How to Assert Yourself in a Respectful, Non-bragging Manner

Many of us grew up learning from our parents and teachers how important it was not to brag about ourselves.  We were told, “it’s rude to be boastful”.  In fact, avoiding the temptation to brag is a commandment found in the books of several major world religions.

Image consultants – by the nature of what we do – work in the realm of perception.  We advise our clients to improve their confidence levels through their appearance, behaviors, and communication. We encourage them to utilize different colors, fabrics, and styles in order to dress for every occasion.  We teach them to enter every room with a purpose.  These things work for most, and yet, it’s a tough quality to teach.  Each situation where we are expected to impress presents itself with different clues and social codes.  One of the most frequent questions I get (and it comes from students of all ages and backgrounds) is “How do I assert myself without bragging?”

Blue jacket

It’s a great question, and I’ll provide some tips that have worked for me here.

One of the most vital ways that leaders impress those who follow them is through body language.  You can use this, too.  Basics, like eye contact, appropriate distance in a room, hand gestures, and most importantly – your posture – are incredibly important.  If you’re looking to share your intelligence with a potential client in a crowded room, make sure you approach them with strong posture, a winning smile, and a strong handshake.  Make sure your breath is fresh (but if you chew gum to freshen, be sure to spit it out before your approach said party).  Make good eye contact, especially with the people on your “list”, without staring them down. Practicing these tips with a parent, a friend or a mentor beforehand will make you significantly stronger at these things.

Have several topics on the top of your brain and be prepared to discuss them.  At least one topic should be relevant to your dealings with the person (i.e. business or educational), but also be aware of breaking news in your industry, in your geographic region, and know at least a new restaurant, shop, or movie you can recommend.  Usually, someone will speak to something that connects with one of these 3 topics, and you can confidently elaborate from there.  The fact that you’re prepared will make you appear confident, and not arrogant.

Finally, whether you’re at a cocktail party, a business meeting, or out with friends, you should always be inclusive of those present and those not present.  Emphasize teamwork by saying “we” and not “I”, even if you did the majority of the work on a project.  Future bosses, clients and friends all appreciate this.  Do not put other people down, as this does not help you build yourself back up, and once you’ve done it, the conversation can turn south quickly.  If someone has given you bad news or a negative response, simply state the facts without making it personal.  If you don’t know the answer to something, say it!  It’s always better to say “Let Me Get Back To You” than to provide an incorrect answer.

Finally, if you make a mistake – no matter how large or small – acknowledge it in the conversation.  This shows that you aren’t perfect (none of us are, after all!), but that you are confident enough to correct an error.  People appreciate this and will respect you tremendously for it.

We hope you’ve found this helpful, and welcome your stories, tips and comments on our blog.

Shanna Wu Pecoraro