Humblebragging is notoriously obnoxious, but it feels necessary sometimes. For example, in a job interview, we’re often told to answer the dreaded “what’s your biggest weakness” question with something sly, such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” People see through this. It’s better to either be honest about your bragging or be open about your weaknesses.
Picture: Samuel Mann
With some colleagues, Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino conducted research on humblebragging. They instructed a group of subjects to write down how they’d answer the “greatest weakness” question in a job interview. Over three-quarters of subjects answered by trying to reframe a positive statement as a negative one — better known as humblebragging. The researchers hired assistants to evaluate subjects’ answers. Here’s what they found:
Interestingly, this strategy was not effective: The research assistants indicated that they would be much less likely to hire the humblebraggers than those who seemed honest. These findings suggest that in job interviews, showing we are self-aware and working on improving our performance may be a more effective strategy than humblebragging. After all, authentic people who are willing to show vulnerability are likely to be the type of candidates interviewers most want to hire.
In follow-up studies, the researchers found that it’s not just potential employers who are put off by this. Gino says those studies show people actually prefer braggers and complainers to humblebraggers. She reported:
What these results seem to suggest is that when deciding whether to (honestly) brag or (deceptively) humblebrag, would-be self-promoters should choose the former — and at least reap the rewards of seeming sincere…Together, these studies point to an important truth: Our intuitions on what types of strategies will create a positive impression on others are often wrong. We believe that humblebragging will be more effective than simply bragging, when, in fact, it backfires. And we also believe that catering to others’ interests and expectations will make us look good, when in fact simply being oneself delivers better results.
The old “be yourself” adage might be boring and cliche, but these studies suggest it’s true. Sure, we’ve talked about how being yourself can backfire if you have personality “quirks”. But that doesn’t mean you should be phoney either — we suggest taking a deeper look at those quirks. The point is, people seem to prefer authenticity, even if that authenticity is negative. To read more about this, head over to the link below.