think it's immodest to say that you're fantastic, but it's alright to say you accomplished some "very great things." If, say, you won a gold medal at the Olympics, it's fine to feel happy and proud about this accomplishment, but it wouldn't be fine to wear that gold medal when you go out to do your food shopping, or when you take the kids to school. Sometimes it can be cute when a two-year-old brags about all the stuff he/she can do, but it certainly isn't cute when you're 42.
#3. Indirectly drawing attention to your own great personal qualities. Perhaps you think it's fine to talk about your great personal qualities by saying what someone else has said about you. Again, this can be a slippery slope. Unless you provide a direct quote, your listener can't be sure that what you say is accurate. We, your audience, might be more inclined to believe you if you provided a document...say your annual eval report. But those documents are best left to the eyes of your loved ones and very closest friends.
#4. Indirectly bringing attention to something you've done. Is it okay to post a link about your accomplishment on your Facebook page? That may seem perfectly fine but your FB friends will most certainly view your behavior as false modesty. If someone should ask for a link regarding your specific accomplishment, then it's fine to send it to them. But only IF they ask first.
#5. Drawing attention to your success with a disclaimer. This includes saying things like, "I shouldn't brag, but..." By adding the disclaimer, "I shouldn't brag, but..." only proves to your listener that you know you are violating social norms. If you simply stated that you did something and were happy about it, your audience would accept that as an honest statement and be just fine with it.
#6. Basking in someone else's reflected glory. Grandparents are notorious for doing this. Bragging on what their grandbabies have done is what they live for. But showing a cute baby photo to friends and neighbors is one thing. It's something else entirely when grandparents (or anyone else) try to make themselves look good by aligning themselves with the person who actually had the accomplishment. "He's a chip off the ol' block!" or "She get's her intelligence from me, you know." Those are HUGE no-no's.
#7 Reporting on a conversation in which you were praised where the evidence can be verified. This is the only "moderately" acceptable form of self-praise. This happens when you shift the conversational "footing" from you the speaker to the person you're quoting. And you must be able to provide enough details to make the comment seem plausible.
As Dharma wrapped up my lesson on bragging, I asked him if it was ever okay to say something good about what you've done. His answer was simple. "If you must say something good about your self or your accomplishment, always choose #7...providing a quote from someone else who said the nice thing. It's also considered fine to report on your success as long as you're not hurting anyone's feelings...such as bragging about winning in front of the loser. It is always acceptable, too, to make a simple statement that you accomplished something and that you are happy about it. No more and no less. Dharma reminded me that by not bragging, you’ll also guarantee that your friends and family will be even more likely to root for your continued successes the next time. "The frog who knows does not speak."
Until tomorrow, Dharma and I wish you love and peace,