"Like the Scouts, be prepared…to toot at any time. That doesn’t mean, however, that you do it all the time or that you do it at inappropriate times or places. You do it when it feels comfortable. And learning how to make it feel more comfortable is what this book is all about."
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In a language all her own, Peggy Klaus in her book Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It humorously yet meaningfully dispels outdated myths that popularly see many of us believe brag to be a four-letter word.
After growing up with a widowed father who taught her to become “exceedingly self-deprecating”, moving to “braggart capital” Hollywood proved painful beyond words. Talk about the spotlight. Even after leaving the entertainment industry to start her own communication consulting firm, Klaus yet found professionals and executives equally weak at effective self-promotion.
Something had to be done. First off, dump everything you learned in Presentation Skills 101! Enter the art of knowing not only what to say about yourself , but also how to express your talents with grace and impact that compels others.
Resting on the foundation of her myriad personal and professional bloopers plus home runs Brag! is intended to encourage bragging in and out of the office; the lessons here enable us to maximize every encounter from elevator fly-bys to “techno-bragging” via voice and e-mail, and onwards, to conversations with higher ups at networking events, job interviews, and even dealing with rampant credit theft in the corporate world. Brag! leaves no stone unturned.
The Big Idea
You CAN Have Style AND Substance
"Good schmoozers are NOT con artists. They are superb conversationalists who take the time to connect with others, whether it’s around the office water cooler, at a cocktail party, networking at an industry event, at a meeting, pitching new business, or interviewing for a job."
How great would it be to know you don’t have to abandon your integrity or authenticity to brag successfully?
After all, isn’t that really the fear for many of us? As if, in talking unduly about yourself, you’d come across as arrogant or self-aggrandizing; “One of them” – the walking, talking, flagrant self-promoting billboards – people who always manage to elbow their way in – and get ahead to boot!
As Klaus aptly points out, style without substance often feels like a charade (and most people can spot imposters within minutes). On the other hand, substance without style will put an insomniac to sleep. So, how to marry up both?
What a relief to find bragging defined as “talking about your best self (interests, ideas and accomplishments) with pride and passion in a conversational manner intended to excite admiration, interest and wonder, without pretense or overstatement – in other words, without being obnoxious”.
Now, that’s a deal we can sign up for, right?
Here, success means selling yourself in a way that’s uniquely you. No longer need you choose between the head and heart. Instead, self promotion is about becoming more of who you already are and bringing forth your best parts with pride and enthusiasm – telling your story in a way that showcases your strengths.
Performance Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
"But… I met my numbers. What else matters?"
While BRAG spans varied organizational contexts, hardly is there a more laden subject than performance reviews. Think how many myths fall into this category alone: A job well done speaks for itself. Humility gets you noticed. I don’t have to brag; people will do it for me. Good girls don’t brag.
Are you kidding? As Klaus asserts, it’s never too early to start planning for your next performance review. If you’ve kept your “brag bag” (a collection of all information about your best self) up to date with a record of your accomplishments and milestones – and you’ve engaged in an ongoing review by strategically bragging all year long – then getting ready for your annual appraisal will be easy. If not, you’ve got your work cut out.
Indeed, you need to fearlessly use positive feedback as a launching pad for underscoring your hard work and aspirations. Performance review criticisms need to be counter-balanced with reminders of your accomplishments. All this, without hemming and hawing, shuffling your feet, lowering your gaze, or becoming tongue-tied…
Toward that end, Brag! shows us specific strategies to: stick to our guns; accept compliments; brag about the right stuff; help the boss see the forest through the trees; and ask the hard questions about ourselves.
Create a Bragologue
"If you weave your accomplishments artfully and entertainingly into the conversation, no one will think you’re a show-off. In fact, they’ll ask to hear more."
While performance appraisals represent a specific scenario, one section of the book – “Take 12” – offers a Self- Evaluation tool keyed to help you unearth your core personality and zero in on what makes you distinctly YOU. Such analysis allows you to weave your best experiences into an overall novel life story… a “bragologue”, if you will.
According to the Bragging Dictionary, a “bragologue” is simply information about your best self, expressed in a brief and quotable manner. Effective bragging starts with you – and your skill in communicating what makes you interesting in the eyes of those you seek to impress. No more taking yourself for granted!
Above and beyond the expected questions about skills and talents, the 10 most interesting things you’ve done/experienced plus obstacles overcome/lessons learned are especially noteworthy. They form the basis for converting your responses into “brag bites” – snippets of impressive information about your best self.
By this point, I hope you get why Brag!: The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It practically flew off the shelf at me. As soon as I read the sub-title, I knew it would be a winner. I was right.
If anything, the volume over-delivers on its promise to equip us with specific advice and self-promotion tips so that we learn to toot our horns in a way that’s sincere, feels comfortable and is appealing.
I now recognize that no matter what I say or how I say it, some people will not be happy. Move on! I hereafter choose to forget about their expectations.
Instead, I elect to surpass self-promotion myths based on outworn beliefs that tie bragging to obnoxiousness. As long as I don’t step into “snoreologue” and “blabologue” traps in telling my story, I know I will stay centered in the golden nuggets that set me apart.
Will you do the same?