How To Toot Your Own Horn Without Being Annoying

By Ryan Morris - Dec. 1, 2017
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Articles In Life At Work Guide

To toot or not to toot?

When it comes to horns, and tooting them, the decision to do so can be fraught.

After all, and despite the fact that a little bragging is often necessary for employers to notice how well an individual employee is doing, it’s true that no one likes a braggart.

This horn-wielding angel is widely reviled by most mainstream religions for his arrogant and sustained tooting.

But to never toot one’s horn and bring up one’s personal accomplishments can often be just as damaging, especially in the typical office environment.

Everyone around you is just as keen to get noticed (and possibly promoted) for their successes as you are, but some are simply better at bringing these things up, or else are just more likely to be noticed in the first place.

So what’s a quiet, horn-shy person to do?

What’s Wrong With Tooting Your Own Horn?

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons people avoid promoting themselves to others is because doing so too frequently or unprompted can be a very bad look.

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It’s easy to cross the line from healthy honesty about your own work into shameless self-aggrandizement, not least because that line is in different places for different people.

This tooter’s line, for example, is hidden somewhere beneath that big ol’ stache.

So why does talking about yourself tend to annoy the people around you so much?

  • For one thing, it makes people feel like they themselves aren’t being fairly recognized when one person around them constantly puts themselves in the limelight.
  • If they don’t believe the bragger has actually done what they’re bragging about, it can seem like the person is a liar (on top of everything else).
  • Braggarts, even those who only brag about things that they’ve done, tend to look at others in relation to themselves — often unfavorably.
  • The previous point can lead to otherwise kind (if arrogant) people becoming condescending jerks who give rude, unprompted advice to others who don’t really care much in the first place.

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How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Seeming Arrogant

Even for the conscientious, seeming like you’re braggadocious can be a tough perception to escape.

Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to make yourself look good without seeming self-aggrandizing, and a few other things you might like to avoid.

Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.

To that end, here are a few dos and don’ts that might help you make up your mind about this.


  • Try comparing your current accomplishments to your own older ones, rather than to the accomplishments of those around you. You want to be recognized based on your own merits — focusing on how much better or worse you are than everyone else will only serve to make people upset with you.
  • If you must brag, focus more on the way that your actions have helped others or helped the company rather than focusing on how you did something impressive. That is to say, focus on the effect and not on the act itself.
  • Make sure to take it well when you are lucky enough to receive praise. Be gracious and accepting, or people might feel as though as though your confidence is too low. It’s no fun to compliment someone who refuses to accept your compliments.


  • Give advice unprompted, particularly if part of that advice involves explaining the way that you’ve found success in the past. While it feels helpful, this can quickly seem like you’re just trying to show off.
  • Overly embellish your accomplishments — and WHATEVER you do, definitely don’t take credit for things that you didn’t actually accomplish. That’s the quickest and surest way to become widely hated.
  • Be too modest, either. It’s one thing to try to stay humble — it’s another thing entirely to bring yourself down so much that others have no choice to either think your statements are disingenuous or (worse yet) to believe what you say about yourself.
Cooperative Tooting: How to Get Other People to Promote Your Accomplishments For You

Of course, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, it’s always possible that talking about yourself and your successes will look to someone else like you’re bragging.

Some people are just very sensitive to what seems like bragging from the people around them, or else are simply uninterested in hearing people talk about themselves regardless of the context.

Maybe they’re the sort of person that expects actions to speak for themselves, and so they’ll just never like hearing you bring up that cool thing you did this week, or that interesting solution you had for a problem you encountered.

If this person is your boss, that can make it particularly tough for you to remind them of how well you’re doing.

You just know these lads are some heavy horn-tooters.

Instead, here are a few tactics you can try to entice other people to speak on your behalf:

  • Try saying nice things about the people around you rather than waiting for them to compliment you on their own. If they feel like you’re more likely to say kind things about their work, they’ll be more likely to compliment yours.
  • Talk about things that are coming up or things you’d like to improve rather than things you’ve accomplished in the past (even if it’s the recent past). This will make you seem more like you’re interested in how your work affects the company as a whole and might make someone take a closer look at how your work is doing so.
  • If all else fails, ask your boss and coworkers for written testimonials. It’s normal enough to ask someone for references, so if you go through one at a time and ask people around you to verify your skills, sooner or later you’ll have a big portfolio of people saying nice things about you.
Wrapping Up: Those Who Toot First Toot Loudest

And that’s all we wrote.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help you notice the differences in how others perceive people who talk about themselves.

After all, it isn’t that you shouldn’t do it — talking about yourself is healthy, and it helps other people find ways to connect with you.

But it’s important to remember that as good as it feels to receive praise, that’s pretty much how others feel about it too.

So if you want to be praised by others, the best tactic is just to try spreading some praise around yourself. You’d be surprised how quickly that kind of environment catches on.

Look at how beautiful the horns are on this cow. Tell her she’s beautiful. She will praise you. You will praise the cow. And all will be good.

As with anything, though, just remember — all things are good in moderation.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

How to Explain Why You Were Fired in a Job Interview
How to Respond to a Rejection Letter with Examples
3 Interview Tips on How to Talk About Fast Paced Work Environments

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Ryan Morris


Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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