The Secret to Proper Introductions

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By Cindy Edwards

How many times have we heard the phrase “First impressions are lasting impressions”? It is important to know how to introduce friends to other friends and how to introduce yourself to others. The introduction is an important “ice breaker” in many social and professional situations.  This can be difficult and sometimes awkward. On more than one occasion, I have been at an event and had a hard time hearing a person’s name or even worse, remembering it!

Let’s remember the most important part: being kind and trying to make others feel comfortable! So, we will review the basic rules of introduction, but remember that sometimes you may forget or make a mistake. If you do, just smile and be polite.

Introduce the most important person first.

Yes, that sounds a bit snobby! But, that is how it works. The rule is: The less important person is introduced to the more important person. Yikes!  How do you differentiate the two? Sometimes it is easy and other times it is hard to know exactly what to do.

Proper introductions are relatively simple: The younger person is introduced to the older person. This rule also applies to people of rank. For instance, a civilian would be introduced to a person of more importance like a general, senator, preacher, teacher, etc.  This custom is a way of showing respect for a person’s age or position. Just remember to say the most important person’s name first.

Below are a few examples that will hopefully help you and me!

“Mrs. Smith this is my son, Joe Edwards. Joe this is Mrs. Smith.”

High rank to civilian
“General Bland, I would like to introduce Jack Williams. Mr. Williams, this is General Mike Bland.

Female to male
Jane, may I introduce you to John Campbell? John, this is Jane Taylor.

Note: Try not to use the word “meet” when making introductions.  Instead, use words like “this is” or “may I introduce.”

How do I introduce myself to others?

This is very simple.  If you are in a situation with others and no one attempts to introduce you wait for a pause in the conversation. Extend your hand and simply say “Hello, I am Elizabeth.”
While we are on the subject, here is a quick lesson on proper handshakes: Remember to make eye contact with the other person and extend your hand. Grip the other person’s hand entirely and firmly.  Hold it and shake for one or two seconds and release.

What if I forget a name?

At some point, everyone forgets a name or title. Just politely explain that you have had a brief memory lapse. Apologize and move on.  Try to make a special note in your brain so that you do not forget the next time.

Sometimes, when I cannot remember a name, I will reintroduce myself in hopes that the other person will repeat his name. This tactic—hopefully—will do two things: It assists the person who could be trying to go through his own internal Rolodex to remember your name and it gently informs the person that you do not remember his name. A friendly person is aware of his own shortcomings regarding name recall and will be thankful that you have saved him from having to recall your name. Of course, he will probably say that he remembers you, but internally he will be grateful that he has been spared the embarrassment of a guessing game.

Most etiquette books advise you to reintroduce yourself only once. However, the busy nature of our lives sometimes conflicts with our ability to recall every name.  Make every attempt to remember a name by associating it with something memorable about the way or place that you met the person. Never say, “Remember me?” when you meet a semi familiar face because it puts the other person on the spot and can be very awkward if he, in fact, does not remember you. Sometimes you can maneuver your way through a forgetful moment by recalling where you met or bringing up some fact that you can remember about the person.

The meeting and greeting of others is important.  I hope that these guidelines will help you in professional and social settings.  The fabric of our society is strengthened by our relationships with others, which begin with introductions.

As always, thanks for reading.
Properly yours,

Note -  Photo of Dr. David Williams and Cindy Edwards is courtesy of Kim Thompson.

Cindy Edwards embodies everything pretty, perky and proper about the South. She's a wife, mother, volunteer and freelance writer. Cindy volunteers enough hours to exhaust most by serving on the Board of Trustees for the Telfair Museums, the Savannah Book Festival Board of Directors and the University of Georgia Honors Advisory Board. She has also served on the Boards of the March of Dimes and Young Life Savannah. Cindy has been married to her college sweetheart, Dr. Joe Edwards III, for 25 years and is the proud mother of two sons: Joe IV, a senior at the University of Georgia, and Jack, a freshman at Ole Miss. No matter how busy, Cindy always makes time for a competitive game of bridge.
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Reader Comments:


Cindy Edwards knows what to teach the modern person the etiquette essentials revenant today. HJ

By Holley Jaakkola on September 14, 2013


You are so right about the fact that sometimes names just slip right out of our heads. Reintroducing yourself is a great idea...

By Sharon Polcyn on June 27, 2012


Love your advice on the hand shaking, especially important for women in business who often do the wimpy squeeze. There's nothing that exudes confidence more (even when you're not feeling it) than a good solid hand shake when you are introducing yourself or being introduced.

By Martine Ordon on June 19, 2012


Very useful tips! Thanks, Cindy! Sending you love from Vancouver!

By Sarah on June 16, 2012


Thank you for this great information!!

By Anonymous on March 11, 2012


Great refresher! Thanks you. Hope you'll do another bolg on proper table manners soon!

By Lind on March 06, 2012


Thanks for such great information. As a mother of a four year old daughter I want to make sure I teach her the proper etiquette. It is nice to have a place to make sure I am giving her the right information.

By Anonymous on February 24, 2012


Great information on Introductions. This is sort of a lost "art." Wish more families would share this information with their children.

By Brenda Crawford on February 02, 2012


Excellent blog on introductions...Another important aspect of that first introduction is eye contact, and firm handshake!

By Kelli on February 02, 2012


This is great information. I love your blog. Thanks.

By Greg Konkel on December 22, 2011


Thanks for writing about these important etiquette rules on introductions. I think in today's society the lack of even the most basic etiquette is not only horrible, but sad.

By forestmama on November 23, 2011


OK never mind! Betty Crocker is here to save the day!

By Rita on November 23, 2011


HELP!!! I am going to make Paula's Lemon Meringue Pie....BUT it calls for 3 egg yolks and says nothing about if it is cooked with all ingredients. I don't relish the idea of the filling having raw eggs in it. Is the recipe not correct?

By Rita on November 23, 2011


The seemingly simple, but often difficult "introduction!" Thank you for the refresher on how to navigate smoothly through a sometimes tricky social situation. Looking forward to your next entry. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

By Tori Chandler on November 18, 2011


love the blog and good information! keep the blogs coming! Laurie Frank

By Laurie Frank on November 17, 2011


As usual, this is another great article. Thanks for reminding us of the proper way to do things that really do matter.

By Nan Palmer on November 13, 2011


Cindy, Another great article- especially to share with our children. I can't wait to read your next blog!!! Cindi

By Cindi Long Aspinwall on November 11, 2011


This is wonderful information and great review for proper introductions.It is easy to forget and you have given some examples that will make it easy to remember. Thank cindy for another great blog!!! Anne

By Anne on November 07, 2011


Thanks, Cindy, for another blog on an important etiquette lesson! Introductions don't have to be awkward, and you explained that so well. I just always have to concentrate to remember a new name. I look forward to each of your blogs. It's refreshing to know that etiquette is still being discussed and observed!

By Viki Curtis on November 04, 2011


Great reminders for all of us. Thanks Cindy! I look forward to the next article.

By Linda Parton on November 04, 2011

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