You know the humblebrag—that snotty boast thinly veiled with self-deprecation or a "woe is me" complaint. It's meant to downplay self-praise, but the humblebrag doesn’t exactly work that way, according to a new study.
You know the humblebrag—that snotty boast thinly veiled with self-deprecation or a "woe is me" complaint. Example: "I can’t believe I finished in first place even though I didn't train nearly hard enough!" Or: "I just got carded, again. #sigh" The goal? To downplay self-praise by conveying two messages at once: I’m awesome, but I’m trying to seem like I'm not rubbing it in.
In one experiment, more than 300 people were asked to imagine the person who said one of these statements: a complaint (“I am so bored”), a straight-up brag (“People mistake me for a model”) or a humblebrag (“I am so bored of people mistaking me for a model”). The subjects then rated how much they liked that person, and how sincere the person seemed. On both counts, the complainer got the highest marks, followed by the braggart. The humblebraggart was least liked and found to be the least sincere.
The researchers also looked at whether the humblebrag is even a successful way of communicating. This time tapping another 200 people to participate, they tested the effectiveness of two statements designed to relay the speaker’s hotness: A straightforward boast (“I get hit on all the time”) and a humblebrag (“Just rolled out of bed and still get hit on all the time, so annoying”). After viewing one of these sentences, the subjects were again asked to evaluate how much they liked the speaker, and how sincere the speaker seemed; but this time, they also rated how attractive they thought the speaker was. The braggart was consistently rated higher than the humblebraggart in all three categories.
"Despite people’s belief that combining bragging and complaining confers the benefits of both self-promotion strategies, humblebragging fails to pay off,” the study authors conclude. So next time you’re itching to crow, just go ahead and do it, openly and honestly. A straightforward boast, it turns out, is a lot less annoying. At the very least it's authentic.