Does making fun of yourself make you look good or bad?

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Hmm, tell this to Chris Farley

Interesting. I’ve probably relied a little too much on self-deprecating humor as a kind of defensive reflex to preemptively defuse criticism–that is, something along the lines of “I’m gonna say what I assume you’re already thinking first, that way you have no way to insult me, at least in the way I expect, which is probably not what you’re planning to do, but just in case, there, I’ve already said it, so try something else, maybe a compliment, but probably you won’t bother, because I’m a bit below whatever standard you imagine I should live up to.”

Now imagine a cocktail party, or any social gathering really, where I’m circulating, sort of, moving around like some kind of bomb disposal expert, trying with verbal adroitness to disarm all the conversational booby-traps I imagine are hiding in every potential exchange.

It’s kind of stressful, and most people tend to sidle away because frankly, who wants to chat with a dude waddling around in a padded shrapnel-proof bomb disposal suit, even if it is invisible but obvious eventually to anyone who manages to pay attention to what I’m attempting to not say about how I’m actually feeling during my attempt to navigate the minefield of ordinary chit-chat.


So a life coach thinks that non-life-coaches think in terms of “critical self talk” that holds people back? Sounds a bit like a math professor who thinks that non-math-professors walk around seeing partial differential equations everywhere.


So what’s the determination in a scenario where there’s no way to judge status? Like an internet comments section?


I think the point is valid. We really do sense these things, whether or not we have the vocabulary to describe them. Even children know who has the power - and it ain’t the substitute teacher.

Is there something akin to face-blindness for status? The inability to judge a person’s status? Would this be one of those “social skills” I hear so much about? Is there an external measure of status, or is it totally artificial and subjective? Or is it all just a euphemism for wealth?

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I agree that we sense things, but I’m not sure that "critical self talk’ is a real thing that has some consistent meaning. As the life-coach herself said, we read it as a show of strength in some people and a show of weakness in others. I bet you get a lot further on body language than you do on making fun of yourself or not.

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I’d not be surprised if being blind to faces was less of a disadvantage to our ancestors than being blind to status. Not recognizing someone, or “recognizing” a stranger, could certainly be unfortunate, but not recognizing who’s in charge likely has quick and reliably bad consequences for a social primate.

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Yes. I used to do the same thing. I would either start it off first, or if someone said something I’d say something 10x worse about myself. I still do it gaming some times.

“This guy playing Valla sucks.” (I’m playing Valla.)

“Yes he does. He should kill himself and everyone who cares about him. Oh wait - that would still just be himself.”

Now I do it less for deflection, but more because I’m hilarious and have some decent insults in my bag, but I point them at myself as no one gets mad at me for doing that. I also often use a spiel that my parents, especially my mom, don’t love me - even though that is far from the truth.

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Self-deprecating speech/behaviour in a social context is going to be as tension release and/or humour the lion’s share of the time.

That alone distinguishes it from critical self-talk most of the time.

Most critical self-talk goes entirely un-noticed, because it is self talk and most often occurs in the mind, not spoken in social contexts.

That too distinguishes it from the most typical of self-deprecating behaviour.

But that really only applies to the excerpt provided, from a life coach who is conflating a few real & distinct things.

Not all of the information in the linked article is so completely flawed. Most of the quotes correctly link self-deprecation in social context as externally communicative, not self talk. They also all make the same point in different but similar ways that don’t necessarily support the summation that high-status self-deprecation smart / low-status self-deprecation not smart, which aren’t terribly comparable anyway. They all contain caveats with regard to sincerity, humility, hubris, confidence and a host of other words with related meanings.

The correct take-away is that it’s all about context. Self-deprecation is a form of expression that can succeed or fail in it’s intent like any other form of communication.


OK. life coach is now officially bullshit, since the only difference here is very likely to be luck.

There are two different scenarios.
As someone who has done a fair bit of managing engineers and scientists in my time, I have tended to self-deprecate because this gets the best response. I was taught this by the first boss I ever had, in a student job, because I was dealing with very experienced people who were used to snotty up-themselves students, so not behaving like this scored brownie points.
But the problem starts if you use this approach when dealing with people who are not terribly bright or who come from cultures where self-boosterism is very important. Because they will take you at face value.
In Japan it helps to have a business card which says “Director” but talk very politely and describe yourself as “just a humble engineer”. This is approved behaviour. In India or Italy, doing this will get you dismissed as a low level person with a forged business card.


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