Subtlety of Wording and Association

I knew a guy years ago in business that loved to slap his name alongside anything notable going on around town. If a business was having an open house that was attracting a lot of interest, he’d post everywhere on Facebook about how he was proud to be a part of it. If somebody else was giving a presentation, once again with the “I’m so proud to be here with them.”

If you’re thinking that maybe he just loved networking, I’ll point out that if an event he started bragging on didn’t have the turnout he expected, he quickly exited and denied ever being associated with it. What happened to being so proud to be around these great people?

Aside the fact that this behavior is making everyone else’s news about himself, which is a point we’ll return to later in this post, I noticed over a couple years that he almost always used the word “proud” in these kinds of posts. Yes, I could tell by knowing him that he had an ego issue, but it would’ve been obvious to anyone that didn’t know him well by his language.

Why was he always prideful? “It’s just a word, Brian,” he could say. But why wasn’t he ever grateful for the opportunity to be invited somewhere, or thrilled to be helping someone rather than just proud to be there?

These phrases are also commonly used, and because they’re common they’re dialogue choices one might “randomly” make as well. Statistically, it even seems likely to have mixed some of those in. But no, in this case always proud.

Another big one is when a person begins most sentences with “I”. Unless you’re telling a “me” story, constantly making every statement about yourself is embarrassingly self-centered. I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it, and mistakes like that fall into that collection we all have of things we’re sort of ashamed of but strive to learn from. Sometimes seeing how douchey someone else looks doing it is enlightening for our own behaviors.

Over-Associating Yourself

The other big aspect of this behavior which isn’t just a verbal thing is one’s constant need to associate oneself with something cool going on.

It’s narcissistic and serves only image crafting. <— The article linked there is a humorous and, in my opinion, a pretty spot-on discussion of Facebook narcissism.

We’ve all seen this person. Hell, maybe we’ve even been this person. You know, the person that takes news going on in whatever form and injects themself into it.

Is there a ribbon cutting event for a charitable organization? Look at a picture of me standing next to the ribbon guy! Man I’m so glad to be here promoting myself… I mean… these wonderful people doing this thing in which there’s a picture of me.

Congrats to Lisa on her retirement! Let me spend a paragraph talking about how she shaped my life, and by that I mean listing all my accomplishments that she merely witnessed so that this piece is really all about me. Oh crap, I guess I’d better tack on a brief “wish her well” statement at the end so it looks like I’m being humble.

It’s not occasional. Those most guilty of this almost never post anything but this. It’s less obvious in your news feed, but go to their page? Sheesh. Enter the barrage of “Look at this cool event I’m at! And then look where else I am! And wait! Here I am again with THIS amazing guy which by extension makes me pretty amazing!”

They’re always praising someone else to loosely veil the fact that they’re bragging about THEM. This attempt at humility fails for multiple reasons. First, why does every event that you’re so generously endorsing have a picture of you? Second, people that are actually humble don’t talk about how humble they are.

It’s like people that quote themselves online. “It should be obvious that you’re sharing an original thought without an arrogant signoff.”  – Brian Watkins

I guess it’s a small degree better than platitude machines, but only because it is original. I guess.

Sooo… the point.

Language and presentation seem subtle but can be significant. Those that try the hardest to craft their image usually make a caricature of themselves in the process by missing one important point. How you say something is more important than what you say, because it becomes the takeaway.

You can tell a girl she’s pretty but sound creepy; you can comment on someone losing weight but imply how fat they were; you can praise someone’s skills but ruin it by implying it’s all because of you.

And now to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

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