How To Brag Without Bragging: The Covert Brag Technique

how to brag with tony robbins picture

Bragging about yourself “without bragging” is an art.

But, luckily for us, self-promotion is also part of our power dynamics science.

And bragging effectively is something you can learn.

In this article, you’ll learn how to brag without bragging with the covert bragging approach.

Definition

Covert bragging refers to self-promotion that avoids the first-person format of self-enhancement and instead utilizes different techniques to promote oneself and display high value, without coming across as a braggart

If well-executed, covert bragging allows you to self-promote and come across as high-value, without the important drawbacks of overt bragging.

INTRO

how to brag chart continuum

Bragging is on a “visibility continuum”. Too obvious is bad, while the more invisible it is, the better (display high value, make people think highly of you, but nobody even thinks you bragged).

Bragging is a form of self-promotion.

And the ultimate goal of bragging is to:

  1. Display value
  2. Become higher value in people’s eyes

Bragging has taken a bad rep, and generally for good reasons.
Still, even the most direct version can, at times, “kind of work”.

It’s far from ideal, but if it didn’t work at all, it wouldn’t have evolved.

But it did evolve, and it did spread.
So much so that all languages I know have a word for it, and almost anyone experienced it -probably many times, and probably you also bragged a few times-.

So it means that at least on some occasions, at least for some people, bragging is probably better than not bragging.

That tells us an important truth:

Self-promotion is crucial in life.

And the very existence of bragging is proof of that.
Self-promotion is SO important that bragging evolved and spread, despite all its huge drawbacks.

The Drawbacks of Bragging

Too obvious bragging has many drawbacks.

So many, that the general social skills advice is “avoid bragging” (and we generally agree).

Some of the issues of bragging include:

  • It’s annoying to many
  • It sets a bad competitive dynamic of “me better than you”, and “me VS you”
  • It stokes jealousy and creates frenemies
  • It often sub-communicates low self-esteem, since high self-esteem people don’t feel the need to brag
  • It sub-communicates low EQ and social skills, and that’s never a good trait to display
  • It’s not very credible, since the individual has an obvious incentive to come across as “better than he actually is”

How to brag without all that nastiness, then?

Enter, covert bragging.

Bragging Effectively With Covert Bragging

Covert bragging is a self-promotion approach to get the benefits of self-promotion, without the downsides of bragging.

In theory, if successful, it’s possible to get the benefits, without the downsides.

If successful is key there.

The technique per se says nothing about how successful it is.

Effective Covert Bragging Requires Skills

Covert bragging is not a simple technique.

Contrary to other techniques, it’s not just about saying something or saying it with enough confidence.

It’s very, very situational, and it requires a deep understanding of social dynamics.

This means that if you do it well, you gain huge.
But if you do it poorly, you lose.

As the chart above shows, a covert brag that is too close to a “normal” brag can come across as even worse than a direct brag.
A bad covert brag can be worse because, beyond being recognized by everyone as a brag, it also comes across as a sneaky power move that reeks of manipulation and of “status inflater” (and you don’t want to be seen as a sneaky social manipulator).

So, generally speaking, you do want to self-promote, but the more subtle, invisible, or natural you can make your value displays, the better and more effective it is.

Let’s see some ways to do it.

Covert Bragging Techniques

Some techniques include:

1. Tell a story to display your qualities

The key is to:

  1. Make the story natural, part of the topic, or like you’re just sharing for good time
  2. Embed the covert brags seamlessly -ideally even while sounding humble-

2. Focus on sharing the lessons learned

So you can even self-frame as a giver.

Ie.:

I did X and Y mistakes on my way to success, and this is why I’m sharing it, so you can avoid the same mistakes

3. Make others say or ask about your qualities

You can even do that in your story while you say it.

For example:

Tony Robbins: when people ask me in the media “look, you’ve been with every major president, you’ve been with Mother Theresa, with Nelson Mandela, who impressed you the most…

Respect for Robbins’ TOP-notch content:

He’s THE best “motivational” and “self-help guru”.

And at the same time:

LOL, what a bullshitting salesman -he chased Mother Theresa to meet her, and I bet not a single journalist told him “you’ve been with every single president”-.

This covert brag was close a red-level overt brag.
Still, it’s much better than saying “I have been with… “, which would be the direct brag format.
And they’re “good enough” to fly under the radar of most people, while making those same people think very highly of Robbins (most people aren’t very power aware).

4. Frame it as advice for others to also do or enjoy

In this example, I share a breathtaking view while advising people where to go to enjoy the same.

The overt brag format would be to share the view saying “I’m loving this”, that sub-communicates “look at me while I travel to exotic places while you’re freezing your ass in winter”)

5. Focus on the challenge

Like typical marketer’s story.

They cam from utter failures, and only after much hard work finally enjoying all this success they’re supposedly having.

6. Disqualify yourself before bragging

For example, I say in The Social Strategist:

So, despite my endless shortcomings and continuous mishaps, I’ve resolved and still managed to get good at this one thing.

