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Brag without bragging to build rapport

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

An Iraq War veteran, Tom Morkes jumped out of helicopters for the U.S. Army. His unit would parachute into war zones.

But Morkes doesn’t brag about his heroism. He prefers to discuss his military service in a low-key manner.

Leaders master the art of promoting themselves without going overboard. They don’t come right out and boast. Instead, they drop hints and refer to their experiences in an engaging way that prompts two-way conversation.

Here’s how to follow Tom’s lead and cite your triumphs without showing off:

Poke fun at yourself. When he’s asked about his wartime exploits, Morkes shrugs it off. He’ll reply, “Well, it wasn’t a vacation. I lived in a metal container for a year, did a lot of missions, and most of the time it was really boring waiting for bad things to happen to you.”

A self-deprecating tone will help you showcase your experience while building rapport. People might admire you more, not less, for understating your success.

  Don’t fake humility. Trying to sound humble when you’re really bragging only makes you seem phony. That’s especially true when your boast is disguised as a complaint.

  Maintain childlike wonder. Describing your success in ho-hum terms can prove off-putting. It’s better to convey a sense of bewilderment at what’s happened to you.

If a famous person praised you or your work, it’s fine to take pride in the compliment. But rather than brag, express wide-eyed wonder and say, “Can you believe this?”

— Adapted from “The Helicopter-Jumper’s Guide to Talking About Yourself,” John Corcoran,

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