Self-promoting may cause more harm than good
Many consider a new car, job promotion or exotic vacation exciting accomplishments. While sharing these achievements with others may seem harmless, a new study suggests people who try to promote themselves to gain a more favorable impression are actually doing the opposite.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Bocconi University wanted to know why people frequently misinterpret when someone is boasting about themselves versus being modest.
To better understand this dynamic, people were asked to describe a time they bragged about themselves, what emotions they felt, and how they thought the person listening to them felt. Another group was asked to describe a time when they listened to someone else brag about themselves, what emotions they felt when listening, and what they thought the other person felt.
Researchers found that bragging people were more likely to think that others felt proud and happier for them than they actually did. In particular, “humble-braggers,” those who pretend to be modest while telling others about their successes, did not easily pick up on how annoyed others felt when listening to them brag constantly.
“Most people probably realize that they experience emotions other than pure joy when they are on the receiving end of someone else’s self-promotion. Yet, when we engage in self-promotion ourselves, we tend to overestimate others’ positive reactions and underestimate their negative ones,” lead study author Irene Scopelliti said in a news release.
Study leaders found that this can especially be difficult during a time when social media sites like Facebook can worsen the problem.
“These results are particularly important in the Internet age, when opportunities for self-promotion have proliferated via social networking,” said Scopelliti. “The effects may be exacerbated by the additional distance between people sharing information and their recipient, which can both reduce empathy of the self-promoter and decrease the sharing of pleasure by the recipient.”
Dr. David Kemp, a psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group and co-medical director of the behavioral health service line for Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Ill., believes that social media can also have a positive influence in self-promotion.
“Balancing posts with healthy doses of humility, modesty and self-effacement can help engage others and add value,” says Dr. Kemp.
In order to keep a good balance, Dr. Kemp suggests people make an effort to compliment others.
“Positive information presented about another person shields him or her from being perceived as bragging,” he says. “When others return the gesture, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
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