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