Dealing With Boastful People

When I moved back to Boston, I was excited to go back to my former hair stylist. I found that she — let’s call her Sonya — had moved to a salon on fashionable Newbury Street, so I went into the city just for my appointment. Almost as soon as I settled in to the chair, I remembered why I always used to feel wrung out after going to see her: Sonya had a very inflated sense of self.

Several times during that appointment she uttered the words, “I mean, I’m very good at what I do.” It made me feel so uncomfortable! What was I to say in response? I left the salon with a nice haircut and a vow to myself never to return to her chair.

Boastful behavior often stems from a place of insecurity. According to Psychology Today, a person may brag in hopes of leading others to think well of them. Everyone likes to brag a little — but cross the threshold and you run the risk of making the people around you roll their eyes. Hard.

The question is not if you’ll have to deal with a boastful person, but rather what to do when you encounter one.

Well, the good news is that you’re almost totally off the hook because, as Dr. Fredric Neuman points out, “Boasting is unpleasant to listen to: IT IS BECAUSE THE PERSON BOASTING IS NOT INTERESTED IN YOU.” So it doesn’t really matter what you say or do in response because, to the bragger, your reaction is basically just white noise.

You could try to bring this person’s attention to their bad behavior, but this could fuel even more narcissistic tendencies. You can walk away. Or, if you don’t have the luxury of choosing not to see this person any more, you can imagine yourself on a beach with an umbrella-adorned cocktail every time the braggart starts talking.

Do you encounter a lot of boastful behavior? What are your survival tips?

P.S. More tips on living a happier life.


Image by Kensie Kate

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  1. exactly what i needed to hear today!! xo

  2. When I encounter boastful people I just agree with them–you know, smile & nod. Any other approach, I’ve found is futile. I also tend to avoid these types…

  3. I usually laugh at them, which I’m sure they take as extra proof of their awesomeness, but hey, why can’t we both have a good time? šŸ˜‰

  4. Lovely article. I’ve been known to “glaze over” and start thinking of something more interesting. When I fail to respond in the way the boaster is expecting, they “sometimes” take the point that I am no longer listening. Others just keep talking. As a Psychologist (albeit Criminal) I am ashamed to say I haven’t mastered the technique of not showing my feelings/thoughts threw my eyes (which I am told are an instant giveaway).
    I have been known to take out my phone and start texting. It is the height of bad etiquette I know, but it’s the only way I can handle a situation like that without verbally saying something.
    Great article.

  5. Ugh. Yes. I can’t stand this. It’s one thing for someone to share their accomplishment that they’re excited about. I love to hear other people’s stories and get excited right along with them! But, it has to be a two way convo. When they’re the only ones yapping away about how amazing and fab they are, it’s a HUGE turn off. Yuck. Okay… confession time (crazy story insert)… I went on a blind date once with a guy who sat me down on his couch and made me sit through 3 photo albums with all of his certificates and medals. Yes. I know.

  6. I’m always taken aback by boastfulness and tend to just not say much. Ironically, the people who usually have much to boast about tend to be more shy about discussing their talents!

  7. Well said and well done. If the person isn’t important to you I say walk away like you did. However, if they are important I suppose I would have to talk to them about it. Because, if I didn’t, I know it would just bug me everytime and drive a wedge between us.

  8. argghh..yeah i just had a good dose last night with a certain friend who upon getting off the car and meeting us bragged about having the right kind of watch to wear (showing us what he’s wearing & telling us the brand)..then he goes on about what other stuffs he still has that he didnt get to wear yet (with a reminder to watch out for it, yuck)… about the lot they have reaching upto 600sq/m…about how good his stuffs are on his online game..even about how good sony ericsson is instead of iphone.. gosh.. i really can’t believe someone like this person is existing..its actually amazing having to experience it and honestly the impression that first struck me was to nod over the un-educated-ness of the person…ur article was i now what to do when i unfortunately happen to be in his company….smile hehehe

  9. I have a co-worker who is constantly talking about how much money she makes, how much she spends, how perfect her husband, kids, parents and siblings are. I just it find it repulsive and avoid her whenever I can. I agree that a boastful person is 100% interested in herself and 0% interested in anyone else so they either get a bunch of low self-esteem admirers around them and get ignored/rejected by everyone else.

  10. I’ve just had a friend stay for the weekend after not seeing her for a long time and now I remember why I like her better in small doses. She has her good points, but if she’s not talking about how well-educated she is compared to other people, she’s talking about well she saves money by doing her own house and yard fix-it jobs; what such-and-such said about how well she does her job; how well she researched her own various health problems so that she could confront her doctor who doesn’t know anything and how much she contributes to her local community. Which is great, but she makes sure everyone knows about it. She also comments non-stop on why I do things a certain way and not the “right” way (e.g wearing clothes/driving the car/cooking/feeding the dog/storing eggs). I was so relieved when she left. She wants us to go traveling overseas together in the future, but she’s someone I could never travel with for any longer than a few hours because her company is so draining. A boastful and self-absorbed person is not a fun traveling companion.

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