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Why bragging does not pay

February 6th, 2018 by Bob Bly

I have two simple and inviolate rules I live my life by: (a)
don’t give unsolicited advice and (b) don’t brag.

TW recently asked me, quite reasonably, “What is wrong with

Well, as my mother once told me, there are 3 types of people you
brag to, and therefore 3 reasons why there is no percentage in it
for you.

>> First, some of the people you brag to are much more
accomplished, successful, or fortunate than even you are.

So what’s the point of bragging to them?

When they hear you boasting, they won’t be impressed.

If anything, they’ll look down on you from their loftier vantage

>> Second, some of the people you brag to are your peers.

So one of 3 things happens when you brag to an equal.

Either (a) they truly see you as an equal, in which case you are
on an even playing field, and therefore they are not impressed.
All they come away with is what you like to brag.

Or (b) they get envious and fearful that they will seem inferior
to you, and so immediately inform you that they have something
equal to or better than what you just said — and the result will
be a pissing contest that nobody wins or enjoys.

Or (c) they feel that they are in fact ahead of you, not behind
you, and are eager to let you know this right away — and so the
pissing contest commences, and you probably lose.

>> Third, some people you brag to are not at your level in terms
of whatever you are bragging about — whether it’s money, career,
possessions, achievements, fitness, looks, or whatever.

And in that case, your bragging, if you are honest with yourself,
has really only two purposes or effects:

It makes you feel better about yourself.

And it makes other people feel inferior or badly about

What’s the point of that?

It is either mean and hurtful at worst, or irritating and
annoying at best — and either way causes the other person to like
you less.

So how do you keep your chest-thumping — and the damage it can
do to yourself and others — to a minimum?

>> Step one: do not voice anything that could be considered
boastful or a brag unless the other person asked you about it

For instance, if when we meet, the first thing you say to me is,
“My son just got a free ride on an athletic scholarship for 4
years of college,” I am thinking you are boastful and trying to
make me feel bad that my kids did not.

>> Step two: even if you are asked, frame the boast in a way that
makes you seem modest.

You can do this most easily by not taking credit for it … not
presenting it in its full glory, but rather limiting your brag …
or voicing a small negative along with the positive — for

“Well, my son was so lucky. We just found out he got an athletic
scholarship to college. It’s amazing, because he barely made the
team in high school, but he worked so hard at it, and I guess got
good enough. Also amazing because you know he didn’t get it from
me — I am a total klutz!”

Notice that the speaker said it was lucky … that it was achieved
by the skin of the kid’s teeth … that it was done through sweat
and not natural talent … and the speaker makes a self-effacing
remark at the end about not being an athlete himself.

TW also said to me in defense of his boasting, “Bob, if you
have done it, then it ain’t bragging.”

Well … yes it is. If you think on it, you already know why.

If not, here’s the answer: because even if you have done it, all
three scenarios above still apply.

And all of them are losing propositions. Right?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 at 9:16 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

28 responses about “Why bragging does not pay”

  1. Josh Webb said:

    The 3 statements by your mother is absolutely true and I agree with it 100%. What we get by bragging? It is better to keep quite and do our job. It’s better to find a job that makes you busy always, like what I do at

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