How To Stop Bragging

“A couple of my friends have told me that I boast about my achievements a lot and talk about myself too much. How can I stop? I know it’s a really annoying habit, and it’s probably pushing people away.”

Sometimes we brag out of insecurity, and other times because we want to stand out and not feel like “one our of thousands”. Here are several tips for how to stop bragging.

1. Work on overcoming feelings of inferiority

If you have low self-esteem or feel inferior next to other people, you might use bragging as a defense mechanism. The solution is to improve your confidence and become more accepting of yourself.

Here are a few tips:

  • Try not to compare yourself to other people. Set goals that have meaning for you, and focus on your own progress and achievements rather than measuring yourself against everyone else.
  • Speak to yourself kindly. Identify and change unhelpful self-talk.
  • Empower yourself by learning—and applying—problem-solving skills.
  • Practice basic social skills so that you feel more comfortable around other people. If you aren’t sure where to start, read our article on how to overcome poor social skills.
  • Practice living by your own values and standards rather than looking to others for validation. This will help you develop core confidence.

Check out our guide on how to overcome an inferiority complex for more advice.

Feelings of inferiority are common in people with depression and anxiety. If you have (or think you may have) either of these conditions, consider getting professional treatment. You can find more advice on depression and anxiety, including treatment options, on the National Institute of Mental Health’s topics page.

2. Listen carefully and engage with other people

When you pay attention to what everyone else is saying, you’ll naturally brag less because you won’t be so focused on yourself.

When you’re talking with someone, aim for a balanced conversation. It doesn’t have to be a perfect 50:50 split, but you should both have a chance to ask and answer questions. Read this guide on how to keep a conversation going.

Practice active listening. Make eye contact with people when they speak, glancing away briefly every few seconds. Lean forwards slightly to show that you are interested. Nod your head and make utterances like “Hm” and “Go on” to show that you are listening. Never interrupt or talk over someone. Verywell Mind has an excellent guide to active listening.

3. Don’t try to impress with unnecessary details

If someone asks you a question about your lifestyle, salary, achievements, or possessions, it’s not bragging to give them an honest answer. But if you take every opportunity to go into detail because you think it’ll make you look impressive, you’ll come across as boastful.

For example, let’s say you’ve been doing very well at your job this year. You catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and they ask you a general question about work.

Here’s an example of a response that would probably be perceived as bragging:

Friend: So, has work been going well lately?

You: Yes, actually! My sales bonus is up by $20,000 this year.

A better response would be:

Friend: So, has work been going well lately?

You: Yes, thanks for asking! I’m very happy with my performance this quarter.

If your friend is really interested in your sales figures or salary, they can ask, “So, your bonus is looking healthy?” or “How many sales did you make, exactly?” You can then talk about your achievements in more depth.

4. Emphasize your hard work

If you had to work for your success, say so. When other people know that you have to put some effort into your achievements, you will appear more relatable and less boastful.

For example, let’s say you and your friends are talking about an exam you all took last week. Everyone is talking about their grades. You realize that you’ve got the highest score.

If you tend to brag, you might say something like, “You guys, I got the best grade!”

Technically, it’s the truth, but just highlighting your achievement and expecting everyone else to congratulate you comes off as bragging. It would be better to say something like:

“I was pretty pleased with my grade. Turns out that studying for the whole weekend was worth it!”

5. Give other people credit

When you get into the habit of acknowledging the people who have helped you out, you’ll come across as grateful and humble rather than boastful.

For example:

Friend: So I heard you won a big award at work! Congratulations!

You: Thank you so much. We all worked together on that project, and it’s so awesome to be part of a great team.

Or:

Friend: You graduated first in your class, right? That’s amazing.

You: I did. Thank you. I feel lucky to have had such good professors.

6. Don’t try to disguise your bragging

You may think that if you mix your brag with a complaint or a modest statement, no one will notice that you are trying to draw their attention to your good qualities or achievements.

For example:

  • “Shopping is such a pain. It always takes me so long to find clothes that fit me because I’m so slim.”
  • “I don’t seem to get enough sleep these days. It’s the downside of having such a busy social life, I guess!”
  • “Sometimes I have to work on Saturday mornings, but I shouldn’t complain. I knew I’d have extra responsibilities when I agreed to take on such a high-powered role.”

This is called humblebragging, and it’s not a good idea. Most people will still realize that you are boasting, and research shows that humblebragging is even more annoying than regular bragging or moaning.[3]

7. Avoid one-upping people

If someone tells you about an experience or achievement that you can relate to, you might feel the urge to say “Me too!” or “Yes, I’ve also…” and to tell them your story.

