Self-Promotion Tips for Nice People

This post is by Jarie Bolander of

Ever wonder why nice guys finish last?

It’s not that they are any less talented, smart, hardworking, or ambitious. In fact, lots of nice people are just as talented as those brash, self-centered, type-A CEOs that grab all the national headlines.

Talking about yourself

Image copyright Yuri Arcurs -

The reason why it appears that nice guys (and gals) finish last is because they don’t brag about their accomplishments. There are many nice people who have been successful (Bob Moore of Bob’s Red Mill Comes to mind), yet all we ever hear about are the self-promoting egomaniacs that can’t seem to shut up.

I know, it’s unfair. But you can do something about this by realizing that self-promotion is not just for all those self-centered braggarts—it can be for us nice people as well.

Self-promotion is not evil

Most nice people are cringing right now. How can self-promotion not be evil, vile, conceited, self-serving, and ego-centric? Self-promotion can be all those things, but it does not need to be.

The art of self-promotion for nice people is to leverage your nice qualities so that you get the credit you deserve, make your voice heard, attract others to work with you, and get—and give—credit where credit is due. It’s as simple as the right thing to do. You owe it to yourself and the other nice people around you.

The root of the problem

Let’s step back a bit and get to the root of the self-promotion issue for nice people. Most nice people have a strong sense of justice, of right and wrong. They strive to treat their fellow humans (and other creatures) with respect, reverence, and compassion. In the nice person’s mind, this should be all that is required to earn recognition for their accomplishments. In a perfect world, it would be.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

Instead, we are bombarded with lots of stimuli that make it hard to interact with the world around us. It’s actually hard to seek and understand the truth about who’s responsible for what. That’s why we take shortcuts.

Cognitive shortcuts

All of us take shortcuts to make sense of the world. We rely on patterns, and fill in the blanks when bombarded with data and stimuli. That’s one of the reasons we always remember the loud-mouth bragger. It’s not that we want to—it’s just they have jumped above the noise and caught our attention.

Through repetition, we get tuned into these blowhards and remember what they did—even though we don’t like them. It’s strange but it’s just like all those obnoxious ads we get inundated with daily. We think they are bad. We acknowledge they are in poor taste. But we remember them and, when it comes time to buy, we tend to buy those brands.

What a nice person can do

Okay. I hope by now all you nice people now realize that you need to speak up and be heard. Most people won’t give you the credit you deserve unless you ask for it. I know, it’s not in your personality, but yet you get frustrated when others take credit or you are not recognized for your accomplishments.

You can change but you don’t need to sell out or change who you are—you just need to politely self-promote.

Just because you’re nice does not mean that you can’t or shouldn’t self-promote. In fact, nice people can do a great job of self-promotion, and be more effective at it. The fact is that, deep down, everyone hates those blowhard braggarts anyway. Actually, nice people have a big advantage over blowhards, since we’re actually are more inclined to help others promote themselves as well.

Nice people unite!

One of the strongest assets nice people have is that they care about others. Think about your own life. How often do you help out a friend, brag about a co-worker, or encourage others to succeed?

So, you have it in you—now you just have to apply it to yourself. The easiest way to do this is to find a couple of other nice people, and work together. Complements and praise are far more powerful when someone else gives them to you. This is why actively collaborating with other nice people can make it easier to self-promote.

Obviously, as a nice person, you know that whatever is said must be true, accurate, and correct.

Beyond collaboration

Having others promote you is powerful, but it’s not always practical or appropriate. Eventually, you are going to have to toot your own horn. To help you do that, take a look at the tips below:

1. Be subtle and tactful

Self-promotion does not need to be grandiose or in-your-face. It can be subtle and tactful.

There are natural places in a conversation to add a useful bit of self-promotion. For example, let’s say you’re talking with co-workers about the project you just finished. You can ask them to give you feedback on the part you did by simply saying “What did you think of the financials in the report we just did? I’m curious to know how they could be improved,” or something like that. This subtle hint that you did them, under the context of improvement, will get you credit as well as valuable feedback.

2. Practice on and with other nice people

I know this might sound strange, but you can practice self-promotion with others. Doing so will give you the confidence to perform on your own.

The best people to practice with are—you guessed it—other nice people. You can team up (as I suggested above) and practice on each other. I know this seems a little weird, but the more you practice in a safe environment, the better you will get.

3. Just the facts

All those braggers out there usually distort the facts to their advantage. While it’s not technically lying (although it feels like it), nice people have a hard time embellishing. That’s why it’s easier to just state the facts about what you did. It may not be as powerful but, over time, it does get through.

4. Promote others

Promoting others is a great way to learn how to promote yourself, and it’s also a great way to share credit when it’s due. It’s best to promote others that will promote you in return. Otherwise, you are just amplifying the impact of braggers and blowhards.

5. Give mutual credit

When you do take credit or self-promote, make sure to spread the credit around. Us nice people can find it a lot easier to share the credit with others then to take it all yourself. In fact, it can sometimes lead others to jump in and give you more credit.

6. Keep it simple

Simple self-promotion works the best. What I mean by this is don’t overly complicate the message or pile on everything you have done. Keep the self-promotion context specific and don’t dominate the conversation. Expanding too broadly will just bore people and turn you into the kind of person you already despise.

7. Be a little funny

Humor is a great way to break the ice and get over your self-promotion nerves. Take a shot at yourself before telling everyone what a great job you did. You can also poke a little fun at co-workers before telling them what a great job they did. Just make sure to keep it classy, respectful, and not trashy.

Really, it’s not that slimy

I’m sure some of you are still not convinced that self-promotion is a good idea. I’m also sure that you sometimes get frustrated when people glance over your work and give others credit. It’s hard to face, but there is so much noise out there that you do have to self-promote in order to get heard.

As long as you do it responsibility and are nice about it, you will probably find that it’s kinda fun—it does feel good to share your accomplishments with others!

Jarie Bolander is an engineering by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His new site, combines two of this passions – leadership and endurance athletics. Endurance Leader’s main premise is that by enduring through hardships and struggle, we can conquer anything. You can follow him on Twitter via @EnduranceLeader.

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  1. it took me ages to get over my shy self. but now i realize self promotion, if we dont think about it negatively, is very helpful and most people dont mind it!

    • Noch-

      Same with me. I always thought of it as a “slimy sales” thing to do then I realized I should be proud of what I have accomplished and share where/when appropriate.

    • that is very good that you got over your self i just got over being a rude person.

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