Bragging vs. Sharing: How to Strike the Right Note

The Miss America Pageant that aired earlier this year required, for the first time, that its finalists answer not one but two interview questions. It provided a fascinating, real-time case study in the art of public speaking.

Miss North Dakota stepped into the spotlight. A 23-year-old Brown grad, Cara Mund had interned for a U.S. senator, fielding calls about the Dakota Access Pipeline and processing a wide variety of constituents’ queries. Like our clients, she had been trained how to think on her feet.

Country singer Thomas Rhett, one of the judges, asked what was on her bucket list.

She didn’t hesitate.

“Honestly? It was to get to Miss America and make it past the Top 10. We’ve only had three girls [from North Dakota] ever make it this far. And so it just proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from geographically—if you have the ability to do it and you dream it, you can do it.”

Then came Mund’s most powerful moment, directing her closing statement to Rhett: “That’s exactly what was on my bucket list—and you helped make it come true.”

In fewer than 70 words, Mund demonstrated the power of articulating goals and letting others in on them. It wasn’t bragging; it was sharing. And it was powerful.

To hear Mund talk about a dream coming true on national TV, to witness it happening in real time was endearing. She spoke with sincerity, humility and appreciation. Thanking the judge took her solid answer to the next level. She let him in on her success. It was a class act.

Sometimes the fear of bragging hinders us—Midwesterners, especially—from connecting with others. But when done in a sincere way—not overthinking it, not feigning humility, just conveying genuine excitement—sharing good news is a vital part of networking.

People want to feel part of your story, so give them the good stuff: the benchmarks and bruises, the triumphs and trials, the behind-the-scenes pictures. Let them hear your voice, not a sanitized corporate one. Let them cheer you on.

And invite them in on the progress in real time, as successful fundraisers do when they announce: “We’re so close to our goal! Please help us get there!”

The momentum created by achieving Mund’s goal, to break the top 10—and sharing it with the public seconds after it occurred—carried her to an even wilder accomplishment: winning the 2018 Miss America crown. Let that same momentum work for you.