Whether it concerns getting ahead on the job or attracting clients, most people associate marketing oneself with bragging. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. How else could you call attention to your virtues, talents and capabilities than by talking them up in a prideful way?
This seemingly obvious point gets introverts in particular into a mental tangle. We want recognition and rewards. But this appears to require self-promotional behavior that doesn’t fit our reserved personality. Introverts are never the ones who raise our arms and voices around strangers, proclaiming “Look at me!” or “Aren’t I the greatest?”
As a marketing consultant who regularly helps quiet, competent experts explain what they have to offer, let me describe several ways to undo this mental knot. You can help others appreciate your intelligence, deftness, creativity, years of experience or other superior qualities without being obnoxious or self-important. Try some or all of these techniques.
Let others do the talking
When someone who isn’t related to you praises you, it’s highly credible in most cases. And while it may cause you to blush, that’s not bragging. Introverts in business usually can bring themselves to ask for and use testimonials and endorsements. One way to pose the request: “I’m revising my website [or bio], and I wonder if you would write a few sentences about what it’s like to work with me [or about the results you’ve gotten from working with me]. Thanks!”
In conversation, you can take the boastfulness out of anything complementary you might say about yourself by putting it in terms of “People say that I…” Some people I know sidestep bragging by networking in pairs, with each one introducing the other when they meet new people. Claudia enjoys expressing her admiration of Robert in that setting, and vice versa.
Use the third person
In writing, you get some psychological distance from discussing your accomplishments when you talk about “he” or “she” rather than “I.” Many introverts find it easier to compose a strong, persuasive bio if they write as if it’s about someone they know well, not quite themselves.
I don’t recommend using this technique in conversation, however. You’ll seem stuffy, imperial or downright bonkers if you talk about yourself by your name.
Highlight facts and credentials
You may have heard the saying, “If it’s true, saying so isn’t bragging.” Introverts will feel more comfortable sharing items of information that are incontrovertible facts, such as degrees earned, awards won, firsts achieved, years in the field and so on. These contrast with subjective claims like “best at knitting” or “most knowledgeable accountant.”
Show, don’t tell
Sometimes you can keep quiet and let a demonstration do the talking. I will never forget an eight-minute video I watched of a business coach uncovering a lifelong issue a client hadn’t realized about herself and pointing the way toward the client resolving it. “What incredible skill that coach has,” I thought.
Besides videos, demonstrations can take the form of written case studies or articles.
Create a context that is larger than yourself
Frame your achievements as the success of a cause, if that applies, rather than a halo for you as an individual. For example, “For more than 15 years, I’ve worked hard to make sure that children in my community have enough to eat.” Or, “My third novel helped people understand the social, psychological and familial impact of long-term unemployment.”
People assume that the one who shows up repeatedly is the one who knows their stuff. If you are the one who answers questions knowledgeably on forums or discussion lists or at company strategy sessions, folks take note. The same principle applies if you lead committees, do media interviews, put together position papers or spearhead a community change project.
Once someone who called me up to hire me as a consultant explained, “I heard about you twice in one day, from different people, so I knew you were the one I needed to work with.”
Change your mindset
Often introverts freak out at the prospect of promoting themselves because they assume it requires them to turn into a gasbag, a loudmouth or an egomaniac. Think of it instead as simply providing information that enables others to make up their minds about you. By following the methods above, you can do this both inoffensively and in a way that enables you to receive your fair share of society’s rewards.
Since 2010, veteran marketer and author Marcia Yudkin has focused on advocating for introverts, explaining how to promote oneself without hype, manipulation, name-dropping or braggadocio. She is the author of 6 Steps to Free Publicity, Persuading People to Buy and numerous other books, as well as the ebook, audiobook and online course “Marketing for Introverts.”