jazz photoWhen my big brother was running for third grade class president against Ellen Freedlander, the vote was conducted by the heads-down, eyes-closed, raise-your-hand method. Afraid he’d be caught voting for himself, my brother cast his vote for Ellen and guess what? She won by one vote!

On the other hand, we’ve all known a blowhard or two; self-aggrandizing people who are intent on pointing out how terrific they are.  To me, that behavior insults my own intelligence, and it makes me wonder if there can be a healthy compromise between boasting and abject humility.  Assuming so, how do we get there?

Once again, words matter.  Instead of bragging to your colleagues about how you competed against seven other realtors to nab a million dollar listing, or waiting passively until somebody finally notices and says something to you, I might suggest focusing on the hard work, the perseverance, and the patience it took for you to land the big fish.  Adopting the attitude of “you, too, can accomplish this”  definitely takes away the horn-tooting.

If you’re new at the company, and/or new to the industry, it’s going to take a fair amount of time to establish your credibility.  Be patient.  Be observant.  Look around the office and see who among your peers has his/her finger on the pulse of the business.  Then, when you generate your first report, ask that person if he or she would be willing to take a look before you submit it.  This is kind of sneaky and kind of brilliant.  You will be able to tell in a snap whether that colleague is smart, generous, petty, or insecure.  In any event, you’ll likely get some useful feedback.  So use it to establish your credibility and then you won’t need to toot your own horn.

Tooting someone else’s horn, however, is almost always a good idea, as long as it’s sincere.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re complimenting your supervisor, your co-worker, or your part-time assistant.  We all want to hear that we’re doing good work (and it’s even better if others hear it at the same time).  If you have the voice, use it when you’re specifically pointing out a good job that someone did.  And please be sure to leave yourself out of the conversation.  If your assistant planned a terrific baby shower for a co-worker because you told her exactly what to do, perhaps you can omit that little detail when you’re handing out the kudos.

If everything is coming up roses for you, please be gracious when you’re accepting a compliment.  Obviously, say thank you, and also obviously, share the credit.  “I couldn’t have done it without Jim’s research and Lisa’s insight,” sounds true and also sounds sincere.

I’ve learned the hard way that tooting my own horn can come back to bite me.  Somewhere along the line, I forgot my mom’s sage advice to “show, don’t tell.”  If you need to remind people how terrific you are, do you think something might need an adjustment?