How can you articulate your strengths and accomplishments, without sounding arrogant? Andrea answers one of the most common questions she hears. First, avoid “I am humbled,” self-deprecation, or resorting to the humble brag. Instead, try these three key strategies: “Three Magic Words,” “Pivoting,” and “Own It.” Now you can share your strengths and accomplishments to reinforce your personal brand without sounding boastful or conceited.
Connect with Andrea & Talk About Talk:
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Relevant Talk About Talk Podcast Episodes
- Say Nice Things About Yourself (Ep. 115)
- Bragging, Self-Promotion & Your Personal Brand with Lisa Bragg (Ep. 105)
In today’s Talk About Talk episode, I’m going to share my answer to the most common question that I get from my individual coaching clients and in the workshops that I lead. It’s this:
“Andrea. I understand how important it is when I’m developing my personal brand to focus on my strengths and my accomplishments. But how do I actually articulate my strengths in public without sounding arrogant – and conceited – and boastful?
Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk episode 144: Articulating your strengths and accomplishments without sounding arrogant.
I’m so glad you’re here. Let me introduce myself. In case we haven’t met, my name is Dr. Andrea Wojnicki and I’m YOUR executive communication coach. Please call me Andrea! I’m the founder of Talk About Talk, where I coach communication skills to ambitious executives through 1:1 coaching, bootcamps, workshops and keynote speaking. My objective is to help you improve your clarity and confidence, so you have more credibility. When you have more credibility, you can make real impact. And that’s when you’ll get noticed and your carer will take off! THAT is my goal here.
If this resonates with you, then I also encourage you to check out the Talk about talk.com website. There are many resources there to help you out. If you’re an individual executive, there’s information about private coaching and small group bootcamps. If you’re a leader or an HR manager looking to boost the communication skills of your team, there’s also information about corporate workshops and keynote speeches. And there are plenty of free resources too: like the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, AND, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk email newsletter. That newsletter is your chance to get communication tips and coaching from me every week.
I also hope you’ll connect with me on LinkedIn and maybe send me a message and let me know what you think about this episode.
Alright, let’s get going. Articulating your strengths and accomplishments without sounding arrogant.
Like I said, this is the most common Q I get. This is a common dilemma.
I’ve said this before on other episodes, but it bears repeating:
Your work doesn’t speak for itself. YOU MUST speak for your work.
Back when we were much younger. Like, think about when we were students. Or maybe in the first few years of our careers. People were looking out for us. They were looking to cite examples of our great work and highlight it. In school they even graded us for it.
But for middle level and senior level managers, you must speak for your own work. And of course, this is important because you need to establish credibility. You need your hard work and successes to be attributed to you.
But at the same time you don’t want to be seen as arrogant or selfish.
I understand. This is a quandary, isn’t it?
This reminds of where I want to start – This whole “I am humbled” thing. You know. The announcements on LinkedIn where people announce their promotions or their awards.
They have a legitimate reason to be proud, and of course they should share their success.
Have you noticed how many of these announcements start with “I am humbled…”? It’s the same at the academy awards, and the Emmy’s. Wherever people are being recognized and they have to, or they want to, say something about it.
But “I AM HUMBLED”? Really?
I wonder if this has become a cliché filler that supposed to convince us that the person is modest and has humility. Do they even know what they’re saying? Do they know what being humbled means?
Let me tell you the definition of being humbled. Being humbled means “lowered in condition, power, or dignity” In other words, brought down a notch. It refers to a situation that causes you to realize your limitations and vulnerabilities.
So you see, it doesn’t even make sense that you would say you are humbled to receive an award or a promotion. Certainly you might argue that the definition has evolved over time so that being humbled now means your recognition of an undeserved honor. But I’m not the only one out there that perceives this phrase as insincere. So my advice? Just avoid that phrase. Instead of saying “I am HUMBLED to receive his award” or this promotion or whatever , how about expressing your enthusiasm, your honor or your gratitude?
I’m EXCITED to share that I was recently promoted.” or “I’m EXCITED about the opportunity.” or “I’m HONOURED to be recognized with this award.”
I’m GRATEFUL for this acknowledgment
or I’m APPRECIATIVE
You get the idea.
