Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When Should We Brag?

I hate to brag. I mean, I really hate to brag. I have this idea that my work should speak for itself. And I also find that bragging tends to shut down a conversation. I would rather come across as knowing less than I know than to miss the opportunity to learn from someone else’s perspective.

Still, there might be something to be said for raising people’s awareness of one’s abilities. I have been responsible for one website for eight years. Recently, a man expressed interest in helping with the website. But this isn’t the offer for help that begins with “What can I do to help?” but rather, “I can show you how to do things better.”

I’m willing to admit that there are people who know more than I do. I would be an idiot if I didn’t. At the company where I work, I’m surrounded by people who are brilliant at the jobs they do. At church, I see people with abilities that amaze me. So, when someone comes to me and says they know how to improve something, I’m inclined to listen. And when it comes to the website in question, I’m sure there are areas where it needs improvement. But I got the impression that this offer of help came with idea that we didn’t know what we were doing.

When it is clear that people don’t realize the extent of our abilities by looking at the work we’ve done, I wonder if it wouldn’t be helpful to be more proactive in telling them of our abilities. It does little good for people to spend time trying to teach us things we already know. But telling people of our abilities comes at a risk. I’m sure we all know of people who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. If they have accomplished something, they assure people that they can accomplish ten times as much even more quickly. If someone helps them overcome a problem, they forget about the help they received and they say, “I figured out how to solve this problem.”

I don’t know where to draw the line, but I find it uncomfortable to have someone offer to teach me to do things that I can do in my sleep. (How’s that for bragging?)