Self-Promotion is tricky. If you want people to notice, like, and respect you, then you have to actually show off your positive qualities.
But then again, no one likes a show-off. Bragging too much can damage your credibility. And we generally don’t like people who come across as arrogant and self-absorbed.
No one wants to be that person.
So what can you do to promote yourself more effectively? In this post, we discuss the science behind 3 strategies that can improve your chances of making a great impression.
Bonus tip: Don’t sell lemonade at the graveyard.
1. It’s good to brag about yourself (at first)
When people portray themselves in a way that seems unrealistically positive, we probably don’t believe that they’re actually that great. In general, we don’t like people who act like narcissists.
But the truth is a bit more complex.
Research has actually found that people who act narcissistic and overly positive about themselves tend to make great first impressions. Even seemingly excessive self-promoters tend to come off positively at first. Other people tend to like them, and rate them as very agreeable, competent, and well-adjusted.
But the same things that can make a person seem great at first can also end up making them look like a jerk. The initial positive impressions will turn sour if the same level of self-promotion continues over time, and across repeated social interactions.
It’s good to self-promote at first, just remember to quit while you’re ahead.
2. Use “source confusion” to avoid any backlash
What’s the capital of Colorado?
You probably remembered that.
But do you remember exactly how you learned that in the first place? What year it was? Was there a specific teacher? Did you get it from a book, a handout, or maybe a poster?
The point of this example is that there is a distinction between knowing something, and knowing the source of the information. We often remember one without necessarily remembering the other.
Just think about the difference between a) saying something positive about yourself, and b) someone else saying something positive about you. The source matters! The first is definitely more likely to come across as annoying, impolite, or lacking credibility. The second doesn’t really carry any such penalties.
How can you use this to your advantage? Recent experiments have demonstrated that people who are distracted in some way, such as divided attention or time pressure, also don’t show the negative reactions associated with excessive self-promotions.
If the other person is a little distracted, saying nice things about yourself is pretty much the same thing as someone else saying nice things about you! Denver.
If you’re worried about negative repercussions of self-promotion, save it for situations in which people are more likely to confuse who said what.
3. Use your body language to get the right social dynamic
There are two really basic ways that people tend to carry themselves. One is a more “dominant,” open and expansive posture where the body takes up a lot of space. The other is a more “submissive,” closed and restrictive posture that takes up little space.
How can you use this to your advantage? People automatically adopt these postures and use them to convey their distinct roles in a social interaction. The interesting thing is that it’s really awkward when two people are both “dominant” or “submissive.” Studies have found that adopting one posture will probably cause a person you’re interacting with to adopt the other. This can put you right into the role of your choosing, whether you want to come across as a good leader, or as a good follower.
More recent research has shown that your posture can also dictate the content discussed during an interaction. The person in the more “dominant” role will probably do most of the talking, and make most of the decisions. Meanwhile the person in the more “submissive” role isn’t really expected to contribute.
If you want to look like a leader and express ideas without being interrupted or questioned, just take up lots of space with your body. (But also keep in mind research shows that people who don’t speak up won’t try to correct you when you’re wrong about something).