Communication & Leadership

with Peggy Klaus

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Good bragging is not obnoxious or self-aggrandizing.

Peggy Klaus

Communications & Leadership Guru

Lessons Learned

Bad braggers talk incessantly, overuse “I,” fail to listen, and steal credit.

Can you talk about yourself, your ideas, and your accomplishments in a short and pithy story?

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Lesson: Communication & Leadership with Peggy Klaus

Step #2 Bragalogue: Good bragging is not obnoxious or self-aggrandizing

Let me setup for you what good bragging isn't, by identifying what bad braggarts usually do. Okay. They usually talk incessantly. They will use "I" so frequently in their diatribe. "I do this. I've done that. Oh, did I tell you I just ran the New York City Marathon and cured cancer in the same week?" So, it's, "I, I, I." It's a rolling resume. It is so self-aggrandizing and so boring.

Bad braggers, again, because they're talking so much, they never listen. They never ask questions. They don't invite a dialogue. They do something that I find so hilarious, what I call "the non-sequitur". Someone will say to them, "I'm so excited. I just got this great job offer." The bad bragger will say, "Oh, that reminds me of this trip I'm just about to take to France", which has nothing to do with it.

So they're always bringing it back to them. Bad braggers, again, they steal credit. They lie. If you want to say it more nicely, they exaggerate. They do a lot of really bad behaviors like this.

I had reporters say to me, "So, you're going to teach us how to be obnoxious and self-aggrandizing and disgusting." I was so shocked. But after about the tenth person I said, "You know? You're right. That's exactly why I wrote the book because we need more self-aggrandizing, disgusting people in the world and that's what I want on my tombstone. 'I left the world a much worse place than when I came in.'" So, identifying what that four-letter word means to most of us because of our cultural, societal, religious, familial myths that we have about that.

Good bragging, really, is being able to talk about yourself, your ideas, your accomplishments in a very interesting, entertaining, short and pithy conversational story. Weaving a few of what I call those "tidbits" of information about you, little brag nuggets, and they are conveyed with passion, enthusiasm and a delight to be in front of your audience. It's not that rolling laundry list. It is really a pithy little story. That's what I call "a bragalog".

Or let's take what I call the "fly-by". So you are working in the corporate world and people fly-by your desk all the time or they fly-by you in the hall or at the coffee mill. Often, your boss or your boss' boss or whoever will say, "So, what's up?" And usually because people aren't prepared they'll say, "Oh, nothing." You, again, like the guy on the plane, have missed an incredible opportunity to tell them about you and the success you've had or an obstacle you've overcome.

I'll give you an example. I've done some work at the NFL. One of my dear clients there gets on the elevator with the former commissioner. Now, this happens very rarely. It's only the two of them, and the commissioner says, "So tell me, how's it going?" And my client says, "Well, Commissioner, things could be worse."

The commissioner took a step back and they rode the rest of the elevator ride in silence. The commissioner gets off and says goodbye and the elevator door closed and my client turns around and begins banging his head against the elevator doors because he realized that he missed a golden opportunity to tell the Commissioner of the NFL what was going on in the marketing department.

We lose those opportunities all the time, whether it's a fly-by, whether it is at a conference, whether it is a little bragalogue when someone says at a neighbor's barbecue, "So, what do you do?" And instead of saying, "Oh, I have a startup," which I know is very interesting and you know is very interesting, but the way that you've just told them is not terribly interesting. So, if you had a 10 or 15 or a 20-second little bragalogue that could grab their attention, they would want to know more.

The other thing that also entrepreneurs and people in the corporate world need to do, is to be able to have bragalogues about their colleagues. If you are introducing someone at a pitch rather than just say, "Oh, and now George will talk to you about blah, blah, blah," you get to introduce him in a way that creates interest and excitement about George. It can be a combo platter of the personal and the professional, "What you may not know about George is that he was a fighter pilot in the Korean War."

A bragalogue is just a short, pithy, conversational story, if you will. It is a monologue, but a short one, that weaves together a few choice tidbits of information about you, or about your firm. It is said, again, with that passion and that enthusiasm and that sense of urgency and delight to be saying this.

The way that I start people to construct bragalogues is with some very simple yet succinct questions. The first one would be, "What do you like or love about your current position? How long have you been there? What are the talents and the skills that this job brings out in you? What do you bring out?"

The second question would be, "Give me two or three examples of successes you've had recently and describe them." Another question would be, "What have colleagues or clients or investors said about you and your work?"

They would answer them and then put that together in a very short, conversational bragalogue, that could go anywhere from 10 seconds to, I don't know, let's say 20-30 seconds. Once you've got that bragalogue, then what I do is what we call "getting it up on its feet", lifting the material off the page so it doesn't sound like you are a robot, as we often find when we go to these conferences and networking events, where I always think that these people are drones. Someone's wound them up with a key and once you ask them, "What do you do?" The key goes, "Zzz" and then out spews their spiel, right? But you don't want it to sound like a spiel. You want it to be very conversational and very fluid.

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