Read more Cheryl Clemons
Stories we can all learn
Bragging and the empathy gap
Brag posts on social media are one of the
double-edged swords of modern life. We all
know someone who only shows us their best
life, shares a constant stream of achievements
or serially posts pictures of their award-winning
The sharer or 'self-promoter' may receive a
short-term motivation boost through the
articulation of their success and the immediate
reward of likes. Everyone else is likely to
experience a mix - to varying degrees - of
admiration, joy, envy, low self-esteem or
When asked, sharers generally overestimate
how much their audience will be happy for
them by a whopping 200%. Irene Scopelliti, a
senior marketing lecturer at Cass Business
School, puts this emotional miscalibration
down to the empathy gap.
Now I do think it's really important to share
success stories for a number of reasons, not
least because of the need to amplify voices
less heard, and for everyone to see 'people
like us' achieving goals that resonate. This can
often only be achieved if we go beyond our
close friends and family to a wider network.
It is perfectly reasonable to share
achievements as part of the mix of what makes
us who we are.
But, if we only see the output, success or
impact and we don't truly understand what it's
taken to get there, how truly inspiring is it? This
is equally important in the workplace.
In the brilliant article How 'The Karate Kid'
ruined the modern world, editor David Wong
blames humanity's demise on a classic film
Does this sound familiar? The main character
is bad at something but after a series of
impactful interventions and a short training
montage they become an expert. As David
says, "We have a vague idea in our head of
the 'price' of certain accomplishments, how
difficult it should be to get a degree, or
succeed at a job, or stay in shape, or raise a
kid, or build a house. And that vague idea is
almost always catastrophically wrong."
The result of this is 'effort shock', a feeling
we've probably all felt at some point in our