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I have a name-dropping relative who I’m beginning to detest.
–Fed Up; La Grange, TX
Who likes a name-dropper? They’re the personification of deaf ears — egotistical, self-important and uninterested in anyone but themselves. Not even other name-droppers enjoy their company, because there’s nobody to appreciate the names that are being dropped.
It’s funny, because, on the surface, the act of name-dropping is innocuous: Someone mentions a recognizable person while telling a story.
But it’s the (implied) context behind it that gives it its power. Many interpret the name-dropper’s reference as a sign of elevated status, a suggestion that he’s better than the people he’s talking to. It’s the conversational equivalent of a jock flaunting his high school letterman’s jacket.
That’s how Fed Up is interpreting this. My guess is, for whatever reason, he’s felt inferior to this relative for a long time, and the name-dropping is the straw that’s pushed him to the brink.
It’s sad, because your family is supposed to be your rock, the people you dance with at weddings, mourn with at funerals and gather with at Thanksgiving. They’re there for the seminal moments of your life, and the last thing you want is those experiences marred by strife.
Patching up problems with family members is no easy task. There’s more history, more emotion, more scar tissue at play. And the stakes are higher, making it that much more imperative you get it right.
Which is why I recommend one — or some combination — of three solutions: Avoid, Address or Accept.
If your family gatherings are like mine, there’s a limited period in which everyone is together in the same space—when you eat. The rest of the time, people are spread all over, preparing food, watching football and fleeing the scene come clean-up time.
Ideally, you’d like to circulate, getting quality time with everyone. But if you detest the name-dropper that much, why not steer clear of him altogether?
Yes, it’s passive-aggressive, and no, it’s not what a therapist would suggest. But this would be the first option to consider. For starters, maybe all you need is a little time away from him to get past this anger.
And if you take that break and still can’t stand him? This is how you cut him out of your life without him ever knowing.
Before addressing anyone about any problem, I first ask myself, “Is this an issue worth bringing up?” I want to be sure I don’t make something into a bigger deal than it has to be.
Clearly, the name-dropping is a big deal to you. You’re Fed Up with it. So it’s something you have to at least consider mentioning, especially if this is a relative you need in your life—a parent, a sibling, a business partner or the like.
One strategy would be to do it in a joking manner. The next time the name-dropper strikes, smilingly needle him with something like, “Let me give you a hand with those names you just dropped.” (Or something that would actually get a laugh.)
Admittedly, this is still passive-aggressive, but it’s a step up from Avoidance. It’s a way to maximize your message while minimizing the seriousness of the confrontation. And hopefully, your relative will get the hint.
If he doesn’t, you’ll have to do it straight-up. Pull him aside and explain why his behavior bothers you and how it’s affecting you.
It’s possible he has no idea he’s doing it, or at the very least, that it’s rubbing you the wrong way. You might end up getting an apology on the spot.
No matter which approach you choose, the main thing is to do it calmly and respectfully. You don’t want to put him on the defensive and escalate the situation.
Confronting the name-dropper is the most uncomfortable option, but it also can be the most necessary. Because if you don’t, your anger and resentment will continue to fester, until it one day explodes.
At which point, it will all become a much bigger deal than it ever had to be.
Whether you Avoid or Address, you ultimately have to Accept.
You have to accept the situation. As the adage states, you don’t get to pick your family. This guy is going to be in your life (to some degree) no matter what. So you have to figure out a better way to manage the dynamic.
You have to accept the name-dropper for who he is. Unconditional devotion — that’s the beauty of family. Not everyone adheres to that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.
Most importantly, you have to accept your role in this. While name-dropping is annoying, it’s not as destructive as infidelity or dishonesty or a double-dipped chip. It doesn’t inherently impact you — meaning its effects are what you allow them to be.
You can get upset, you can get incensed or you can blow it off. The choice is up to you.
What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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