This is natural. It’s human nature to focus on things we have in common. But if you aren’t careful, the other person might feel as though you are one-upping them or bragging.

For example:

Friend: So last summer I took a two-week trip around France and Spain. I’d always wanted to see Paris and Madrid, so it was good to tick them off my bucket list.

You: Yeah, isn’t traveling the best? I’ve seen 10 European countries, and I’ve been to four continents. It cost a fortune, but it was worth every cent. My favorite city was…

In this example, your friend might feel resentful or belittled because you have hijacked the conversation and started bragging about your trip.

When someone is talking about something that’s important to them, let them have the spotlight. Ask them a few questions. Give them a chance to share their excitement and happy memories. You can talk about your own experiences afterward.

8. Avoid bragging about your loved ones

Some people don’t brag about themselves, but they will happily boast about their friends or relatives. It’s natural to be proud of your loved ones. But talking about their achievements can annoy others, particularly if the person you’re speaking to has never met them.

If someone asks you a question about a family member or friend, answer it, but don’t go into lots of detail unless the other person encourages you to open up. It’s OK to say that you’re proud of someone for doing something great, but keep it brief.

For example:

  • “Yes, we’re both well, thanks. My partner got a promotion recently. I’m proud of their hard work.”
  • “My sister is good, thanks for asking. She just graduated from dental school. We’re all very pleased for her.”

9. Ask a friend to tell you when you’re bragging

If you have a trustworthy friend you can ask for feedback, tell them that you’re trying to stop bragging, and you’d like their help. Say, “I’ve realized that I tend to brag too much. I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know when I’m coming off as boastful.” You could agree on a discreet signal or code word to use in social situations so that you know when it’s time to tone down your bragging.

10. Double-check your social media posts

When you post on social media, you mainly have to rely on text, emojis, and pictures. Your tone of voice and body language are lost, and you can’t tell how your friends and family are reacting to your words.

To avoid coming across as boastful:

  • Post about things that aren’t related to your achievements or possessions. If you only post self-congratulatory updates, people are more likely to think you are showing off.
  • Show some humility. For example, give credit to other people who have helped you out, or briefly mention that you’ve had to deal with a few setbacks on the way to your goal.
  • Make your posts useful. If you come across as helpful, other people may feel more warmly towards you. For example, if you’ve just finished an online diploma and are posting about your great results, you could give a link to the course.
  • Praise other people. This can help you come across as a generally positive person who likes to lift everyone up, not only yourself.

11. Don’t get drawn into a bragging contest

Even if you don’t usually brag, hearing someone else talk about their achievements can make you feel like bragging in return. Try to resist the temptation because bragging matches are a waste of time and energy. Instead, politely acknowledge what the other person has said and then change the subject.

If you know that specific topics trigger bragging in that person, it may be best to avoid bringing those subjects up unless you are happy to redirect their attention when they get carried away.

12. When you tell a story, keep it relatable

Do not use stories as an opportunity to show how great you are or make yourself look like a hero. Good stories are short, clear, and end with an interesting punchline. Before you launch into a story, ask yourself, “Will this entertain my audience, or am I looking for a reason to show off?”

See this article for tips on how to be good at telling stories.

13. Accept compliments with grace

Brushing off compliments doesn’t make you look humble. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.

For example, if you say, “Oh, it was nothing,” other people might interpret your response as “I’m so great that this achievement required very little effort from me.” Accept a compliment politely. A simple “Thank you very much” or “It’s nice of you to say so” is fine.

14. See the value and worth in everyone

When you remember that we are all equal, with unique strengths and stories to tell, it’s easier to stay humble and avoid bragging.

When you meet someone new, challenge yourself to discover at least one positive trait. Try not to jump to conclusions or reduce someone to a stereotype. You probably want other people to see you as a complex human being with some good qualities, so do the same for them.

Common questions about bragging

Why do people brag?

When someone brags, it’s often because they want to appear important, special, or superior. Research shows that people who brag don’t accurately read their audience. They think everyone else will be pleased to hear their good news, but their bragging behavior is usually perceived as annoying.[1]

Why is bragging bad?

When you brag, other people might think you are boring, unlikable, self-centered, or trying to compensate for a lack of self-confidence. Bragging can make those around you feel insecure or inferior if you keep comparing their achievements or possessions with your own.

Is bragging a form of insecurity?

A boastful attitude can cover up a deep-seated feeling of inferiority or fear of being seen as mediocre.[2] However, some people genuinely believe they are better than others and have an overinflated view of their abilities.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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