So that’s the first thing I want to emphasize. Please stop saying “I am humbled.” Its filler, it sounds insincere, and it might not even be correct.
Speaking of CORRECT. One other thing before we get going.
When you’re articulating your strengths or the things that you’re proud of, OF COURSE it has to be authentic. The thing we’re talking about has to be true. You’re not promoting falsehoods about yourself. You’re not making things up that you think others want to hear. This is the truth.
And as far as I’m concerned, the proverbial humble brag is not the truth. You’re PRETENDING to be humble when you’re bragging.
Do you know what I mean when I say humble brag?
Its those convoluted, insincere statements you hear.
“I can’t believe they chose ME to give a that presentation to the sr. leadership team!” or “It’s so exhausting being the ONLY person that my boss can trust to train the new folks.”
Humble bragging is offensive. Don’t do it.
SO – with those two things about of the way (not saying “I am humbled” and being truthful – no humble brags), let’s get into this, What SHOULD you say when you want to articulate your strengths, and share your accomplishments, without sounding arrogant?
I’m going to take you through three different strategies you can use. Of course it’s three, right? The power of three, always. Well, almost always.
The 3 strategies are:
- Three magic words,
- And Own it.
Let me elaborate on each of these.
The first strategy is what I like to call the three magic words. What are the three words? People tell me. As in. “People tell me that I have a lot of energy and I’m able to engage people with my podcasts in my workshops.”
Or, you might say, people tell me that I have a rare ability to identify consumer insights.
Or you might say. People tell me that I am an exceptional people leader and mentor.
This strategy gets a lot of positive feedback from the folks I coach.
I’m sharing this strategy with you first, because I REALLY like this one. It’s so immediately actionable.
Ask yourself right now, what’s something positive that people say about you that you might share with the world? This COULD be a key element to your personal brand. The reason these three magic words people tell me are so effective, is that it sounds. Less arrogant when it’s coming from a third party when you’re not talking about yourself, rather you’re sharing what other people say about you. It also sounds more credible. It’s almost like a third party testimonial.
So that’s the first strategy. 3 magic words: People tell me.
Ready for the second strategy?
It’s to PIVOT.
Yes, I realize we’ve all had enough of this word “Pivot.” I’m sorry if it’s bringing up covid-induced PTSD. But the word PIVOT really is what you can do here.
As in: state your strength or accomplishment, then PIVOT and elaborate on something else.
I have three specific suggestions for what you might elaborate on.
But first I want to tell you how I personally use this strategy. It’s when I drop the H bomb. You know, the Harvard bomb. Of course I know some Harvard graduates talk non-stop about their degrees, dropping the H bomb as often as they can. Personally, I avoid the H bomb, unless I’m creating a corporate bio or if I’m listing my credentials for a specific purpose.
Imagine if I just said. I earned my doctoral degree from Harvard. BOOM. And then I paused and stopped there.
Versus if, I said. I earned my doctoral degree from Harvard Business School, where my research focused on interpersonal communication and word of mouth. I focused on the phenomenon of word of mouth to better understand who and under what conditions people talk.
Do you see what I did there? I pivoted away from my degree (my credential or my strength). And I focused or elaborated on something else.
A similar example for you might be your degree, or a promotion, or an award you received. How do you mention these things without sounding arrogant? Obviously our first strategy of the 3 magic words PEOPLE TELL ME isn’t going to work here. You aren’t going to say, “people tell me I graduated from Harvard” or “people tell me I got promoted or won an award.”
That just doesn’t work. So, try stating your credential and then pivoting.
When I was prepping for this episode, I made a list of several ways we can pivot, and I realized they fall into three categories (yah, again, the power of three. Of course.)
Let me tell you what they are:
- other people. And
NOW- let me elaborate and give you some examples so you can make his real for yourself.
So the first. way that you might pivot is to what you LEARNED. This is basically what I do with my HBS or Harvard Business School example when I pivot to my research.
For you it might be when you’re talking about a recent promotion. You could say:
“I’ve had the privilege of LEARNING from some exceptional mentors along the way.“
A bonus or benefit of pivoting to what you LEARNED is that you’re highlighting your impressive GROWTH MINDSET without saying so.
