Humblebragging: A Form of False Modesty

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Humblebragging: A Form of False Modesty

Humblebragging is the used of self-depreciating or modest statements which are actually meant to focus on what a person wants to brag about / Photo by Imtmphoto via


People often humblebrag, especially on social media and in the workplace. Humblebragging is described as using self-depreciating or modest statements which are actually meant to focus on what a person wants to brag about. Instead of making people react positively to the statement, it tends to actually make them view that person in a bad light. By explaining the psychological factors related to humblebragging, people will have a better understanding of why they perceive it negatively.


The Negative Effects of Humblebragging

According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, several people engage in humblebragging as part of a useful, self-preservation technique. In doing this, they try to promote their superior traits and advantages in such a way that it does not seem too obvious that they are boasting.

In another research, it was revealed that independent raters of interviews were inclined to hire job applicants who gave sincere and frank answers to the question “What’s your greatest weakness?” than those who humblebragged in answering.

There is also proof that people are more averse to humblebraggers than others who directly complain or overtly brag. This makes them appear rather fake. On the other hand, the audience of the humblebragger did think that they were good at whichever trait they subtly tried to promote.

Ovul Sezer, a professor of organizational behavior at Kenan-Fledger Business School, states that it is a common occurrence. In a study which he co-authored, the conclusion was that humblebragging was seen to be less effective than outright bragging because the mixture of boasting with humility and complaints cancels out their benefits. This subtle type of bragging makes them sound ingenuine. Sezer and his fellow researchers state that humblebragging “... reduce[s] liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity.”



Their study shows that it is more effective to overtly brag than to conceal it in pretentious modesty. However, a much more effective tactic in self-promotion is to have someone else brag about that person. These studies point to evidence that a person will not be able to successfully promote themselves if others think they are being insincere.


Effective Methods of Self-Promotion

In circumstances where an individual has to promote themselves, they should be self-aware, honest and sincere. Here are  the approaches which David Kinnear, a financial professional, suggests that a person should take is self-promoting themselves especially in networking and interviews:

1. Express thankfulness when speaking

People are advised to show gratitude in their statements. For instance, they could say they are grateful for being presented with such an opportunity or they may highlight their accomplishments by stating that they are proud of attaining a certain achievement.

2. Be considerate towards the audience

They should carefully think about how the audience would react to what they say. For example, a person should refrain from mentioning the job offers they have after their friend loses their job. Sensitivity is the key. The should consider the context and the situation of their audience.

3. Present accomplishments rather than announcing them

Instead of merely bragging about what they have achieved, they should be able to show samples of their work. In presenting their work samples, people will be able to see proof of their talents and abilities. As a result, people who have seen how competent they are through those samples will brag about them.

4. Highlight the efforts exerted

Rather than declaring a finished task as easy, it would be more beneficial to describe in detail the hard work they had to go through and the process of how they were able to achieve their accomplishments.


Ask For Sympathy, Complain and Wait for Praise

The Atlantic reaffirms that humblebragging really does make an individual seem untrue to themselves. It is indicated that people humblebrag out of the need of two important social requirements which are praise and sympathy. To be able to obtain praise, they first boasting about themselves. After that, they complain. They may think they could get both benefits by combining the two, but the previously mentioned studies prove the opposite. Another perspective on why people humblebrag is that “being roundabout is good manners.” Bragging about something openly may be seen as impolite.

Individuals should also be able to distance themselves properly from the praises and compliments they receive. They should not pretend to be deaf to them or be too keen on hearing praises from other people. There must be a balance. Ignoring acknowledgments would not be good, but neither would be being on the constant lookout for compliments be.

It is normal for people to want praise and sympathy from others, especially from their loved ones. Naturally, they would like for their talents to be appreciated and people to understand the hardships they are experiencing. It is advised that asking for praise and sympathy should be done separately. If they are unsure, their best move is to “...complain constantly, bask in sympathy and patiently wait for praise.”


People humblebrag to be praise and gain sympathy / Photo by Scott Griessel via




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