The Art Of Showing Off (Subtly)

You’ve exchanged glances more than once with the girl who has caught your eye and the time for introductions is now. In order to really sweep this woman off her feet, you’ll need to let her know you’re the full package – a man of depth, promise and expertise in all the areas she cares about. But, how do you talk yourself up without sounding like a braggart? Use this five-point plan to perfectly balance your hubris with humility.

1. Let Your Zealousness Shine
As an emotion, pride has a horrible reputation. But wield it wisely and it can be a turn-on. Outward projections of pride signal competence and high status, says psychologist Jessica Tracy, PhD. Just don’t overdo it. “Women want men who can function socially,” she says, “and excessive male dominance can lower a man’s likeability and detract from his ability to keep a group together.”

Your strategy: Focus on the foundations of your pride, not the results of it – the things you love, the moments when you knocked it out of the park. If you’re passionate about what you do, women will pick up on it. Then you don’t even need to blow your own horn. Maybe it’s the start-up business you’re helping to grow, or your trek through the Malaysian rainforest. Whatever it is, talk about why it’s so special to you.

2. Return The Favour
“What do you like to do on weekends?” “Do you have a favourite restaurant?” Posing such questions usually results in the same questions being fired back at you. It’s a perfect way to learn about someone – and if you do it right, you’ll sneak in some intel about yourself. New research from Israel’s University of Haifa found that self-promoters receive more positive responses if the boasts seem natural in the context of a conversation.

Your strategy: Weave nuggets about yourself into the conversation. Suppose you’ve done a lot of travelling. You could ask her where in the world she’d most like to go. If she mentions an exotic locale that you’ve visited, recommend some hidden beach or under-the-radar restaurant. You’re turning the talk back to her, which she’ll appreciate, while also adding opportunities to appropriately touch on the more enticing aspects of your life.

3. Pick The Perfect Timing
You’re on a date, wondering when to reel her in with some impressive data. But when it comes to deft self-promotion, pace yourself. Researcher Dianne Tice, PhD, recommends splitting it into two phases: A shot of “I’m kind of a big deal” followed by a humility chaser to keep things light. “If you run marathons, just mention that you’ve run some races in the self-promoting phase,” says Tice. “Then when the subject comes up again later, say: ‘I’ve run a couple of marathons, but they’re really hard!’ She’ll probably follow up by noting how impressive simply finishing is.” You’ve outsourced the singing of your praises to her. Shrewd.

Your strategy: If you’re not seeing any natural openings, consider an even stealthier approach. A new US study suggests that people are more receptive to boasting when they’re giving you less than their full attention. Distracted audiences are more likely to retain only a vague awareness of the source of the information and thus fail to penalise self-promoters. Hand her the cocktail list. While she’s reading the descriptions, mention which one you drank to celebrate your promotion.

4. Show, Don’t Just Tell
Men and women constantly display and interpret an array of nonverbal signals. “Not only can you communicate status more subtly and acceptably with posture, clothing and gestures,” says Dana Carney, PhD, an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business, “but you can also signal these attributes to a large number of people.” If you’re displaying a dominant posture among other men, for instance, women will sense that you enjoy good standing within the group. That’s an indication that you’re a successful, socially adept person – and it sends their hormones into overdrive.

Your strategy: Broadcast that you’re comfortable and self-assured. “When you walk into a room, keep your head high and shoulders squared,” says Amy Cuddy, PhD, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. “Take up some territory by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Don’t fold your arms in front of your chest; keep an open posture. Occupy extra space with your body language,” she adds.

5. Downplay Your Assets
A dab of self-deprecation can billboard your better qualities. “The ability to laugh at one’s foibles is attractive,” says Demarais. “It shows that you have the confidence to be vulnerable.”

Your strategy: Be playfully dismissive of your achievements. To wit: “Yes, I went to Cambridge and did my MBA at Harvard, but I was probably the worst undergrad and post-grad student both institutions have ever had.” If the talk’s turning racy, you can even add humour to a sexual boast: “I’ve never had any complaints. Well, nothing in writing.” The fact that you’re comfortable enough to kid about your sexual skills signals that you’re confident about them. But again, don’t overdo it. If your quip has too hard of an edge, you may be telegraphing a degree of insecurity. That’s never going to work. You’re a man with a lot to offer. All you have to do is tweak the environment so that she discovers it, seemingly for herself.


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