Are you a "connector"?

Nov 7, 2001 at 12:00 am

Personal relationships are the lifeblood of acutely social creatures like Marcia Pilliciotti — who you know might be more important than what you know.

In his book, The Tipping Point (Little, Brown and Company, 2000), Malcolm Gladwell, writes about psychologist Stanley Milgram, who coined the phrase “six degrees of separation,” a phrase that has become a staple of pop lexicon.

Gladwell writes that Milgram sent a packet to 160 people who lived in Omaha, Neb., with the name of a stockbroker who lived in Sharon, Mass. Each person was instructed to write his or her name on the packet and send it to a friend or an acquaintance whom he or she thought would get it closer to the stockbroker.

“The idea was,” writes Gladwell, “that when the packet finally arrived at the stockbroker’s house, Milgram could look at the list of all those whose hands it went through to get there and establish how closely connected someone chosen at random from one part of the country was to another person in another part of the country. Milgram found out that most of the letters reached the stockbroker in five or six steps.”

What is also fascinating about Milgram’s experiment is that half the letters were delivered to the stockbroker by the same three people.

“Six degrees of separation doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps,” writes Gladwell. “It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few.”

In his book, Gladwell provides a test to determine who is a “connector.” He lists 220 surnames at random from the Manhattan phone book and instructs readers to give themselves a point every time they know someone with the surname listed. He defines “know” as someone whose name you would know if they introduced themselves, and they would know your name.

Of the 400 people Gladwell has tested, two dozen or so scored below 20 and eight exceeded 90. Four topped 100. He found that in every social group — whether it be college graduates or blue-collar workers — there were high scorers.

“Sprinkled among us,” he writes, “are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are connectors.”

Pilliciotti, the matchmaker, scored 70.

Take Gladwell’s test and see if you are a connector:

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Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at [email protected]