“Blow your own trumpet” is something men somehow seem to do all the time. They just subtly drop how brilliantly they contributed to the last design, or they jokingly repeat a compliment from – obviously – a highly regarded person. I was 5 years into my working life when I realised that men actually do this.
They are so practised they make it sound like normal conversation. Start listening out for it and you will find many men drop positives about themselves, and their achievements all the time.
Women find this harder, and often even do the opposite. They put themselves down, or typically spend a lot of time talking about a current issue or something they messed up.
It wouldn’t be a problem if we were just judged on objective outputs. However, in many organisations promotions are based on reputation. Even seemingly objective appraisals are heavily influenced by your reputation. So, let me give you the #1 tip on what to do about this.
Why is it so hard to blow your own trumpet?
But first let me explain why it’s so hard for women to blow their own trumpet. It seems easy to solve. Surely you can just tell them it’s okay? But it’s actually really hard to do. It feels unnatural and often comes out the wrong way, thus making you sound really awkward.
Why is this? This is because the girl-culture women grow up in is different from boy-culture.
Girls aren’t supposed to boast. If they do they are ostracized by other girls – “Who does she think she is?” they say, “Getting above herself.” From a young age girls bond by confirming each other. They will say, ‘Look at my drawing, it’s rubbish’ and another girl is supposed to respond by saying, ‘It’s brilliant, I love it!’
When I started listening out for it, I heard it all the time! ‘No, your dress is gorgeous!’, ‘No, you really don’t have to be good at singing – none of us are – we would love you in the mums’ choir’.
In contrast it’s actually completely normal in boy-culture to broadcast your achievements. Boys get respect from other boys when they shout ‘I made more goals than you!’ Teachers then tell them it’s not okay to boast, and that’s when they start practising to do it in more subtle ways. I heard a boy say, ‘I don’t want to boast, but I did beat him yesterday.’
In addition, in day-to-day life talking about life’s miseries is a great way of connecting with other women. It really resonates, and often they reciprocate by sharing a story about something they are unhappy about, building an even stronger bond.
No wonder then that it’s hard for women to learn to blow their own trumpet. They have learned that they get ostracized when they do, and they have learned that they build bonds by broadcasting problems and faults.
The #1 tip when you need to blow your own trumpet: Change your perspective
So what can you do?
The most powerful technique that’s worked for me is to put blowing your own trumpet in a different perspective. Ask yourself how it would help others if you would talk about your achievements.
- Your colleagues would love to know what you are good at. It makes it easier for them to come to you when they have a problem that needs solving. When I asked men what they thought about other men talking about their achievements, they said it’s exactly what they want to hear. They believed it showed passion and knowledge. They learn from it too.
- Your line manager would love to know what you have achieved. It gives them ammunition which they can use to boast about their teams achievements. It can also help them put you forward if someone else needs an experienced person.
- Potential clients are often searching everywhere for a solution. If you don’t shout off the rooftops, they will never find you. Imagine how many more people you could help if more people knew about you?
Blow your own trumpet – in practice
Then of course you need to do it the right way. So listen out to how men do it, and start experimenting with dropping your great stuff into conversations.
How could it help others if they know about your achievements?
[Published by WiC on behalf of Inge Woudstra of W2O Consulting and Training]