Are You Humble to a Fault?

We all have something in our private mythology that makes us feel special, but is known only to those closest to us. Yet whenever I encourage, okay insist, that people at a conference or in a training session share an accomplishment about which they're particularly proud, something magical happens.

Where once they believed they'd seem arrogant by sharing their achievement, they suddenly realize that when told with truth and humility, it is these success stories - what I call Jaw Droppers - that connect us to each another.

Some of the jaw-dropping examples I’ve heard over the years include a middle-aged tech exec who won the notoriously difficult cold-water swim across the San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz - not once, but twice.  Or the PR guy who just happened to have a Ph.D. in English literature, unbeknownst to his colleagues.   Or the young woman who casually let it slip that she was a former rocket scientist.

Were these people boring? Hardly. Arrogant? Never. Humble to a fault? You betcha. Learning to appropriately highlight our own accomplishments is nothing short of an art form, but it’s worth working at. After all, haven’t we all marveled at those people who seem to get ahead simply because they believe they're special and convince others that they are, too?

So how do YOU stop being humble to a fault? Try these strategies for starters:

  1. Read your own bio. No kidding, whether you're prepping for a job interview or psyching yourself up to meet a prospective client, take a look at your own resume, biography, or LinkedIn profile. Let all those accomplishments sink in and remember that before you persuade others of your value, you better believe it yourself.
  2. Keep a file of thank you emails and letters. Just in case reading what you've said about yourself isn't enough, keep a thank you file full of all the nice comments you've received from happy customers, clients, and colleagues. Pull them out whenever you need to remind yourself how great you are.
  3. Use the Jaw Dropper exercise for team building and bonding. When you want to build trust and respect among your team, ask them to partner up to share a Jaw Dropper. Next, have each partner share the other's proud moment with the entire group. You'll be amazed at how powerful it is to hear your story in someone else's words - without apology or diminishment. For more on this exercise, read about Credibility Boosters in Capture the Mindshare.