“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” -Muhammad Ali


COMMENT: How can we come across as competent without bragging? One idea is informed by the Stereotype Content Model, which holds that our impressions of others contain two main dimensions: warmth and competence. Thus, one strategy to offset your high competence might be to also project a lot of warmth. The Dalai Lama is a true master of this. He is one of the foremost authorities on Tibetan Buddhism in the world but it is impossible to see him as arrogant because he is so genuinely warm. Another idea, known as the Pratfall Effect, suggests that we like people best when they both portray themselves as highly competent and make a small mistake. This is why celebrities often tell a brief embarrassing anecdote during interviews. Similarly, I have read that Wal-Mart CEO Sam Walton often “accidentally” dropped his notecards on his way to the podium to make himself seem more human and approachable. Do you think people’s first impression of you leads with warmth or competence? What can you do to even out the balance?

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