The problem is, when you do well — even if you aren’t an egotist or a braggart — some people can get the impression you think you’re pretty hot stuff, and they’ll try to tear you down. Therefore — and here’s the point — if you get more criticism than you want, play yourself down. Get to it before they do. If you play yourself down well enough and quick enough, the criticizer may even do a complete turnaround and try to build you up. At least they’ll have less desire to tear you down. You’ve taken the wind out of their sails by playing yourself down.
There are rules to playing yourself down. You can’t just go around saying, “I’m a sniveling, worthless puddle of scum sludge.” Too obvious. Here are a few pointers:
Never lie. Not only does lying feel bad, but if the other person knows or suspects you’re lying, it reverses the effect you’re trying to create.
Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t go on and on about how imperfect you are: It’ll sound like you’re trying to convince yourself. Just make a brief comment and go on.
Point out something the other person is better at than you. Often people who make a habit of tearing other people down feel intensely competitive, and it’ll help them relax to feel like a winner.
Never mention you’re better at something than the other person unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will only be difficult if you yourself are intensely competitive.
When you make a mistake, admit it before anyone else can accuse you. This is a good thing to do anyway, but it also helps keep people from trying to tear you down.
It sounds contradictory, but people admire humility — as long as it is humility with class. Follow these guidelines and you’ll achieve just that. The end result will be a more peaceful, less contentious, happier life.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.