I have a bunch of really smart friends who do really interesting things and when we meet up its like what are you up to? Nothing much. Nothing interesting. Later you find out that they just visited Mongolia, another is learning Russian and the other built renewable power system for a holiday house they just bought, but they're too worried about bragging to bring it up. (exaggerated) Meanwhile I (and I'm guessing they) dont like social status but kinda disappointed they don't get loved much.
Meanwhile I have other asshole friends who talk about the new expensive kitchen he got installed and its actually nice to hate on him and have a decent conversation about it.
So I'm starting to rethink my views on bragging. Maybe its a good thing.
When there is some real external test of skill, it isn't painful to be at the bottom of the hierarchy. A rookie on a football team doesn't resent the skill of the veteran; he hopes to be like him one day and is happy to have the chance to learn from him. The veteran may in turn feel a sense of noblesse oblige. And most importantly, their status depends on how well they do against opponents, not on whether they can push the other down.
It is nice to be in a group where people can do praise-worthy things and be praised for them. And, as the conclusion addresses, it is nice to give praise when due. This norm can be eroded by braggers. But it can also be eroded by people taking any mention of an accomplishment as a slight.
For example, the Oxford anecdote seems like the author going out of his way to feel slighted and assume malice. The excited salesperson anecdote is similar. Do others have a duty to mask excitement out of worry that it could be interpreted as bragging?
One of the best habits I have adopted is muttering "good on them" and moving along when an emotion suspiciously similar to jealously starts bubbling up.
I (male) grew up in a neighborhood with several boys my own age. I was the nerdy/awkward &c. one and so I was picked on when it was just that group. However, I was absolutely part of that group, and I saw the difference that made both with my other equally awkward peers that lacked such a group, and my sister, who was less awkward, but had it much rougher.
It could also be that they just don't have strong enough rapport with you that they'd feel sharing all those things with you, I don't know. Maybe next time tease them with something along the lines "c'mon I know you've been up to something". But take your time, don't expect things to change immediately.
I love it how you used "Reflected Glory Bragging" (point 9) right here! It's great, I'm upvoting your comment :)
I'm not sure sharing should be conflated with bragging. You can talk about things you're doing or building without being excessively proud or boastful.
The problem here is not lack of bragging, but lack of a desire to share something that others would enjoy.
As usual, solving this for oneself, and always having something curious and smalltalk-worthy on hand can solve it for everyone around.
I'm also finding myself thinking a lot about social interactions, especially the dumb nonsense vast swathes of our populations carry out, and being currently in the middle of Desmond Morris "Human Zoo" (brilliant, slightly dated, but you'll love it if you're not familiar) your piece really struck a chord - particularly with "Bragging is personally imposing what-you-believe-to-be status-elevating thoughts on your audience". Status, tribes, dominance, all seem explain so much modern phenomena from a species which ought to know better.
In "About" you write "I was heartbroken by the tumbleweed response I got for my last writing project, so I don’t intend to spin my wheels writing in vain again."
Please don't feel discouraged I get much the same on pretty much every submission I post here, so it's not you, per se! Writing is the easy and fun part, but like a startup I suspect promotion, networking, and all that play a big part. Being an established name makes a huge difference too - it all gets much harder if you don't have a large following.
Are you on Twitter? That can be good for exposure. Happy to follow and RT!
Best of luck!
> Hi less_penguiny - absolutely loved this article.
> Brilliant writing.
Bragging about your good taste.
> I'm also finding myself thinking a lot about social interactions, especially the dumb nonsense vast swathes of our populations carry out, and being currently in the middle of Desmond Morris "Human Zoo" (brilliant, slightly dated, but you'll love it if you're not familiar) your piece really struck a chord - particularly with "Bragging is personally imposing what-you-believe-to-be status-elevating thoughts on your audience". Status, tribes, dominance, all seem explain so much modern phenomena from a species which ought to know better.
Also a brag: "I'm so much more aware than the rest of them average people". Followed by one-upmanship brag: book recommendation.
> In "About" you write "I was heartbroken by the tumbleweed response I got for my last writing project, so I don’t intend to spin my wheels writing in vain again."
> Please don't feel discouraged I get much the same on pretty much every submission I post here, so it's not you, per se! Writing is the easy and fun part, but like a startup I suspect promotion, networking, and all that play a big part. Being an established name makes a huge difference too - it all gets much harder if you don't have a large following.
Another "I've been here long enough" brag.
I've got a mailing list: https://www.lesspenguiny.com/email_subscribers/new
Both Twitter and Facebook suspended my newly created accounts for this project – I think they took offense to my entering first name "Less", surname: "Penguiny"
Funny aside: Facebook's tool to un-suspend my account asked me to submit a photo. I uploaded a photo of a penguin, since that's my profile photo, the only one they have of me in their system.
"Sorry, your photo could not be recognized".
