The everyday pretenders and the pretentious!  – (Part Three)

In Parts One and Two we explored how and why we participate in “pretending” behaviors throughout our lives. And for homework, we asked that you conjure up names of those who fit the following definition:

“Pretentious people try to make a good impression by acting as though they are more important, skilled, or intelligent than they really are. They love to brag, to show off what they know and look for admiration and attention. They name drop about the “important” people they know, rarely talk about the accomplishments of others, yet are quick to talk about theirs.”

Now how we respond to pretentious people depends on the person and the situation. For example, many grin and bear it hoping that the interaction ends quickly. Others roll the eyes and call out the pretentious person – “C’mon, give us a break!”  Still others, the majority, who have a history with pretentious people, will try to avoid them altogether. 

Here’s a short list of typical behaviors by pretentious people. They…


  • …use long words or jargon because they think it makes them look intelligent or cultured.
  • …show off what they know when talking to others, even if it isn’t relevant to the conversation.
  • …like to name drop, talk about the brands they buy, the important people they know, the exotic places they’ve been and are obsessed with status symbols such as expensive homes, clothes, college degrees and cars.
  • …one-up others by telling stories that make their life seem more exciting than it really is. 

Although there are different types of pretentiousness, probably the most familiar is the boastful kind. The frequency of the words “I,” “me,” and “mine” versus “you,” “us,” and “ours” in conversations is a telltale sign as to whether you’re dealing with a pretentious person.

What pretentious people don’t realize is that others may be turned off by them but reluctant to tell them that, especially if the person is a family member or boss. Even worse, pretentious people are so self-absorbed that they don’t pick up on subtle signs that they are putting others off. They just keep running off at the mouth with their boasts and exaggerations.

What motivates pretentiousness? Well, some pretentious people really do believe they are better than others and want that widely known. At other times, the sort of condescension that characterizes pretentiousness masks hidden insecurities, jealousy or the fear that he/she would be perceived as uninformed.

Wrote “Lyndsie” (who writes by first name onlyin her “Polite Ways to Put Pretentious People in Their Place,” “I love intelligent people who are passionate about their opinions, but I loathe know-it-alls who don’t know that their need to treat their opinions as facts and force them onto other people – don’t you? There’s a definitive line between debate and pretension. If you have a friend, family member or coworker who doesn’t seem to realize that an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure, then maybe you can benefit from a few firm ways to put them in their place.”

For many, calling out the pretentious person can be difficult. However, there are things you can do to put pretentious people in their place says “Lyndsie.” 

“You can point out when they are wrong or when they are overstating their own importance. You can also try to engage them in more thoughtful conversation, rather than letting them monopolize the conversation with their own opinions. Finally, you can simply walk away from the conversation if it becomes too pretentious for your liking.”

Understand that what the pretentious person craves more than anything is attention. Withholding that attention that’s based on falsehoods and exaggerations works best. “Lyndsie” suggests what to do if you have a pretentious person in your life. (My suggestions are in parenthesis):

  • Never act impressed. (Don’t nod in agreement).
  • Show indifference. (Change the subject).
  • Point out when they are wrong. (“Wait, here are the facts”). 
  • Engage them in a more thoughtful conversation rather than let them monopolize the conversation. (“Okay, let’s now talk about….”).
  • Keep asking them why questions. (“Why do you say that?” “Why might others have a different opinion on that?”).
  • Don’t allow them to take undeserved credit (“Actually Velma had a lot to do with that too”).
  • Push back when they name drop (“Really? Can you arrange for me to meet him?”) 

In closing, I thought it right for my friend “Chris” to offer some final advice on “pretentiousness” since my dialogue with him was the catalyst for this series. 

ME: Hey man, tell us what strategy you’ve employed to deal with pretentious people.

CHRIS:  As you know, I have a low tolerance for self-centered, know-it-all people. So, once I’ve sized them up, I limit my time and plan my exit from them. 

ME: How?

CHRIS: (Laugh). Well, do you remember the years ago song by Paul Simon, “Fifty ways to leave your lover”? If not, here are some of its lyrics. Just replace the word “lover” with the word “pretentious”:

“You just slip out the back, Jack….Make a new plan, Stan…You don’t need to be coy, Roy…Just get yourself free…Hop on the bus, Gus…You don’t need to discuss much…Just drop off the key, Lee….And get yourself free!”

Wow, a world without an overabundance of “pretending” and “pretentiousness” running amuck. 

Just imagine the possibilities! 

© Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel,, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, and third place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.


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