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How To Deal With Bragging Friends / Relatives (+ Why People Brag)

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No one likes a braggart – not even other braggarts!

Isn’t it interesting how that doesn’t seem to stop them from regaling you with tales about their perfect life, intelligence, accomplishments, travel, and whatever else they feel the need to share in their game of one-upmanship?

Their perceived personal superiority seems to end where the line of self-awareness and examination begins.

It seems like they can’t see their behavior that pretty much no one sees as positive.

Why is that? Why do people brag and how do you deal with it?

Why Do People Brag?

It’s only normal to want to share accomplishments with our friends and peers.

Maybe you completed that project you have been working hard on for a long time, finally took that trip that you were really looking forward to, or got that prestigious job you had been hoping for.

The desire to share that good news and celebrate it with the people around us is a natural and healthy one.

It becomes unhealthy when we use our accomplishments to elevate ourselves at the expense of other people or their fortune.

Bragging is often used as a defense mechanism – a shield to be held up and used to protect our weaknesses and fears.

The braggart may be focused on demonstrating to their peers, friends, family, or strangers that they are, in fact, good enough and worthy.

That type of insecurity often comes from a deep place that is formed by one’s life experiences, successes, and failures.

It can even start as early as childhood if the person’s parents force them to earn their love by being good enough.

Things like withholding affection for bad grades or not cleaning up appropriately can foster the attention seeking behavior and validation that people who brag are looking for.

It’s not always about insecurity though. Sometimes, people just like to feel superior to those around them.

That perceived superiority makes them feel powerful or that they are better than this mere rabble that they deign to co-mingle with.

That attention-seeking and validating behavior isn’t always verbal. Sometimes it’s non-verbal or even secondary bragging.

Non-verbal bragging is putting something forward in an obvious way for people to notice, where the braggart hopes to nudge the other person into asking about it.

That could be things like wearing expensive designer clothes and accessories, constantly pointing out an expensive new purchase like a car or electronics, or decorating their office desk with all of the souvenirs they bought on their tropical vacation.

These are physical indicators meant to capture interest and prompt the person to ask about them, to effectively give the braggart social permission to blow their own trumpet. You asked about it, after all!

Secondary bragging is bragging done through a third-party. That can be a husband that boasts about how much money his wife makes or a parent that brags about their child’s intelligence or accomplishments.

None of these things are bad in small doses. It’s when they are used as a means to elevate oneself at the expense of other people that it starts to creep into bragging territory.

The interesting part about bragging is that even nice, friendly people can fall into these patterns if they happen to have those underlying insecurities.

That tends to make them feel worse, because they do realize that they aren’t being fair or kind to the people around them, but they may not be able to help themselves.

Their bragging may actually be masquerading as life advice with good intentions, rather than something overtly mean or unkind.

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How To Deal With People Who Brag

Navigating a braggart in a social situation can be a bit tricky. You risk coming off as a jerk if other people are taken in by their narrative.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but do be aware that there can be repercussions if you decide to push back against them.

1. Change the subject.

An easy way to end bragging is to just change the subject to something else that the other person cannot brag about.

It doesn’t need to be messy or complicated, just a quick change of subject and move on to something else.

2. Temper your reactions to their bragging.

A braggart is typically looking for validation to feed their ego and insecurity. You can deny them that validation, which should cause them to seek it elsewhere.

The way to do it is to just remain unimpressed with whatever they are boasting about.

You don’t necessarily have to be mean about it. A simple shrug and the words, “That’s nice for you.” or “I’m not really impressed by that.” in an unimpressed voice communicates a lot to the person without being combative or aggressive.

3. Directly confront the person about their bragging.

A more direct approach is to confront the person about their bragging, but you want to do this in a way that won’t be embarrassing.

An embarrassing situation is more likely to cause the person to dig in harder and defend themselves than accept your criticism with any kind of grace.

The way to do that is to approach the situation in privacy.

Ask the person if they realize they are coming off as bragging and let them know how off-putting it is to try to talk to them about whatever the thing is.

They may not realize that they’re doing it – or they may realize it and not care.

Still, carefully judge the situation before saying too much. Unnecessary enemies can make things much more difficult if it happens to be someone you spend a lot of time around, like a family member or a coworker.

Sometimes it’s better to be at peace than be right.

4. Give them what they want so they drop it.

There are some situations that you can’t easily get out of or rectify.

You don’t want to upset your boss if they happen to like to brag about a thing they have or something they accomplished.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to just agree with the other person so they can get it out of their system and move on to other things.

In an ideal world, we could always just be blunt and honest about what we’re seeing and how we feel, but we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a messy world where sometimes it’s better to just smile and nod than make any waves.

5. Accept the person for who they are and move on.

Changing one’s behavior is often a long, personal journey that is spurred on by circumstances that push a person out of their comfort zone.

You may take a hard or soft approach with a braggart and find that the person is just not interested in listening or changing. Pressing that person isn’t likely to lead to any meaningful revelations or changes.

Sometimes it’s better to just stay silent and exit a situation with grace so that person can live their own life and find their own way.

Trying to force a change in someone else rarely ends well for anyone. That kind of change has to come from within.

Bragging can be annoying to listen to and deal with. It’s easy to feel frustrated or get angry with someone who brags, because no one really wants to listen to that.

The truth is that people who brag are often overcompensating for their lack of self-worth and insecurity.

Keeping that in mind can make it much easier to navigate that person with grace instead of getting angry or upset with them.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.