Following up on yesterday’s post about humility, I draw your attention to Melissa Dahl’s New York Magazine post about bragging.
It turns out that people who brag, who indulge in what Dahl calls “shameless self-promotion” are so full of themselves that they do not see how boring and off-putting they really are.
A culture of narcissism is a culture of shamelessness. In order to indulge it for any sustained period of time you are obliged to turn off your sensitivity to the feelings of other people.
Think about it: shameless self-promotion can only continue if you numb yourself to the signs—trust me, there are many—that you are alienating your interlocutor.
In Dahl’s words:
In a not-yet-published paper, researchers led by Irene Scopelliti at City University London argue that people who brag about themselves both underestimate how much it bugs people, while overestimating how interested people are in the stories they’re telling.
One must suppose that these braggarts were taught, by someone at some time, that it was good to toot their own horn, to drone on about their greatness, to name drop and to sprinkle their conversation with references to signs of their success.
Undoubtedly, the therapy culture and the self-help industry told people that if they talk about themselves more often, other people would naturally be more interested in them. If it did, it did them a disservice:
One study done in the 1980s, for example, found that when people tried to make their conversational partner more interested in them, the opposite happened. Their partners liked them less, and they also rated the self-promoters as less competent than people who’d been paired with a partner who didn’t try so hard to win their approval.
In the old days it was considered bad form to talk about yourself. It was even worse form to brag about your accomplishments.
If you want other people to be interested in you, start out by showing an interest in them. Nothing is more appealing in an interlocutor than rapt attention, serious interest in what the other person is saying.
Especially, when the other person is not talking about himself but is expounding on a topic that is of mutual interest.
As I explained in The Last Psychoanalyst, people connect when they find common ground. That might mean talking about time at the same college, but it might also mean talking about the weather or the ball game.