For even the most seasoned small-talkers, networking isn't always an easy thing to navigate. It's inherently awkward, and though our goal is to make a good impression, we often end up overthinking what we say, compromising our natural charm and ability to really connect with our company.
As Leah Fessler recently explained in a cringeworthy but relatable story in Quartz, name-dropping might be the biggest networking faux pas of all. She tapped psychologists to explain why name-dropping basically always backfires and outlines how it poses twofold risks.
It undercuts your confidence. "Name-dropping usually comes from a person who is uncomfortable, anxious, and doubting their own contribution to the situation," Liane Davey, an organizational psychologist, explained to Fessler. "[It] always reveals the same thing, which is that one doesn't feel their accomplishments, or personal brand, speaks for itself, so they try to heighten their brand by associating with one that's much stronger." However, in practice, name-dropping is damaging to credibility and actually exposes one's insecurities rather than masking them.
It's a gamble. Fessler's examination of name-dropping underscores how risky it is because you don't know if the listener knows the person you're naming or has an opinion on them. "There's no better way to get in a very awkward situation than mentioning someone that person doesn't know, like, or respect," says Davey. Even more awkward, if you exaggerate your relationship with the person you mention—for example, you say you're friends when really you've exchanged a couple emails—that lie could come back to bite you if it's ever exposed.
Instead of name-dropping, Davey suggests keeping the conversation focused on you and whomever you're speaking with—asking something deferential or drawing on your own qualifications. If you do know people in common, opportunities to speak on it will arise organically during the conversation.
Now head here to read six other things you're doing at work that make you less likable.