“Keep quiet and people will think you a philosopher.” ~ Roman proverb
Do you remember how we, as students in high school, tried to impress our teachers with big long, Latin- or Greek-based synonyms? Even though we were trying to adopt new words into our writing style, it actually brought quite the wrong effect. The lack of focus on content lowered the grade because not only were we overly concentrated on big words instead of writing quality content, the words themselves were often incorrectly placed. Now, I admit that I’m still a beginner when it comes to writing, but I learned a valuable lesson when my English teacher finally smeared my stack of turn-in papers with red ink during my sophomore year in high school.
The same thing applies to every skill in the world. When you flaunt your mediocre skills as if you were a master, the reception will be cold. We humans have an innate ability to detect pretenders. Some people are good at deception, and rightfully so, since they are masters of deception. But most of the time deception fails, and the loud talker only ends up proving how little he knows.
Be honest about your skills
The thing is, bragging is completely useless. If it’s really your deep desire to let other people know of your abilities, there are better ways of doing it. Certainly, most of us want attention—I would never deny that. It is natural to welcome approval and praise. But explicit bragging is not the way to win the approval of others; it only does the opposite.
As far as I’ve noticed, the only way to communicate expertise is to become an expert. Be honest. After my freshman year in high school, how in the slug’s name would I have been able to write as eloquently as Hemingway or Thoreau? How would I have done that when I didn’t even have a clear idea of what it was that made those writers great?
Focus on improving yourself
The wiser alternative to bragging is to quiet your desire to openly display your knowledge and skills, and focus on building up your knowledge base and improving your skills. When you’ve reached that invisible milestone that marks you out as an expert, you won’t even have to show off—your expertise will market itself. People will know.
Imagine that you’re flying to Hawaii, and a fashionably dressed guy with a MacBook on his lap introduces himself as a graphic designer. He goes on to share his story why his skills are so good because he started playing around with Photoshop when he was 12. The question is: how do you respond? I mean—how do you respond internally? You wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings, of course.
Now, imagine you’re on your return flight from Hawaii, and next to you is a quiet lady tracing some of her scanned sketches in Illustrator and digitally crafting them into rich paintings. Apart from the casual “Hi” she doesn’t say a word to you, but you can clearly see how she’s employing her expertise in her work. Would you still need her to explain to you how she started her career in graphic design when she was in elementary school? That wouldn’t make much of a difference, would it? The skill is there—and you can see it. There’s no need for further justification.
Also, in real life, it’s far more convincing to show to your job interviewer a sample of what you’ve created rather than to verbally describe your skills. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?
So, the key is to stop the dreaded impulse to brag. Instead of that, focus on acquiring genuine expertise. Listen to others. Learn from the masters. Practice the concepts and techniques you’ve gathered. In time, signs of your mastery will manifest in your presence. True masters don’t need persuasion to get the message across.