Oh, It Was Nothing, Really

blond business woman hiding her face on white backgroundAs advocates working for clients with grave medical problems, or clients who battle their insurance companies to get what they need for their care, or could lose their entire financial foundations due to overwhelming medical bills, our work results in lifesaving and quality-of-life saving outcomes every day. That’s what we do.

And then, when someone thanks us, way too many of us deflect the compliment. “Oh, it was nothing, really.”


It’s as if we are embarrassed to have been thanked, even though we are – secretly – pleased.

This disconnect in our response to being thanked and recognized came to mind twice over the past few days. It was a topic during a marketing workshop in Seattle, and then last evening, it showed up on the news in the form of a story about teaching girls about self-esteem by teaching them to brag.

Yes – seriously! – teaching them to brag! Imagine that! Especially imagine that in the same world where most of us were taught strictly and purposefully NEVER to brag. “It’s not polite,” we were told. People will think less of you if you do!

Little did your parents know when when they taught you not to brag (and yes, we need to recognize that this was beaten into the psyche of girls in a much larger way than boys) – that they were setting us up to fail in business.

Now, granted, I’m sure none of our parents thought, “Oh, I’m going to teach my children never to brag so they will fail in business.” No – not that at all.

They were only teaching us to be modest, demure and reserved…. because back in the day, (especially for women of a certain age, in the days when we expected to go to college for our MRS degrees so we could be supportive of the men in our lives) – that was how women of class and stature behaved. Most men, on the other hand, were expected to learn to be politely competitive in a men’s business world. It’s actually a huge chasm between demure and reserved – to – politely competitive, a chasm you understand especially well if you’re having trouble tooting your own business horn. And of course, we no longer live in a 1950s and 60s world.

Instead, this is 2014. And it’s time for us SMART business-owners to recognize that bragging, when done right, is not only a good thing, but is absolutely necessary in order to make our businesses successful. Success is highly dependent on confidence, and confidence requires we carry ourselves and speak with conviction.

As a friend of mine says, “Well-behaved women rarely make history!” (And that’s true for you guys, too!)

Now, I’m not talking about overrunning conversations with boastful and in-someone’s-face statements of how good you are. Not at all. In fact, that sort of behavior might just backfire.

Instead we need to recognize that there is a huge range of opportunities to help our potential audiences understand how good we are at the work we do, and how very lucky they are to work with us. I’m talking about appropriate self-promotion that is far more subtle. Perhaps we could call it nuanced bragging.

It starts with little things like making sure we never deflect a compliment. If someone tells us we’ve done a great job, and thanks us for good work, then a simple “Thank you. I’m so pleased it worked out so well!” tells them we are appreciative of the recognition AND supports the idea that we, too, know we did a good job for them.

In the middle might be a somewhat passive approach like featuring testimonials from those people we have worked with in our brochures or our websites. (APHA directory-listed Premium members can add testimonials to their listings. Login then link here for more information.)

At the other extreme is the more obvious. Talking specifically, face-to-face with someone else about our successes, perhaps providing a potential client with specifics about another case we handled that was similar to the work they need us to do. There are many ways to say, “Yes, I’m REALLY good at what I do!” without using those specific words.

Today’s takeaway should actually be quite simple: That in order to succeed in business, we must learn to overcome any shyness about our skills and our clients’ good outcomes, and that we must not only learn to confidently talk about them with others, but to use them purposefully to promote our abilities to help a new, potential client.smiling woman

Please consider this post as PERMISSION to brag!

If the explanation to this point hasn’t been enough to set you free to brag about yourself, then look at it this way: If you don’t, and someone doesn’t know how helpful you can be to them, and they suffer further consequences as a result (they get sicker, they die, they lose a loved one or their life savings)… how will you feel knowing they suffered because you were afraid to brag about your skills and talents?

Learn more about the concept of tooting your own horn.

Listen to an interview with Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It

Learn more about marketing your private, professional advocacy business.


5 thoughts on “Oh, It Was Nothing, Really”

  1. Being an Advocate for 16 years, this really hit home. I have a hard time taking a “Thank You”. I am always rushing to another’s rescue.

    We do not charge and the need is so great. I find myself rushing to the next fire to put out. I feel that we do save lives and educate our patients as we go.

    It is also in our patient group population, to have the patients more pro-active in their care. My “Thank You” is when the patients become empowered and help other patients get out of victim hood and the will to live a life that they thought was over to help others.

  2. This is wonderful advice Trisha! I know I believe at times we take for granted our knowledge due to the face we have done it for so long. Thank you for reminding us.

    Stacy D’Alessandro

  3. So many of us come to be advocates because of our own personal negative experiences with our health care system…. Could part of the reason we are adverse to being thanked come from our own disapointment , a feeling that the system itself has made us what we are, and a resulting “shame” that we must do what we do because others do not care enough to fix what is broke?

  4. Thank you, Trisha, for your call to arms here. It is important because (as anyone who has been around the country and looked at the demographics knows) the vast majority of practicing and budding advocates are women. It is also important on a higher level, since advocacy itself tends toward the apologetic (“Would you please allow me to work for you for little or no money?”). So we need to unapologetically promote ourselves as individuals, and we need to do the same as members of an crucial and growing profession.

    Kent De Spain
    Antioch University Midwest

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

APHA Blog : The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
Scroll to Top