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Humblebragging: examples & uses

Humblebrag: a power move that, on the surface, seems like a neutral complaint, a joke, or even a value-taking self-deprecation, but that instead raises the value, status, or power of the humble-bragger.

Robbins: bla bla bla (seeks to persuade her daughter)
Daughter: (she's changing her mind but still not sure) do you mind if I ask somebody else's opinion?
Robbins: (to the audience, overplaying the angry and exasperated dad to turn it into a joke) sure, people pay a million-dollar for me to coach them... But you should freaking ask somebody else what they think!

Both a power move and a humblebrag.

Albeit the daughter is not letting herself be persuaded by Robbins (humble part), she is also framed as silly for not listening to him: just look at these other people, paying me top dollars to do what I tell them.

The heightened anger for humorous purpose (cover) masks the actual brag: people pay a million-dollar to coach them.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Manipulative humblebragging: same as humblebragging, but using lies or half-truths.

Explanation: From a Machiavellian point of view, the most effective humblebragger doesn't lie, so that humblebragger can never be called a "lier". But he leads the listener to conclusions that are wrong, but highly flattering for himself.

Robbins again, from "Mastering Influence" (day 1):

Robbins: (...) It's not been 30 years I'm doing this (...)
And in that time I've dealt with the most challenged and most successful people in the world.
And you know what I found out?
They all have the same needs.
I don't care if it's president Clinton (starts with the biggest name), or Agassi, or Gorbachev, or Princess Diana, or Nelson Mandela, or Mother Theresa... Or Serena Williams. Anyone I've had the privilege of meeting or visiting with....


He makes it sound like he's presenting the program, and why it's going to be helpful to the listner, that's the humblebrag part 1.
Part 2 of the humblness is that he frames as if to say "they're all just normal people", with the exact same needs as you and I.

Yet, he is still making a list of famous people's met with.


Notice the initial frame: "people he's dealt with", keeping it conveniently vague.

But he also says that "he's been doing his job for 30 years", so he makes it seem like he's talking of people he worked with / coached.

Then in that list, he mixes in some people he did coach, like Agassi and Serena Williams- so he leads the listeners to think that he coached all those names.

Clinton is a special case, I know Clinton once called him because Robbins humblebragged about that many times -and I always thought it was not very cool the way he sold him down the river-.

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Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

The funny anecdote: this technique of humblebragging makes it about the story, about sharing an entertaining anecdote. It can a historical fact of relevance about you, or about someone else's life.

Clinton: Tony, they're gonna impeach me in the morning. What should I do.
Robbins: Could you have called me sooner? (turns it into a joke) 
Crowd / interviewer: (laugh, they fell for the humblebrag)

Then he goes on to turn into an opportunity for teaching and more humbleness, including:

  • Robbins was excited for "making history": that decreases his power, because excitement is childlike, and it says "it's not like this happens to me every day"
  • Clinton ultimately didn't take his advice: decreases Robbin's power, showing the limits of his influence

The bragging, of course, is that Clinton called Robbins for advice when he needed advice the most.
Of course, he probably called several people and was frantically looking for good wisdom, but not putting things into perspective increases Robbins' self-promotional power move.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Historical humblebrag: sharing stories about people or events that are historically relevant. Covered in the guise of "sharing about history" there's the fact that you were there to make history -or at least, you talked to the people who made history-

Robbins: (..) And I talked to Mr. Gorbachev (...)

Tony Robbins shares the historical moment when Reagan and Gorbachev finally agreed, and when Reagan finally persuaded Gorbachev to change policies.
Of course, he slipped in there the fact that "he spoke to Gorbachev for hours", plus all the power moves that framed Robbins as being very comfortable talking to Gorbachev like an equal, including:

Gorbachev: (finishes telling his story)
Robbins: That's really a good answer, but I've been with you for 4h, I wanna know the moment. What's the moment

So there is Robbins now, breaking rapport with Gorbachev and pushing him against the social ropes.
Depending on how you look at it, that either pushes down Gorbachev, or pulls Robbins up (most likely, both).

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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 10, 2021, 2:10 pm

"I think what you're doing is the right thing, I've always been interested myself, just never resolved to do the jump myself as I also train a bit and meat can be useful there. But I appreciate and value vegetarians I respect you for doing it, well done"

That should cover all the basis of you being an (almost) equally moral individual, humblebragging about taking care of yourself, plus rewarding her from a power position.

The above humblebragging is solid because you need to re-balance the power from a shame attack.
This brings something to mind for discussion.

I am thinking that humblebragging in some cases is fair marketing.
It is a power move that increases your value.
It does not decrease the value of other people or push people down.
So that can be fair.

However, in Tony Robbins case, by raising his value, he can charge more for his events and hence extract value from others.
In this way, humblebragging can lead to value-taking actions.

If you humblebrag and share good stories, it could be possible that everyone enjoys those stories and overall comes off as value-adding.
Or you humblebrag your team and lift everyone up.

Absolutely, Matthew, humblebragging is a great technique.

And yes, it can be totally fair marketing -like in that example you quote: someone looks down for not being vegetarian, and you say "hey, I train", humblebragging, plus 1-1 in terms of one-upping-.

Thank you for pointing that out!

I realize I might have given the wrong impression with those first 3 posts that mostly paint it in a negative light.
They do help to better understand the dynamics though, since they're so obvious.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?