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Consumer Reports

Bragging rights are yours if you can pull it off — and you can

By Carol Kleiman | (KRT) I don't mean to brag or anything, but is this the best jobs column you've ever read or what? Actually, I DO mean to brag, because according to one expert, "brag is not a dirty word."

In fact, Peggy Klaus, president of Klaus & Associates, a consulting firm based in Berkeley, Calif., emphasizes that "in today's competitive business world, bragging is a necessity, not a choice." Klaus, who specializes in communication and leadership coaching, is the author of a newly published book, "Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It" (Warner Books).

The alternative, points out the career coach, is to remain quiet. And that only leads to "not being appreciated or having others take credit for your achievements," Klaus said.

I asked Klaus, who has a staff of three and has been in consulting since 1993, to define the word "brag." "I've redefined it to mean a way of talking about your experiences and your successes," said Klaus modestly.

She acknowledges that most people have an ingrained aversion to talking about themselves. And the word "brag" really turns them off.

"It's a cultural problem," said Klaus, who does corporate and individual counseling and gives workshops. "And that's why I call it bragging: It raises the issue of dealing with the stigma against talking about yourself."

How do you learn to brag without feeling self-conscious? Klaus gives an example: "You've had a major coup. Talk about it at an internal meeting. Say something like, `I've been nursing this client for a year and at times thought of giving up, but finally, two days ago, they gave me the go ahead to sell $3 million worth of merchandise. I thought I would fall off my chair!'''

Doing it that way takes the onus off bragging, Klaus says, because "you're telling a story with energy and excitement, with interesting details, a modicum of modesty and self-deprecation - and you've included your audience in your success. Yet, it's still bragging.""plotters" executed on live television and their bodies hung from lampposts in the city.

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Bragging is so important, she stresses, that Klaus has coined the term "techno-brag." It refers to using voice mail and e-mail effectively.

"You have to use these two technologies because so many people are out of the office so much that no one knows their successes," she said. "E-mail and voice mail are direct ways to bring your accomplishments to the attention of your colleagues, boss - and even your boss' boss when feasible."

Another example: One of her clients is an executive at a bank. He was in charge of finding someone to fill an important slot in financial services. He did it, but no one knew what it took to fill the job. "I told him to get on the phone to his superiors and leave a message or to e-mail them saying, `I have great news. I found the right person and convinced him to come over from another institution. It took two weeks of back and forth trying to convince him, but now he's on board.'"

Is that bragging? Yes. But it's fairly subtle. I agree with Klaus that there is bragging and there is BRAGGING. Here are some examples I've devised of what to say and what it really means:

The Brag: "Wasn't it exciting to learn that two people in my department exceeded our goals?'' Translation: "I am your best manager."

The Brag: "It took me quite a while but I finally got the media coverage we needed." Translation: "I deserve the biggest raise."

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© 2003, Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services