I suppose that it is a fact of life that we need to accept. There are some people in life that need to name drop to build up their ego or their sense of importance. On the other hand, I have met some people that are so narcissistic that it would never occur to them that their listener doesn’t know the individuals that have been offered as proof of something, nor would even care if they did know them.
Having worked in mental health/psychiatry for 35+ years I have learned at least one concept that has served me well and that is “all behaviour has meaning.” The challenge is that we don’t often know what the meaning is or what purpose it is serving and likely the other individual doesn’t either.
A person who has a tendency to drop names of important people into conversation, and the term “important” is subjective, could be nervous or lack self-confidence in a 1-1 conversation. Talking about “important” people could be a maladaptive coping mechanism, one to relieve the individual’s anxiety. If the person they are talking about is well known or popular the concept seems to be that some of that popularity will rub off on them. It is probably similar to bragging about one’s self.
Once you recognize that the individual is monopolizing the conversation and playing a game of “look who I know!” what do you do about it?
Not taking action is one choice. You could continue to listen to the one-sided conversation. Odds are if they have dropped some names into conversation they likely have quite a few more to offer. It would probably be a good idea to extricate yourself by excusing yourself before you doze off.
Another option could be to derail the conversation i.e. take it off its likely track by saying something to the effect of “Oh you know XXX. I have been wanting to meet them for a while. Could you introduce us or arrange a meeting?” This action on your part could have a positive outcome if the individual actually does know the V.I.P. and can introduce you to them. Or if they don’t really know them, they may start to back paddle i.e. change the topic or avoid the request made of them and keep the conversation going in a direction where they continue to own it.
A third option could be a variation of the old “See you later alligator!” At a business networking function odds are high that you can leave this one-sided conversation and move on to a more productive one.
Is there a time when it is appropriate for you to name drop? Yes, I believe so. Name dropping or inserting another person’s name into the conversation can help build your credibility as someone who is well-connected, one who has a good understanding on a particular topic and it can even develop your personal influence.
Some examples might be:
- When having a conversation about a particular topic, issue or problem and you know someone who has faced a similar situation, you could mention their name and describe the lessons that they learned as they dealt with the subject.
- You could offer your services as an intermediary and propose to introduce the person that you are speaking with to someone that you know that could be in a position to assist them.
- At a later date, perhaps at a “getting to know you” coffee meeting you could explore with each other who each of you knows and if there is a possibility that any of these connections could be of value in helping with a current need.
I hope that through this article I have been able to raise your awareness to the “name-dropper” style of networker and offer you some ideas on how to deal with them. But then again … name dropping can be an effective networking tool if used effectively. Try it out and see how it works for you. Even better still … become one of those people that other people fit into their conversations.