Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Boastful communication

I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice lady today who, after learning about my work, asked me in a whisper: "How do I deal with these Moms who think their baby is the smartest, the cutest, the best, the fastest and just perfect, and verbalize it to the whole world?!"

That is a very valid question. I believe it is common for a loving mother to believe her child is amazing. I know it, because I have a young daughter, and I am completely in love with her.

I told my new friend that the most polite thing to do is to share the enthusiasm of that mother. You can use phrases such as "This is wonderful!" or "It is great she is developing so fast!", but don't feel obliged to hang around for another 10 minutes for more of "My child is the best" type conversation.
You may excuse yourself politley and change rooms, find another friend to chat with or leave, if it applies.

Personally, I think sharing important milestones being reached, such as walking, talking, reading, writing, sleeping over at a friend's house, helping around the house, is a great thing to do.

Bragging about it is not. Bragging usually comes accompanied by arrogance and exaggeration. Implied comparisons and boastful comments contribute to a very uncomfortable and even hostile interaction, whether in person, over the phone or even online. This goes far beyond mothers bragging about their children to others.
This applies to many, many situations we face everyday in our social and in our business lives.

The problem with bragging is that it immeditaley has a negative conotation. Even worse, it can be done in a non-verbal matter as well. While bragging is created through a carefully throught through verbal delivery (words, tone of voice, exclamations), our body posture, facial expressions, looks, arm gestures have a great impact.

Bragging is not healthy and sets us up for disappointment and failure. It secludes us socially and might even create labels around our persona, such as, as mentioned before, arrogant, high maintenance and difficult to be around.

There are tacful ways to let others know about your accomplishments or your child's accomplishments:
  • Start by expressing how greatful and happy your are: "I'm so happy today!"
  • Have a smile on your face and look the person in the eye (if talking in person)
  • Continue with "something happened that really made my day yesterday!..."
  • This will trigger interest by the other person
  • Tell your story and keep it very short and simple "Susie was given a little award for demosntrating great behavior in school! I was truly touched!"
  • You are not saying words/phrases such as "best", "perfect", "I knew it", "She is the best in there anyways", "My little girl is so perfect" or "She's just above average in all she does" - You don't need to comment on the story. Tell the story and that's it. Let the other person share with comments and questions.
If you are on the other end of the conversation and are trying to "control" it a bit (you want to avoid hearing bragging comments), keep it short and simple too. Tell them "That's wonderful!" and when the opportunity arises, change topics.

...By the way, let me change topics and comment about the coffee poll below. Starbucks won! Is that surprising to you?

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