How to Brag Better (Without Being a Braggart!)

How’s that toot of your horn?

Is it appropriately loud and proud?

Or a somewhat sad trombone?

Is the toot of your horn like a sad trombone?

I wanted to write how to Brag Better! without sounding like I’m bragging about how good I am bragging.

Because no one likes a braggart.

But in actuality, I was really bad at this.  There’s a sweet spot between successful and selfish self-promotion that had me shy away since I didn’t sense I could speak of myself in a succinct and stellar manner.

(I am, admittedly, more adept at alliteration…)

Most women I know tend to avoid self-promotion along with the self-reflection necessary to do it accurately and well.  Maybe you’re among them.  So, here’s what I’ve seen work – see if you can make these tips work for you.

What’s the #1 way to Brag Better without Being a Braggart?

Have Someone Else Brag For You.

That’s right, get your own PR person to bestow your benefits.  Find supportive colleagues who recognize good work and have the confidence and clout to share it.  It’s one of the reasons sponsorship programs are so popular — when a higher-up brings your name and accomplishments to the table, it’s noticed.

One of the greatest gifts I got was when a casual friend and unofficial mentor – who happened to also be a respected executive – spoke up on my behalf.  I had just completed a long volunteer project that serviced the organization in a multitude of ways.  But because it was outside the scope of my day-to-day, my boss (and his boss) had little knowledge of what I had done or the desire to publicly praise it.  This higher-up amplified my work by sending an email to her executive-level colleagues, sharing our positive results and naming me as the person responsible. I was beyond appreciative of her kind and generous gesture, something we need  to see more of — higher-level colleagues helping out those below.

But what if you don’t have someone who can brag for you?

Here are 5 other things YOU can do to Brag Better:

1. Express Gratitude

Proud of your project?  Thank your supervisor for the opportunity.  And use that review to share your success in a non-braggy way.

What does this sound like?  For the sake of consistency, I shall refer to the boss as “Bob,” throughout…

“Bob, thanks so much for the opportunity to lead the team this year.  We outperformed last year’s earnings and I’m so proud of what we accomplished.  I really appreciate you handing me the reins to show what I could do with the right support.”

Of course, this can be hard to do if the opportunity isn’t a leading role or one with quantitative results.  But, still, consider:

“Bob, thanks so much for the opportunity to contribute to our year-end presentation by proof-reading that 30,000 word document.”  (yikes!)  “I want to make sure everything we put out reflects our department in the best possible way.  I prioritized my time around my other work to get it done for advance review and was able to demonstrate my attention to detail to fine-tune our messaging.”

2.  Acknowledge the Challenge

Was the job tough?  Did you persevere despite difficult circumstances?  Own it!

“This was a challenging assignment to keep on budget, Bob. I was able to save us money by bringing some of the work in-house and establishing a training program for our production staff which means we’ll be able to do more of it on our own dime moving forward.”

3.  Offer Comparison and Ask for Assessment 

How to get an unengaged boss to give you the accolades you deserve?  Ask for feedback in a way that makes your success apparent and get Bob to take the bait…

“Bob, I thought this year’s contest strategy was stronger than last.  We had 115,000 more entries and greater engagement on social channels based on the distribution plan and catchy hashtag.  What do you think was our best improvement when comparing the two campaigns?”

4.  Take (a Good) One for the Team 

“We” is always more acceptable than “I” so use it frequently.  You’ll be seen as a strong leader who lets her contributors soar and a generous and collaborative colleague when you share the praise.  But, using “we” doesn’t mean that YOU disappear.  Brag as a “we,” but know that you are including “me” (not me, of course, the writer, but YOU). 

While there may be no “I” in “team,” there is an “at me” if you unscramble the letters.  Don’t get scrambled.  You’re an important part of that team, @me!

5. Keep a Brag Book (One for You and One for Bob) – 

A brag book, like the plethora of photos Grandma carries in her purse?  Nope, I’m talking about a file (actual or digital) of accolades.  For Bob that means anything that documents your job well done that he might not otherwise see.  Kudos from a higher up.  A detailed thank you from a vendor.  When you don’t have the words, share them from others.

And for you, the file should be simply any reminder of your value.  I have a personal folder of hand-written notes and one-line email shout-outs that I’ve saved for more than 20 years.  (It probably should be a lot thicker by now).  If I’m having a bad day or questioning my worth, it’s there for me to flip through, a reminder of all I’ve done and the difference I’ve made.  When my internal narrator is telling me I’m not accomplishing enough, the folder is my brag book.  And I feel better, the future a little brighter.

Keep a folder of accomplishments

So, there you go, member of the always-marching band.  March on with a bugle upgraded to an appropriate piece of brass.  And don’t forget to toot your own horn!

Have other Brag Better tips?  Brag about them in comments!

Valerie Gordon is an award-winning television producer and now the founder of Commander-in-She, a career and communication strategy firm.  She helps clients take command of their stories to create satisfying and successful next chapters.  Email her at


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