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Advice / Job Search / Networking

How to Talk About Your Accomplishments Without Sounding Braggy and Annoying

“So what’s been going on for you lately?” my friend asked.

“Oh, you know... things... and stuff,” I replied.

She gave me a funny look.

“Things and stuff? I thought your first book just got published? That’s huge!”

I cringed, feeling an oh-so-awkward blush creeping into my cheeks.

“Yeah, well...” I responded. “It’s really just an illustrated book. Barely any writing. Plus, it’s not like it’s a bestseller or anything...” I mumbled.

My friend glared at me.

“Alex, you wrote a book, and it’s being sold in bookstores,” she said, matter-of-factly. “That is amazing. I’m proud of you. Let me be happy for you. Stop downsizing your joy.”

Stop downsizing your joy. Wow. I never thought of it like that before. I promised her I would stop the downsizing-parade.

“Thank God,” she said. “You were starting to get annoying!”

So often, in life, we downplay our accomplishments because we don’t want to be irritating, sound braggy, or take too much credit for making big, exciting things happen. But in doing so, we’re behaving like real bummers. “Energy vampire” is a phrase that comes to mind.

The truth is that people enjoy hearing good news. People are always looking for a reason to celebrate. Your friends, your colleagues, your future employer, new people at your local industry mixer—they’d all love to hear something excellent and inspiring.

So, don’t hold back. Deliver the good news. If you’re proud, then say so!

Stop downsizing your joy.

Of course, there is a graceful way to talk about your accomplishments and then a not so graceful way.

Here are my tips on how to describe your career achievements without sounding like a hot air balloon:

Keep it Simple

Say: “I just got promoted at work. It’s a major opportunity, and I’m really excited.”

Not: [Insert 40-minute ramble-fest here].

Whenever Possible, Use the Magic Word “Because”

One Harvard research study proved that using the word “because” makes people significantly more likely to agree with you, align with you, and do whatever you say.

Why? Because you’re giving them a reason to care and a reason to root for your continued success.

Say: “I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been able to raise $20,000 for this project because it means we’re going to be able to bring our programs into the communities that need us most.”

Or: “I’m really excited about my promotion to a senior-level position because I want to live in a world where 50% of CEOs are female, instead of just 4.6%.”

Talk About How You Intend to Keep Working Harder (Not Rest on Your Laurels)

Say: “I just got a big opportunity that, quite honestly, is going to challenge me like no previous position has before. I’m feeling really motivated to prove to everyone that they made the right choice in hiring me.”

Make it a Conversation, Not a Monologue

After describing your own big win, open up the conversation.

Ask: “What’s the most exciting thing you’ve got going on at work these days?”

If the person you’re talking to says, “Um, nothing, I kinda hate my job...” then turn the conversation in a more inspiring direction.

Ask: “What would be your dream job?” or “Do you have a fantasy career?”

Be Generous—and Be a Cheerleader

If you sense that the person you’re speaking to is feeling highly intimidated by you and your level of success, this is another opportunity to shift the conversation.

Rather than continuing to talk about yourself, ask: “What are some of your goals right now? Career-wise or just personally?” or ask, “What’s the best thing that’s going on your life right now, outside of work?

Try to get the other person to describe something positive—a goal, a project, a bright spot in their day. When they do, lean in and get excited for them. Offer a resource. Give a high five. Be a cheerleader for them. Show that you genuinely want them to win.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

That’s a fact.

People may forget your accomplishments and career successes, but if you can make someone feel valued and appreciated, like they’ve got a real friend and cheerleader on their team? That’s what they will remember about you—and that is a real “win.”

Photo of woman crossing finish line courtesy of Shutterstock.