How to Advocate for Yourself Without Sounding Arrogant

The majority of my time in corporate, I was knee-deep in data. I worked for a company that at the time had the world’s largest database of shopper purchase history. So while I wasn’t in data science or analytics, I was in business development and sales. I was IN the data – day in and day out. I was taking the data to show brands and marketing teams how if they leveraged our data, they could help grow their business. But I was using our data to sell the point.

And I’m so grateful, because I still use data all the time. In fact, I use data in nearly every type of communication that I have.

I traditionally think about data in terms of helping mobilize people in a certain way. One way to use the data is to clear the waters in terms of emotion, right? So if we want to get rid of people having too much emotion in the decision, we can bring data to help illustrate the point, whether that’s in their favor or our favor. But the data really paints a pretty crystal clear, oftentimes black-and-white picture to help us make a decision moving forward.

So I’m used to using it in that capacity. I also use it whenever I’m speaking at an event or training, because it helps really illustrate why I’m talking about a particular topic. For example, we do a lot of training on emotional intelligence. Well, why should people care about emotional intelligence? It’s because 90% of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. So that data point allows our audience to say, “Oh, if I want to be a high performer, I better pay attention to this training.”

But there was this other piece of communication that really triggered me recently, and I’ll tell you, I hadn’t even thought about it until I reflected back on it. We do a lot of executive coaching on how to advocate for yourself. And certainly, we want people to be going in and showing up and doing a great job, and collaborating with people and have people become sponsors of them. All of those things are absolutely what you should be doing, but you have to advocate for yourself. A lot of people, especially those that we coach, both men and women, have a hard time advocating for themselves.

They feel like they are bragging, or that they sound too arrogant. I hear that word a lot.

“You know, Colleen, I’m told I need to talk about myself and my accomplishments or what my contribution was to this project, but I feel like I’m going to sound too arrogant. I just want to talk about how the team collaborated.” Look, you have to speak up for yourself. You’re the salesperson of yourself. If you want to be receiving that raise or that promotion, or you want to have an opportunity to work on a particular team or project, at the end of the day you are responsible for that.

So the best coaching that I give is, use the data. Data allows you to almost separate this ego away, that if you were to just come in and speak about your accomplishments from a data standpoint and use facts and use numbers, it can shift a little bit of that mindset away from, “Oh, I’m just bragging and I’m being arrogant.” No, you’re just coming in and reporting the data. So I want to offer for you, first of all, are you using data in the ways that I’ve already talked about? But especially if you are lacking some of that confidence or you are concerned that you might be too arrogant, leverage the data to advocate for yourself. So take a look, find where you can use data starting today, and comment below if you have a thought on that or a place that you’ve used data and it’s worked for you. Share that with our community here!