Why I Don’t Name Names

You might notice that I don’t usually name names of people in my articles, when I am giving examples, or in general.  I don’t normally do this to protect the people involved, but instead because naming names singles out people when my message normally is about human nature in general.

We All Have The Same Foundation

If I was discussing an example about a person who was unable to get along with his co-workers, I could tell you that the person was an actual person I know named Chris(I have made up this name), or I could leave that out.  I leave it out because Chris in this example represents millions of people around the world.  When I talk about anguish felt by someone, it is the same anguish that the 6.7 billion people on the planet are able to face.  If I narrow it down to one person I know or have heard of, I am doing a disservice to the message.

Also, within this is the indirect message that we are all the same.  People are connected more than a few would like to admit.  Often times, the poor person talking badly about the rich person would do the same things the rich person was doing if they were in their place.  Our differences are also exaggerated by some for their own benefit.

Business/Strategy Is In Every Field

Let’s say I am giving an example about a business person.  I could name a local businessman, but business is something that is in the mindset of people throughout the world, from scientists wanting to sell their guarded information or products, to a lawyer wanting to increase their hourly salary, to a doctor who is thinking about opening their own practice, to an artist who wants to get their sculptures to the public for high profit, to the person who manipulates many to make a profit in their own unique way.  Naming any of these specific people takes away from how the message is about human nature and not a specific person.

What we do and what we learn is not about any single person.  If I make someone laugh with a certain joke, it is likely that others will laugh due to that joke as well.  While we are all different in our mannerisms and verbal patterns, we tend to respond the same, either out of similarity or out of fear of looking dissimilar.

The more I name names, or use a specific location, or act as though an event is exclusive to one scenario, the more my larger message would get muddled.  While it is good to use examples from the past that are either well-known or represent a key issue, the basis of my messages can’t be these examples.  The human nature I discuss is in me, you, my neighbors, people in other cities, people in other countries, those in urban and rural areas, and so on.

Thinking In Terms Of The Big Picture

There are times where naming names can be helpful, like when the goal is to help a specific person, or to make an example that is easy to see the details of, but there is another aspect about not naming names that is great.  It force you or me to think about the big picture more often.  You can do this in your own thought examples as well.  Let’s say a friend of yours named Michael borrowed $400 from you and didn’t pay you back for 4 months, when the original plan was to have it be paid back much sooner.  You could blame Michael for his lack of mutual respect, or let the situation go, or you could think about the issue from human nature that led to this predicament.

You could see that those who borrow funds are usually already in a shady predicament because of their own poor practices, and so their standard response is to seek help in a bit of a frenzy.  Also, if you look online for information about how to deal with loaning out large amounts to others, various articles remind you that whatever caused the person to get into dire straits is likely to occur again or continue, and that you shouldn’t think that loaning the money will solve any long-term problems.

When you take the big picture view with any small dealings you have with others, you move forward faster than people who stop in their tracks and become self-conscious or let time slip by or let the problem stay in place.

12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Name Names”

  1. Interesting post. The meaning of the post turned upside down when I read your example of loaning money. I had thought you were talking about advertising. Obviously I had been biased my own thoughts.
    But I see your point. We can personalise a problem and not see the true cause. Our close emotional attachment to the problem affects our judgement, we need to step back and see it from a distance.

    1. Hi Martin.

      That makes sense. I did edge around the point of the article a bit but feel that I did get the main message across, in that any mistake that occurs or pain someone causes us can either be looked at as an individual case or as a global representation of some facet of human nature. This is also why I can’t be insulted in person. I don’t respond to attacks like the majority of people, as I take an attack toward me as representative of some larger issue with human communication and dealings. This is not to say that I get attacked regularly, but there are always those subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at our presence.

      In a way, when one person attacks another, they are attacking all of humans, and so they are attacking themselves. I have another topic related to this that I may discuss in a future post.

  2. Hello Armen,

    I agree than underneath, we all experience the same emotions at some point. I work with a lot of people suffering from depression – one of the common themes is that they feel like no one else in the world could ever feel that bad or so alone. I have experienced it myself and at times it did feel like not a single soul on earth could know what I was feeling, but looking back, millions of people feel like that daily which provides comfort – the world is not such a lonely place after all!


    1. Hi Kate.

      We sure do feel those same emotions. Some just manage them better.

      That part about the world not being a lonely place after all makes sense. Also, I would add that everyone is alone in their own battles. Realizing this is a good way to prevent feeling singled out in some way.

      One other thing I would add is that we often hear when someone isn’t doing well but rarely hear about when they are doing well. We are taught to hide some of our joy out of fear that it will be taken or removed.

  3. Hi Armen,
    This is a wise post. People can easily get caught up in the soap opera of the story and miss the point that it is really about all of US. People are easily addicted to melodrama and gossip, hoping that putting others down will somehow lift them up. The power in the articles is getting people to ask, “what does this have to do with me?” And ss you so deftly illustrate… everything!

    1. Hi Rob.

      It sure is basically a soap opera when it is more about the names than the message that applies to all people in the same type of situation. If I read an article and end up with the thought that some specific person made an error instead of thinking that I could make the same error, then the knowledge I got appears to only apply to that person or others.

      There is value in having a name in an example as a placeholder, but I like to get across the message that, for example, if there wasn’t a skilled competitor named Alex who was battling against my business, there would soon be someone to fill that slot anyway. There will always be a competitor, just as there will always be a person who causes anguish, or a relatively honest individual, or so on.

  4. Hey Armen, nice point here you man. Sometimes when we name the names of the people who causes us problems, we are redirecting our focus on negative energy. That’s only going to distract us from focusing on a solution or the bigger picture. It’s important to not spend our time to focusing on a human being’s label, but on the nature of the human being instead.

    1. Hi Hulbert.

      I hear you there. We redirect the energy the wrong way when we do this. Naming a name is usually related to attributing blame in some way, which takes away from the message and our vigor to correct the issue.

      I like how you word that closing line. The nature of the human being is where all the focus should be directed.

    1. Hi Joshua.

      I approve of this method you have described. I think it is smart to encourage individuals and leave any criticism for the collective. No one wants some negative criticism directed at them and it doesn’t help either when it doesn’t have an added improvement package that comes with it.

  5. You got me on that borrowing money thing. A friend of mine borrowed $150 from me. I lend him the money because he said he needed it (I guess all of them does) and he’s a friend. Said he’ll pay me back within 1 week. When payback time came, he was nowhere to be found. I tried calling him to no avail. I never really thought that I could name him names but I did.

    I don’t really need the money that much but the mere fact he’s hiding makes me really mad.

    1. Hi Miranda.

      That example sure does fit in line with what I read and what I now would expect. That fellow needed it just as some corporations needed a bailout, but the need was more of a want.

      Although your naming names is slightly different from the making use of names I was discussing, it is actually not that different, and I think anyone would get frustrated in that predicament. I heard somewhere that you should always be careful with folks who are in dire straits, as there is a likelihood of deception.

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