And what are your goals if you don't mind me asking, I mean I don't see any obvious monetization stuff on your site? If you get 10m views a month does that help you avoid rejoining the rat race or are you not really thinking so far ahead yet?
Basically my main two options are:
* start another technical company and go all-in
* freelance half of the time, spend the other half on the LessPenguiny project. Monetization would be nice, but it isn't necessary. I'd sacrifice cash for impact in this area.
As for future pieces, I've analyzing my data (about 2000 observations, already coded) and I've got a lot of material on:
* why some people seem so impossibly warm
* how conversations get started between strangers (not in a pick-up way, but more in a normal day-to-day way)
* why some people are fascinating conversationalists
* compliments — are they good or do they make people uncomfortable?
Also, I think you can hit a great niche. I've never found any sort of super qualitative examination on social interactions like you have done. Traditionally HtWFaIP is the 'go to' book for this kind of stuff, but its age shows a little and leaves a lot of implementation details in the dark.
Article related funny thought: you're bragging about being in enough on a certain study area that you recognize/use foundational texts by acronym even if they're complicated.
Not to be confused with the manipulative charisma of a narcissist, these peeps are just a little bowl of Californian sunshine. I'm always downlow super jealous because as far as I can tell it's completely effortless and unforced. I can switch it on but there's a small yet infinite difference. Pheromones? Excess oxytocin? Or is it metaphysics?
Out of interest are you a natural intuitive "people person"? I am not - which is maybe why this stuff is so interesting to me. But when it's explained the explanations often feel "right", I wouldn't say emotions and interactions go entirely over my head.
I was informally diagnosed with Asperger's by teachers at school. Also I didn't really get my social life together until I started doing what I do best — analyzing the crap out of how it all works.
Anyway, keep it up!
What I've noticed is just conversing empathetically with others a la How to Win Friends and Influence People and having technical discussion is enough for others to sing my praises, from my time as intern through middle-manager. Basically, be interested in others over yourself. For more on the nuance of "interested" I'd suggest the above book.
Bragging is making your achievements known. Bragging poorly is doing this in a way that's too obvious & grating to the listener. If you're accused of bragging, this means you are bragging poorly.
But superiors working with you, observing you in action, will come to a conclusion too.
The difference I've personally seen in getting my projects through is my relationship with stakeholders; e.g., if one executive isn't on-board the project is toast. I've taken to communicating personally with potential naysayers early to consult with them to get their feedback but mostly to get the first impression over with before presenting it to a larger audience.
In business unlike socially it's actually part of the job - or it should be if you want to achieve certain goals: bonus, promotion, peer recognition. Even avoiding layoffs could come down to how well you communicate the good work you're doing.
This does not come naturally to many of us in this sector, but once you are aware of the need for it, there are ways to promote yourself authentically and without being too much of a show-off.
The answer, and the article gets at this in the last section, is a variety of anxious human emotional impulses. I guess we knew that, but the way the article teased it apart was interesting for me anyway.
Your article hinted at a problem we all face: sometimes we're left guessing whether or not the other person is intentionally bragging. I.e., there's a problem of ambiguity.
I'd like to suggest a follow-up article: suggestions for how to communicate certain ideas in a way that minimizes the risk of being interpreted as bragging. Or maybe better, minimizes the risk of making the audience feel bad because of the same underlying psychological issues (insecurity, envy, etc.) that get tickled by bragging.
For example, another comment in this discussion  points out how someone trying to praise you could be (mis?)understood as actually bragging. It would be awesome to post a catalog of ways people can avoid this kind of ambiguity.
So the intention of the article was partially to do exactly this, but I didn't want the tone to be too heavy-handed or self-helpy so I relegated this information to being between the lines. If you take a look at the number of penguins I gave each technique, that roughly correlates to how positively I view each bragging technique. As the website name suggests, the less penguins the better!
If one can easily categorize bragging techniques in these buckets, it begs the question: how can a person who is genuinely interested in making a conversation interact with people who brag? A lot of people brag. If that makes you feel bad, do you just give up on them and move on? Is there some way to use these bragging forces to a positive effect?
I'm genuinely asking. I'm constantly craving good connections with people, you don't meet a lot of people who are able to talk about themselves and inspire you without looking like they are bragging and get you annoyed. (Any answer will not fit under the "Beneficence Brag" category since I'm explicitly asking for help :))
One is to lower your threshold for what you count as being bragging — sometimes people are just sharing and they don't mean any harm. And sometimes they just really need validation. But then again, despite their benign intentions, hearing their status might sting, especially if things aren't going your way lately.
Another option is to poke fun at them, assuming you are on joking terms yadayada. E.g. I caught myself bragging about the achievements of my previous business partner at a party last weekend and the room was having none of it. As soon as I finished my sentence, they erupted into "woopdey doo" or (impersonating me) "I don't mean to brag or anything!!"
So there's that.
Basically everyone (but me) manages to get things (or work done) for much less than their common market value is or however much less than what I can get it at.