See?
I don’t introduce myself by saying “I’m an expert at this”.

Instead, in the preface I first say I’m no guru and don’t ever wanna be one.
Then, I double down saying that “despite endless shortcomings and continuous mishaps… “.
Only after that did I finally say “I managed to get good at this one single thing I’m teaching you now”.

That way, it doesn’t come across as braggart.

7. Embed brag stacks & make’em invisible (advanced)

The most advanced covert bragging is not even recognized as “displaying value”.

It DOES display value, often also from different angles that all cover each other, but it just flies under the radar.

This requires more advanced learning and mindsets, including more Machiavellianism. It’s something we better teach in Power University.

However, to give you an idea, advanced covert bragging can be as simple as this:

(after they’re speaking and vibing for a while, so it feels natural)
Her: I was so tired today. Work is getting so stressful sometimes
You: Yeah, same, that’s why I was late by the way, sorry about that. But it’s my fault. I’m such an idiot sometimes, I always tell myself to stop on time in the evening, but then there’s always someone who really needs me, and I always feel bad saying no

All in one, this is a form of:

  • Positive virtue signaling, as in you displaying your drive to help others
  • High power, as in control over your life. Think about what that sub-communicates: you DO have control to decide when to stop, reminding her you’re a business owner / entrepreneur, or have a high degree of freedom at work. If one day you get serious about working less, you always can. She may not have that freedom
  • High-value display, as the people begging for your help and time sub-communicate you must be so skilled/wise, or so incredibly capable of adding value to people’s lives (something everyone wants)
  • Success & money bragging, as in you having an abundance of customers (who likely pay you quite a bit)

All perfectly embedded in well-executed vibing, and while sharing a supposed vulnerability -“feeling bad to say no” and “working too much”-.
Plus, he pulls another “higher value power move” by reminding her he was late (and she had to wait for him).

There are a million other forms, but the general concept stands: the best social strategists successfully display their value with covert brags that are so natural that it’s not even bragging at all.

Imagine how easier your life gets when you can reliably come across as high-value, without ever bragging.

And that’s the place where we want to take you.

Be Careful of Humblebrags

The above could be an example of a humblebrag.

So, yes, if well done and if they feel natural, they can work great.

On the other hand, just as for bragging, there are plenty of ways of doing it wrong.
And when you do it wrong, it’s exactly like a poor covert brag: it makes you come across as sneaky.

See another example from the covert bragging king Tony Robbins:

How To Brag At Work

Bragging in the sense of “self-promotion” at work is fundamental to advance.

Think of bragging as the enabler of your good work.

You can be as skilled as a God, but if the people who decide the promotions don’t know about it, it’s completely useless.
On the other hand, it’s just like Machiavelli said: if you’re OK at your job, but somehow appear to be good and can network well, you’ll do great.
So, yes, great political skills are a must at work, and self-promotion is part of them.

A fantastic approach to bragging at work is to skip the brag talk and instead raise the visibility of your added value.

Here are some valid approaches:

  • Let the challenges reach the higher-ups before you fix them
  • Find solutions, but only implement them when the problem has grown and reached the higher-ups
  • Always let your boss know the challenges you faced and how you solved them (you self-frame as the “finding solutions” type of guy)

For more on effective self-promotion:

The Art of Self-Promotion: 9 Effective Techniques

In Power University we go more in-depth and have one lesson specifically for effective self-promotion.

How To Brag On Job Interviews

You must keep this in mind:

Some interview questions are TRAPS to make you brag as much as possible.

And if a little brag can be good, overly bragging is not.

The more you brag, the nastier you come across, the lower your odds of getting the job (and a good pay).

Here is a common interview trap to make you brag:

Interviewer: What makes you different than all other candidates

That’s your “brag to me” bait trap.
If you fall for it, you end up social climbing on all other candidates -people you don’t even know!- and looking nasty and narcissistic as a consequence.

And this is how you answer while bragging smart:

You: Well, I don’t know the other candidates so I cannot answer that question properly (<—- a bit of philosopher’s frame control here).
I can imagine there might be some other good candidates though, since you are a company with good reputation, and as much as this job attracted me, it might have attracted some other top caliber people (<—- you don’t social climb here: you build others up, while you build yourself up, coming across as a confident team player who doesn’t need to demean others to feel good about himself)
What I can tell you is what attracted me to your opening, and why I think I can perform well… (<—– and now you go back to your standard pitch, answering your own question)

Read more:

How to Brag In Dating

A direct brag in dating also works great.

… IF you know how to do it well, of course.

Huge caveat, because most men brag badly.
So DO NOT take this as a “permission to brag”.

So, first of all:

Beginners: Avoid Direct Bragging

The general rule stands: generally avoid overt bragging.

When you brag poorly, including too direct and obvious bragging, you lose power and attraction (the two are linked anyway).

You lose power and attraction because the unspoken frame of direct bragging is that you’re lower value than her and need to use bragging to make up the difference.

Plus, it’s an inherently low-power strategy because you’re chasing (see “foundational rules of dating“).

