7 Ways to Brag Without Sounding Like You’re Bragging



I bet you have some great stories.

Almost everyone has something interesting or memorable about them which makes for good cocktail party fodder.

Take my friend Tom, for example. Tom went to West Point, then spent a few years in a U.S. Army special forces unit where his job was to parachute deploy into warzones from helicopters.

That’s right — his job was to jump out of helicopters. And he didn’t stop there. While still active duty, Tom wrote two books and started a boutique publishing company.

If he wasn’t such a nice guy, I’d probably hate him.

His background is so incredible, that it’s hard to imagine how he can talk about his background at all without coming off as an insufferable jerk.

Tom is actually quite modest, which is part of the reason I like him.

But the problem for guys like Tom is how he can share his background in a way that doesn’t come off as bragging. Social norms tend to prevent many of us from sharing our greatest achievements and best stories out of fear of alienating people who might think we are trying to show off.

But I believe there is a better way – a way you can talk about your most interesting achievements without sounding cockier than Maverick from Top Gun.

Why You Should Talk About What You’ve Achieved

You may be wondering why we should even care about talking about ourselves. There are a number of good reasons why we should.

For example:
• Your Income Will Be Affected By Your Achievements. Not talking about your accomplishments can mean less income. Those who take credit for accomplishments are the ones who are rewarded with promotions and good assignments, says Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.
• Your Stories Reveal the True You. When we share our stories about our accomplishments, we reveal our true selves. It is only through revealing our true selves that we break through superficial small talk and make real connection with people, form genuine friendships, and deepen our relationships.
• Great Stories Make Life Interesting. Life is too short to keep good stories locked up in a box. It would be a shame and a lost opportunity if everyone kept their most interesting stories to themselves because of fear of being perceived as a bragger.

Here are 7 ways you can be share your most interesting experiences and stories, without sounding like you are bragging:

1. Be Grateful for Your Own Success
One of the best things you can do to come off as modest is to be grateful for your own success. I met a very successful artist recently who had been featured in dozens of national media outlets.

He showed me some of his works on his phone, and he wasn’t shy about his achievements – he was proud of them. When I expressed awe at the amount of attention he had received, he demurred, saying “I can’t believe it either.”

By any measure, he had been quite successful as an artist. But I think what made him so memorable without seeming like he was boasting was that he was sincerely grateful for his own success.

2. Be Self-Deprecating

Self-deprecation is a great way to defuse a perception that you are bragging. If someone asks Tom Morkes, the helicopter jumper, about what it was like to go to war, he says: “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.”

3. Share A Sense of Wonder

If you are sharing a part of your background or personal or professional story that does inspire awe in another person, it’s best to acknowledge that sense of awe.

I have another friend who, like Tom, also served in the military. This friend was often deployed into highly dangerous regions of the world. When I asked this friend if he was scared during his service, he said “hell yeah, I was scared. But we just moved as quickly as we could and thankfully I’m here to talk about it.”

I loved that he didn’t play off his background like it was normal and mundane, which I would have found strange and inauthentic.

4. Make Your Accomplishments Personal

The most memorable thing about you may not be a professional achievement; it might be something from your personal life. Even if you have built a Fortune 500 company, the most memorable thing about you will be relative, depending on the person you are talking to. For example, if the person you are talking to is from the same part of Texas as you are from, then that is probably the most memorable and interesting fact about your background.

In other words, you probably do not even need to bring up your impressive business achievements.

5. Use Humor

Humor is a universal tool, with hundreds of applications. But one of the best ways to use humor is to signal that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

Cloak your accomplishments in a joke and you’re much more likely to be memorable without others thinking you are bragging.

6. Be Brief

Peggy Klaus suggests using what she calls “brag bites,” which are short little sound bites and brief marketing monologues about yourself that you can use in a moment’s notice in any situation without coming off as pushy or disingenuous.

If you haven’t already, create a few of these short sound bites. Asking a friend who has a way with words for suggestions is another way to get a fresh perspective on these short statements.

7. Bring A Friend With You

Finally, when in doubt, get a friend. In the book Reinventing You, author Dorie Clark suggests bringing a friend along to events where you may need to talk about your accomplishments. Make an arrangement with the friend that you both will “talk up” the other.

People you are speaking with are much more likely to be receptive to a third party bragging about you than you doing the same.

Go Share Your Achievements

Finally, I want to encourage you to go out and share your accomplishments using the tips I laid out above. I, for one, love great stories and would love to hear yours when we meet. Just don’t toot your own horn.

How do you talk about your most interesting accomplishments? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

John Corcoran is an attorney and former Clinton White House Writer. You can download his free, 52+ page guide How to Build a Network Filled with VIPs and Top Performers in 14 Days, Even if you Hate Networking.

Like this Article? Subscribe to Our Feed!

Author: John Corcoran

John Corcoran is an attorney and former Writer in the Clinton White House, and founder of SmartBusinessRevolution.com. You can download his free, 52-page ebook, How to Build Income in 14 Days by Building Relationships with Influencers, Even if you Hate Networking



  1. Thanks, John.

    One day at the library, where I go almost every day, I was checking out some research for a new book. A relatively new librarian asked me about the topic and I said, "I write books. Lots of books. An embarrassing number of books 30 some odd books. This is research for a book."

    It all poured out in an awkward, embarrassing stream and I turned red.

    Later I wondered, "What was that about?" Why do I think writing a lot of books is embarrassing?

    I'm working on not being embarrassed by something most people would revel in having accomplished.

    • Hi Angie – I think perhaps you felt embarrassed because you perceived the librarian might be judging you, or feel like you're bragging. In fact, that's spectacular – 30 books is amazing. I'm really impressed. So you should be proud of that achievement. I'll bet just mentioning it has sparked some interesting conversations.

  2. Great advice John. I struggle with sharing some of the really cool things I've done, like skydiving or ice climbing, because I don't want to come off as a braggart. These suggestions will help.

    • You're a braver man than me, Joe! I went ziplining in Mexico a few weeks ago and I nearly soiled my pants. Skydiving is definitely out of the question… I'm always amazed at people who do that.

  3. Enjoyed the post John.

    I think humility is a key aspect of telling your story. If we tell things to impress – bragging – it's all about us and our insecurities. If we talk about ourselves genuinely, interestingly and in a way that's good for others (entertaining, helpful) that will be different, especially if we have listened first to others' stories.

  4. Thanks John.
    Now I am going to use these tactics in parties to brag up a STORM!! 😉

    Seriously though, insightful post. I would like to share my personal experience. After many trial and error, what works for me is to tell a high value story with the mindset of making the vibe of the group better. So that everybody has fun!

    When I am coming from that angle, everyone feels that i am not trying to brag and loves my story.

    • Hey Vishal – That's good advice. I try to bring in good stories as well. Of course, a lot of people are not good story-tellers so that holds them back. But if you can use a good story to explain your background, that's a good way of disguising the "bragging" element.

  5. If you're doing something worth bragging about, then absolutely you should let people know about it.

    It's hard to talk about anything you accomplish without someone thinking you're snobby or that you're bragging. When the day comes and we find a cure for cancer, I really hope that person shares it with us instead of keeping it to themselves because they don't want to brag about it.

    What it comes down to is this – Are you more interested in doing what you do, or talking about what you do? Do you find more joy about telling people how awesome you are and all the cool things you do, or are you solely focused on just being awesome.

    The best braggers are the ones who don't have to tell us how awesome they are, we only need to listen and we'll figure it out ourselves.

    • Ha! Great example – of course we would the person who discovers the cure to cancer to tell everyone! Hopefully they wouldn't keep it to him or herself. That really drives home the point.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here