Be it a car, a pair of trousers or a phone, or the renovation works of his/her bathroom, the "deal bragger" tells you that he/she found (through his/her network or friends, or internet, or whatever other means) a supplier that sold the item to him/her at an unrealistically discounted price or - say - a plumber that did the work for a fraction of what is normal for that kind of work.
Indeed I had a whole section on what people brag about (deals being one of them, as well as "potential" or being c-r-a-z-y). I plan on releasing this stuff soon.
> IV Brag Gags: Avoiding Bragging At All Costs
I've met too many people that say they "go to school near Boston" or "work in Mountain View". I don't think it's the intention, but more than the "status anxiety" part sometimes it feels like the other party seems like the listener isn't "worthy" of knowing, or at least should know from the implication if they were.
For example, they will instantly switch from friendly to standoffish, or they will redirect the whole conversation to be about this new information, or will start treating their interlocutor as a superior, or asking for some advice/help, or...
It’s not clear whether they have some insecurity about their own education, or just curiosity, or what, but it can be a real drag.
A different group consider themselves to be similarly elite, and will also completely change their conversation when they find another of their tribe, e.g. start talking about how much better “we” are than those rabble in a clubby way. This can also be super annoying.
I assume something similar happens when people find out you are rich, or
won a prize, or have famous friends, etc., but “where did you go to
school?” is a more common ice breaker than “how fat is your savings
Deflection can save a lot of trouble.
Admittedly, if you work for a let's say a GAFA, you can probably safely assume people know the name. But for let's say MIT, I'd very curious to know which percentage of the us population actually know the name and attach it to academic excellence.
When I started interning out of state I thought this as well, but then people thought I was just obfuscating going to Duke or UNC (when in reality my actual school was a few tiers lower). In most circumstances where this sort of thing would come up, I would imagine even the general public would understand the weight MIT has - hell, Tony Stark went there!
(Also, what's GAFA? Google, Apple, Facebook, Airbnb?)
Around there, GAFA is what you said except it's Amazon and not AirBnb
As a contrived example: "Humbled to be named to SomeRandomMagazine's Top 30 under 30 list".
My first thought when seeing such as headline is, like heck that person is humbled. I can't think of any honest reason to post a story about one's own humiliation on a website focused on self-promotion such as LinkedIn.
And, perhaps I'm over-reaching here, but... Based on my assumption that such posts are disingenuous, I hold this against whoever posts it. Not only because it's (AFAICT) dishonest, but because it diminishes the avenues available for persons who which to show genuine contrition as a first step towards righting a wrong.
Just trying to help - not attempting to brag that I'm better than you in any way :-)
Here's my main point, reworded:
Being "humbled" is basically the opposite of being "exalted" . But posting on LinkedIn a story about being recognized as awesome by some third party is absolutely a form of exaltation.
And IMO it's a particularly revolting form of exaltation: it's self exaltation using the verbiage of self-effacement.
I'm not sure if this was the intention of the author, but I'd prefer to look at this maybe as a "guide book" for etiquette in this regard. Regardless of a speaker's intention it's also perception that is at play here. If braggarts are more aware of the audiences they are with, and audiences are less sensitive to these things that separate us in our life experiences, on both ends of the spectrum this has the potential to "move the needle" to a more comfortable place for everyone.
Think you're pure in heart?
Well, I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art"
How is that figure of speech called in English?
Perhaps it's also tinged with a little bit of inner guilt that I should be doing more for people that are less fortunate.
But I've always had a policy of "that's between me and my accountant (though my accountant recently has been those cheap online tax filing websites)." For example if a recruiter tries to ask me how much money I make. I have shared with my mother and my uncle also.
What are some HN commenters' attitudes or policies towards this and how is it working for you?
I also noticed that freelance stuff gets bragged about more often — how big their last contract was closed for, or what daily rate they got from a client.
The other 10% is probably legitimately what I would call bragging, none of which really tends to get under my skin.
The idea behind the pictures isn't so much about them being useful (they mostly aren't — I'm well aware of that). Instead it's about breaking up the wall of text and adding visual variety so as to prevent reader fatigue.
It's a tip I picked up from reading the Star Slate Codex piece on writing: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/20/writing-advice/
Also: HN readers != average internet readers
Congrats with your fascinating article, really enjoyed it!
Terms quoted as they shouldn't be taken in literal meaning.
dude I know you have a lot of money, I just wanted to know if you were sick or something. smh
Take it from a socially clueless person, some of us don't know the answers to these questions. :)
That sounds interesting, would you have the links handy? :)
edit: Interesting, the most useful article for me is also the newest. I guess I'd been dissatisfied with articles I found for a long time. :)
1. Tell me what's oversimplified
2. Socialist strawman - i don't care about what a socilist is.
3. Amazon workers is something people can relate with, it makea sense to use it.
Go somewhere else for your moderation skills.
I don't see how that is a tragedy. It seems like things are going pretty easy for a good number of us.