Now I Loathe Self-Promotion a Little Less

[4-Minute Read]Just when you thought you'd never be able to stomach self-promotion, I go and share a story that will change your perspective.

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Now I Loathe Self-Promotion a Little Less

Just when you thought you’d never be able to stomach self-promotion, I go and share a story that will change your perspective.

For a long time, I loathed talking about myself because I didn’t want to be one of those people who drone on and on about how amazing they are.  

Whenever I get stuck interacting with one of “those people”, I wonder what they’re trying to conceal. Are they forcing the focus onto their strengths and successes because they want to hide a terrible weakness? A famous quote from McBeth often comes to mind; “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

I’d rather talk about great ideas and the world around me than myself.

On the flip side, I have also envied people who self-promote with a clear conscience. I’ve watched them strike up conversations with perfect strangers and chat shamelessly about their latest accomplishments. Without missing a heartbeat, they seek out TV cameras and post volumes of images across social media footnoted with intensely personal details.

I could see the upsides of what they were doing and the benefit it had for achieving their goals, but whenever I tried to “get out there”, it felt like someone turned the tap off to my motivation and passion for living. I just couldn’t bring myself to emulate their behaviour.

Not long ago, a series of events helped me understand how I could overcome my shyness and begin to enjoy talking about myself.

A business breakfast was one such moment.

During my shy days, I always arrived at business breakfasts just before the formalities started. I did it to avoid the awkwardness of trying to make conversation with strangers. 

My tendency to be late frequently caused me issues, especially if I had to find my own seat. As I made my way over to a table that I thought had an open spot, I often found myself disappointed — the seats were already taken. On the other hand, I sometimes ended up having to squeeze in next to an unsavoury character.

I spotted an empty seat beside a woman who was glued to her phone. I figured it was worth a shot, so I hurriedly made my way there. I asked her if the spot was taken, and she glanced up at me with her tired eyes. “Hey, sure” she replied before quickly going back to her device, tapping away on the screen. She seemed deep in thought.

I felt a strange mixture of relief and concern. The woman was clearly too busy for small talk, but something wasn’t right. I gathered some more courage and asked. “Everything okay?”

The woman looked up, surprised. Then, her face softened into a more relaxed expression. “Oh, yes, it’s fine. I’m just…trying to figure out how to deal with a difficult situation.”

“Anything I can help with?” I asked, “I’m pretty good at solving problems.”

The woman smiled, “Have you got 10 sets of hands I can borrow? I’m up to my eyeballs in work and my boss has just dumped more on me and of course wants it all done yesterday.”

“Ha! That’s exactly what they’re like.”

I paused and pondered some options. “Have you tried talking with them about the bigger picture and what they want to achieve by getting all that work done? Once you agree on their ultimate goal, you can make recommendations on how to prioritise the workload to ensure they get the best results.”

The woman gave a slight nod, her expression thoughtful. “That’s a good idea. Thanks.”

I smiled back. “No problem. I’m happy to help you work out how to hold the conversation if that’s useful?” We talked for a few more minutes, and I shared a story about how I’d dealt with a similar situation. It felt like a delightful way to start the day.

Can you see what happened there?

A braggart is someone who boasts about their achievements and possessions and talks incessantly about themselves. They’ll tell you how good they are and boast about all the expensive toys they “own” in a weak attempt to feel seen and superior.

Braggarts are awful listeners who are barely aware of the views of others. When they do grant you the chance to talk, their eyes will glaze over because they are preoccupied with their next comment or searching for chances to outshine you.

I have endured too many hours listening to braggarts, which partly explains my loathing of self-promotion. 

But the conversation with the woman at breakfast taught me that self-promotion isn’t bragging.

Self-promotion is offering others an understanding of who you are, your skills, knowledge and life experiences in a way that adds value to their lives. Bragging is talking about yourself with no regard for others.

After I realised the difference between the two behaviours, talking about myself became a lot easier because I was talking with a positive intention, and I then created a method of self-promotion that worked for me.

I always begin with exploring the other person’s world. I get curious about what’s going on in their lives, ask questions and listen fully to their responses. My mission is to understand their priorities, ambitions and challenges and spot how I can facilitate their progress on what’s important to them.

I then drop a breadcrumb about myself and see if they pick it up.

Most of us have an inner Sherlock Holmes who loves solving mysteries and uncovering secrets that remain hidden from others. Having the answer revealed too early kills the fun, so I drop a hint or leave a clue.

For example, I only mention all my epic adventures if a complete list has been requested (that never happens). Instead, I might drop into the conversation that I’m an extreme adventurer, and if that sparks their curiosity, they will likely ask a question like, “What type of adventures have you done?”

I don’t answer their question straight away. I prefer to probe their areas of interest by asking, “Do you have a passion for travel?” or “Do you like to run?” so I can tell them a story about an adventure they would enjoy. People remember stories especially relatable and enjoyable ones, which makes me more memorable, too and for the right reasons.

As you can see, self-promotion can be fun and rewarding, and once I worked that out, all my loathing and shyness diminished.

Discover more about your bold mind every Monday

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