How Do You Talk About Yourself? – By Chris Brogan

by FeedFront Staff on June 15, 2009

There’s a huge difference between someone saying that you’re amazing and you saying it about yourself.

On the one hand, you sometimes have to explain your credentials. For instance, if I’m asking you to think about what I’m saying, you might want to know my credentials, my qualifications, where I’m from. That’s why blogs have an “About” page (or at least, that’s the best way to use an about page, in my not nearly humble opinion).

But, there really is a huge difference between explaining your perspective versus outright bragging about yourself. No, you can’t really cheat by restating what others have said about you. That’s still basically going to come off as bragging (to me). And this works on the personal scale as well as the company scale.

Which works better? An ad about how awesome you are, or an ad about how awesome your customer is?

Keep the Conversation Focused on Your Customer

In advertising and marketing and all business communications, think about your customer. One way the iPod won the MP3 war was they came up with a way for customers to think easier about the product. It fits 1000 songs. That was way easier to understand than number of megabytes. Thus, the conversation was from the perspective of the customer.

Think of the old cheesy car salesperson. “Can you see yourself in this baby?” There’s a reason they say that. It works. People think from their own perspective.

In talking about yourself, talk instead about others, if you can.

I really loved what John Andrews was doing with his customer of the day blog posts for his little bistro. (Then again, I just read that John’s shop closed down, so does that make it a bad strategy?) John had the perspective that by praising his customers, they’d feel motivated to return. Seems reasonable to me.

Mick Galuski, who I wrote about as a small town superhero, earns and keeps my business because he customizes his communication to me to make it about my interests. In turn, I praise Mick all the time, and talk with him about business, and give him potential ideas for future efforts.

What This Means to Personal Branding and Self-Promotion

In situations where you’re talking with others, do your best to talk more about them. Learn about them. Ask questions. The smartest people are those who plumb the depths of the other person, and come away knowing them deeply. We seem to fear, as humans, that the other person in a situation won’t hear us. We get worried that we’ll leave a conversation somehow unequally.

Strangely, the most “important” people (in at least the public business sense) I have ever met in my life have all asked me more about myself, and even with me trying hard to turn it around, they were gracious and interesting and still worked hard to know more about me than themselves. People like Vinod Khosla, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and many more have always started with more questions about me than about themselves.

If that’s how they roll, why wouldn’t you do the same yourself?

It’s certainly something I notice more often when meeting people, or learning more about them on the web. While writing this post, I was distracted twice to do other things, and in one case, I read someone’s about page on their blog and choked on how self-important they seemed (and hey, read mine and call me out if you think I seem stuck-up). The other was a request from someone whose event I once attended, where he spent the first 10 minutes doing a strange “you love me, you really love me” type performance. Great guy. Super smart. Off-putting as all hell to start an event that way.

What do you say?

Chris Brogan is President of New Marketing Labs, a social media agency and education company and blogs on

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

jim bennette June 15, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Chris I think that you are dead on here. One of my favorite books is "How to win friends and influence people" . One of the key principles in that book is to be "interesting" act "interested". In seeing Tony Hsieh speak one of his mantra's is to build long term relationships with people and they will benefit you two three years out. So many times today people are so focused on what others can do for them NOW! I think that both concepts work in parallel.

Linda Kaplan Thaler June 15, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Jim, we completely agree, Chris is dead on. As we like to say, "curiosity kills the competition." Over the years, we've found that our agency wins accounts not by bragging about our own accomplishments, but by expressing a real interest in what makes our client's tick. After all, who doesn't like being around someone who seems infinitely more interested in our lives than in their own?

Shannon Cunningham June 15, 2009 at 10:03 pm

What a cool article! Inquiring about other's lives increases the experience of the asker and the answerer as they build bonds, realize similarities, and gain a new perspective on life and living. My favorite communicators shine by having a lust for learning and one doesn't need to brag to get that status. Truly intelligent people utilize their resources and generally don't roll alone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

quang cao online June 18, 2009 at 9:54 am

Great article, it is useful.

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