Effective Bragging Techniques
You've probably told your teen it isn't nice to brag, but next time your teen's going on and on about his greatness, and you're prepared to utter those words, don't. Bragging can actually be a key tool in your teen's success – if done right. Read on to learn why and how to teach effective bragging techniques to your teen.
You may be wondering why your teen would even need to brag. After all, she has aunts, uncles, other family members, friends and, of course, you, quickly singing her praises. But Peggy Klaus, communication and leadership coach and author of Brag! The Art Of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It (Warner Books, 2003), says as kids get older it becomes increasingly important for them to be able to talk about themselves.
"For many, it's a harsh wake-up call when Mom or Dad aren't there anymore, leading the cheerleading squad and doing the talking for them," Klaus says. "That's when kids come face-to-face with the real world and have to learn to toot their own horns."
As teens get closer to college life and the working world, knowing how to self-promote can make the road much easier. It can help when they're applying for colleges, financial aid, summer internships, jobs or even when they're aiming to become a part of different social groups, like a fraternity or sorority.
School and career aren't the only instances where bragging can be a big help, though. It can also help to boost your teen's self-esteem and confidence. Klaus says the lowest point of self-esteem in a person's life is usually during the teen years, "and being able to reflect on what it is that you can do well and being able to talk about it is really important in terms of boosting self-esteem." The more your teen boosts his self-esteem, the more confidence he'll have to try new things. By trying those new things, it's very possible he'll gain new accomplishments to brag about.
Getting Over Your 'Tude
Before you can even try to get your teen to brag, you must first get rid of your own negative attitude about bragging and the people who do it. You can do this by first thinking about your own definition of the word "brag" and comparing it to Klaus' definition. To you, "brag" probably means talking about yourself and what you did and how much greater you are than others. According to Klaus, the new meaning of "brag" is to talk about your best self with pride and passion, in a short and peppy conversational-like manner, intended to excite admiration, interest and wonder – without being obnoxious. Doesn't seem so bad when you think of it that way, does it?
Once you've got it, don't forget to tell your teen about your change of heart. "Admit that you were taught it was bad, and that's why you taught it to your teen," says Klaus. Be sure to mention that you now know there are ways you can talk about yourself and have it be a good thing, and then promise to teach your teen how to do it.
Before you can teach your teen how to brag effectively, you've got to first make sure that you know how to do it. "Some of the ways [parents] can practice their own bragging techniques is by creating little bragalogues about themselves – little stories where they talk about perhaps what it is they do, and mention something that they're proud of in terms of their job, volunteer work or raising a family," says Klaus.
Once you've got it down, pass the lesson along to your teen. If your teen tries to get out of it by saying there's nothing worth bragging about, or he doesn't know what to say, have him take Klaus' "Take 12" self-evaluation, a set of questions that will help him realize what's brag-worthy about him.
After your teen has a story together, have him say it to you. "See if he's passionate and if it's interesting to listen to," Klaus says. Also, be sure it doesn't run too long. It's good enough if it's anywhere from 15 to 60 seconds, says Klaus.
Then, work on it. "Work with them on getting it to be more exciting, getting them to have more passion and excitement in their voice," Klaus says. It needs to sound as if they were talking about something they love.
You can also bring out the camcorder. "Tape them doing it, so the teen can watch and hear," says Klaus. You should also help your teen learn to modify the message so that it's appropriate for different people and situations. He shouldn't approach a college admissions counselor with the same bragalogue as he would his friends. By learning to modify it, he'll be brag-ready in all situations.
Good Versus Bad
No matter how great someone's brag-worthy tidbits are, they mean nothing if the person's a bad bragger. To help prevent your teen from blowing his brag campaign with a brag bomb, here are some things you can teach him to avoid:
- The Laundry List – Consisting of "I did this" and "I did that," the laundry list is a run-down of any and all accomplishments. No one wants to hear that! Not only is it boring, but it's very likely you're giving way too much information about the wrong things and not enough about the right things.
- Me, Myself and I – Talking constantly about himself is another common staple of a bad bragger. Klaus suggests your teen ask questions of and show interest in the accomplishments of others. Just as he's probably turned off when his arch rival talks about himself and only himself, others are turned off when he does it.
- Out to Outdo – A good example of this one, according to Klaus, is if one of your teen's friends approaches her and says, "I just got an A on the English paper," and instead of your daughter congratulating her, she says, "Oh, well, I got an A and the two extra credit points." Even though that may seem like an innocent comment, trying to one-up someone is a big mistake most bad braggers make. She should let her friend have "the moment," and she'll have hers when the time is right.
- Inappropriate Situations – Learning a friend's parents are getting a divorce or the family's pet just died isn't a good time for your teen to bring up her recent acceptance into Harvard. She may think her good news will cheer up her friend, but chances are it'll make things worse and cause her to think your teen doesn't take what she's going through seriously. There's a time and place for everything. Be sure your teen keeps that in mind before she begins to brag.
- Exaggerating or Lying – Probably the biggest mistake anyone can make when it comes to bragging is exaggerating what they've done or flat out lying. Sometimes it can be quite easy for the lie to be discovered, and being known as a liar is a lot worse than being known as a bad bragger.
Your teen may roll his eyes at the extra work it takes to become a good bragger, but in the end, when those new brag techniques pay off, he'll be praising you!