Do you remember Stuart from MAD TV? He was notorious for saying “Look what I can do!” Most of us have been taught
to be polite and not brag about ourselves. It’s a lesson we need to learn if we want to increase our likeability and connection with others. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever done sales or marketing (and if you’ve ever been on a date, then you’ve done sales and marketing!) In business we are taught to put our best foot forward. We are encouraged to toot our own horn in order to seal the deal. Let me be clear: this is not the problem. I’m talking about people who cross the line from tooting their own horn to being a show-off.
You’ve heard the saying: “Nobody likes a show-off.” Here are three signs that you’ve crossed the line and unfortunately, you are now a show-off:
1. Name dropping. I’ve witnessed people drop names of celebrities, influential people, and local heroes. It doesn’t matter who you say you know or why, what matters is that you’ve used the name as a ploy to garner credibility and influence. Unfortunately it’s an obvious tactic which can backfire. I once managed a consultant and coordinated prospect luncheons to facilitate his business. He would seize every opportunity to drop high-profile names into any conversation. If he could fit three or four people into a single sentence, the cockier he became. I eventually pointed this habit out to him, because he was unaware he was doing it. It was actually embarrassing to witness, as he didn’t realize the habit was turning people off. Fortunately, he was a quick study and stopped doing it.
2. Self-centeredness. Listening to any conversation, whether in a casual get-together, a business meeting, or a presentation by a speaker, it’s easy to determine if the person you are listening to is a show-off. The conversation is completely focused on them. They use “I” continuously and attempt to one-up their audience constantly. Even if you are attempting to coach someone or give advice, the message is received vastly different if you say, for instance, “I have no problems landing the deal. The last time I went to lunch with a prospect, I made sure that I told him why I was the best.” In that last sentence alone, the word “I” is used four times! Notice the difference in this statement: “In the meeting with John last week, we discussed the company benefits. He inquired about our competitive edge and was impressed with the recognition we received.” Not once was “I” used.
3. Demeanor and posture. We can subtly make ourselves appear larger than life with specific postures and gestures. Like a peacock displaying its feathers to get noticed, humans also puff themselves out to gain attention, especially in meetings or during a presentation. This can include hands on the hips, chin up, and large hand gestures. These are subtle tactics to get noticed, but they may be a bit too much.
My best advice is to connect with people and audiences by being with them. Any attempts to separate yourself as superior or all-knowing will alienate them.