Not that it can’t ever work… Anything can work.
It’s just that, most of the times, it’s not optimal.

It looks like this:

bragging chart

Direct bragging sub-communicates that he either is, or feels, lower value than her, and needs to make up the difference by showing off. Plus, it sub-communicates low social skills and EQ, and that’s never a turn-on 🙂

Men who are obviously higher value than her do NOT brag (most of the time).
So avoid bragging, and display higher value with actions and behavior, instead.

Advanced Seducers: Use This Attraction-Spiking Brag

Now, that being said, more advanced folks can break the rules.

They can break the rules and even gain big time when they do so.

And a well-placed direct brag is a fantastic power move that spikes attraction.

This works very well for men in dating and also in relationships because women like men who are “more” than they are.

A strong direct brag not only shows the quality you brag about, but it’s also a huge display of confidence and self-esteem.
A confidence that is a bit more on the “bravado” side, but if you do it with a smile and a frame of a little humor, then even older men will gain big from this.

I’ve used this format many times on dates, and it’s one of the most reliable ways to “spike attraction”.

Example: Lucio’s Bragging

For example:

(you previously displayed some success or intelligence. Ie.: started a cool business, gave her good life adivce, or solved an issue with creative thinking)
Her: so how did you come up with that
You: well, there are many reasons (<— philosopher frame, and setting up his power move), but the main one is… (you really wanna know?) that I’m fucking smart
Her: (cracks up laughing) ahaha that’s true (<— concedes and admits high value. The closest thing to admitting attraction you can get)
You: (smiling, thinking “I know you like me”) ehehe thank you, thank you, jokes aside, or shall we say, beside being smart, what happened is… (goes on explaining with a bit of high-power teacher frame)

If you think that’s tacky, it’s because you’re thinking like a guy.

Yes, it would be tacky with another guy -but even there: not always. See the interviewer cracking up, or shall we say “conceding”, at 50 Cent’s brag-.

But dating is different.
And thinking like a guy is why many men date well below their potential. (See “alpha male dating“, for example).

Instead, remember this:

Men think of other men who display higher value as competition.
Women think of them as highly attractive mates.

The Power Moves

And that’s ultimately why a good brag works great in dating.

The Rule of Effective Bragging: Display Before You Say

The key to a direct brag is to display it before you say it.

Remember that as a good “law of bragging”.
First, you display.
Then, when she’s already thinking so at a subconscious level, you bring it to the surface to make it 10x more effective.

Our example above works great because you’ve already proven that you’re smart. (Side note: if you’re good at conveying intelligence, which is also a form of covert bragging by the way, you don’t even need any special event. You only need a simple chat).

She agrees with that, she knows it.

But she may know it at a subconscious level only.
And bringing it to the conscious level makes it more effective.
A LOT more effective.

You saying it thread-expands on it, surfaces it, makes it conscious and shared, and 10x its power. Plus, your delivery displays strong confidence and self-esteem, and women, who often lack self-esteem, LOVE that.

You deliver an effective brag with high confidence and with a smile and she’s guaranteed to swoon.

See more techniques and examples in Seduction University.

How to Display Confidence With Brags

As for everything, there are always exceptions.

And even the “avoid overt bragging” general rule has its important exceptions.

As a matter of fact, advanced social strategists use bragging as a fantastic tool to display enviable personal qualities.

And a well-timed, in-your-face, blunt brag, is a total (good) power move.

Example: 50 Cent Effective Brag

Imagine this example:

Interviewer: why did you buy Tyson’s mansion
50 Cent: I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I’m like, I’m like rich as a motherfucker

That’s a perfect situation where a direct brag works great.

Why?

Think about it… What other reason can you have to buy a 5 million house with 18 bedrooms?

Is it because you “need” 18 bedrooms?
Because you enjoy getting lost in your home house?

No.
It’s because you got too much money to throw around, of course.

To say anything else would come across as making up random reasons… Or excuses because you’re too shy of calling it as it is.
So a direct brag there works great because it’s high-power, straight, raw honesty.

When you get these types of questions where the only real answer is to “say it how it is”, do so.
You get to display not only the quality you brag about, but also your intellectual honesty, your social power, and your confidence -and your humor, too-.

As a matter of fact, the real brag of an overt brag isn’t even the brag itself -we knew 50 Cent is rich-.
The real value display of an overt brag is the power, confidence, and honesty it sub-communicates. Those matter even more -in our example, now we think of 50 Cent as a cool, straight guy-.

Do the same, and people will look up to you.

SUMMARY

Displaying your value is crucial to do well in life because many of your qualities or achievements aren’t always readily visible (call them “opaque value” in our social exchange model).

However, to come outright and say them, or list your achievements, is the type of bragging that is associated with trying too hard -and often low-value-.

Luckily, the good social strategist can use different techniques of cover bragging to brag, without bragging.

Bragging and covert bragging are just two techniques of general self-promotion, and there are many more ways to effectively self-promote.

We go through the main strategies as well as mindsets in Power University.

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