“I’ve LEARNED a lot from the challenges that have come my way…” or “Through failures (like X), I’ve learned valuable LESSONS that shaped my strengths.”
Or you could even be self-deprecating, focusing on what you have to learn. Something like:
”I may be good at leading tams through transformation, but my tech skills could use a boost. Just ask anyone on my team!”
So that’s pivoting to learning.
You could also pivot to other people.
“Our team’s COLLECTIVE effort inspired me and played a significant role in our success” or “It’s incredible how our GROUP’S dedication made this project a success.”
SO now we’ve covered pivoting to what you learned and pivoting to other people.
The 3rd pivot is to gratitude.
This is about being gracious. But be careful not to wade into humblebrag territory.
Remember, what you’re saying needs to be 100% the truth.
You could say: “I appreciate how … “ or “I am grateful for the opportunities and the people who have supported me.”
For this one, you could use the words “thankful” or “appreciate” or “grateful.” You get the idea. Articulate your strength or accomplishment, then pivot to your gratitude.
So that’s those are the three ways to PIVOT when you’re articulating your strengths and accomplishments. You can:
- pivot to learning.
- Pivot to other people. And
- Pivot to gratitude.
Put another way:
- focus on your growth mindset,
- Be inclusive. And
- Be gracious.
Oooh. I like that list.
OK – we’re moving on to the last of the 3 strategies to share your strengths and accomplishments without sounding arrogant. We’ve covered the 3 magic words – do you remember what they are? It’s “People tell me.” And we’ve covered these three ways you can pivot the conversation.
The last strategy is this.
Just own it!
Put a big smile on your face and say something like
“Actually, I’m really proud of that.”
Or perhaps you could say
“I know I can’t do everything, but this one thing. Yah. Gosh I’m good at that.”
And THAT is where we’ll stop.
As I said at the very beginning, I try to choose podcast topics that I know we’re going to get a lot of traction. I think about the questions that I get in my coaching sessions and in the workshops that I lead. And this question of how to share your strengths and your accomplishments without sounding arrogant is definitely one of the most common questions that I get. It is a common dilemma.
So I hope. The suggestions that I’ve shared here are helpful.
Let me give you a quick review so you can memorize these strategies. Really make them stick in your brain. Are you ready?
First two reminders.
- The first reminder is to please, please, please avoid saying. I am humbled. I am humbled to receive this promotion. I am humbled to receive this award. Instead, try saying I am honored, or it is a privilege. Or I’m grateful. Honored, privilege or grateful. Got it?
- Second reminder is to always be truthful when you’re stating your strengths and your accomplishments and to avoid the humble brag. The humble brag is insincere and even offensive. Don’t do it.
Then, we have three strategies for what to say when you do share your strengths and your accomplishments.
- The first is the three magic words people tell me. As in, people tell me I’m great at whatever the strength is. The benefit of this strategy is that it’s almost like a third person testimonial.
- The second strategy is to pivot. State your strength or your accomplishment and then pivot to one of three things, either:
- One what you learned or.
- Two, you can pivot to other people or
- three, you can pivot to your gratitude. As in, I appreciate or I’m thankful, or I’m grateful for this award.
- The third and last strategy is a simple one. It’s just own it. Put a big smile on your face and let everyone know how proud you feel.
Of course, you can’t do this all the time. But if you save it for when you need it, this is a great way for you to reinforce the strengths and the accomplishments that you want other people to know about you.
One last thing I want to mention here. If you’re the kind of person that really is concerned about sounding arrogant or conceited or boastful, then chances are you don’t sound that way. So you can take some comfort in that.
But based on the conversations that I’ve had with ambitious clients who are hesitant to share their accomplishments and their strengths. I know that many of them avoid sharing their strengths and accomplishments altogether. If you’re one of those people then I strongly encourage you to think about the various strategies that I shared in this episode so that you can confidently share your strengths and your accomplishments.
PEOPLE TELL ME this advice is a game changer.
Did you see what I did there?
OK – If you’re looking for a review of the content I shared in this episode, you can always check out the transcript.
Please let me know how it goes.
Thanks for listening. And talk soon!