Harvard Says Humblebragging Doesn’t Really Work, So Just Brag And Be Done With It

Humblebragging, that special mix of an actual brag couched in self-deprecation, is annoying at best and a reason to end friendships at worst. This is not news. If there’s a person in your life that says things like “It’s so hard leaving the house unshowered, because I get hit on soooooooo many times on the way to take out the garbage!”, then you are familiar with how humblebragging makes you want to throw the braggart out a window. But, according to science and this paper from the Harvard Business School, as reported by New York magazine,¬†humblebragging doesn’t even work that well at all.

After presenting people with three statements — a complaint, a brag and a humblebrag — they were asked to rate how much they liked the imagined person behind the statement. The results were just as expected:

Overall, the study participants liked the complainers the best, and then the braggers; in last place, perhaps not surprisingly, were the humblebraggers. The participants also rated the complainers as most sincere and the humblebraggers as least sincere, which gets at one reason humblebragging is so obnoxious: It comes off as inauthentic.

Right. You don’t need a study to tell you that someone who traffics in false modesty is inauthentic — that’s the name of their game. You cloak the story about the compliment you just received in a charming aside about how you tripped and fell into a pile of old snowmelt, and the tale of your failure takes the sting out of the nugget of self-promotion you’re really trying to share. Bragging outright is annoying, but at least we know that that’s really who you are. Insincerity smells fishy as hell. We can see it, even if you can’t.

If you’re going to brag, go all out. Take out a billboard for yourself and your accomplishments, hire a mariachi band to sing a ballad about how many compliments you got on your new glasses. We might hate you for it, but deep down, we know you’re being sincere.

[New York Magazine]