In our current society of non-stop networking, introductions have taken on a simplistic format. If someone wants to be introduced, they can just walk up, put out their hand, and introduce themselves. If someone wants to introduce an acquaintance who just walked into the room, they can quickly call that person over without consideration to either individuals. In occasions like networking events, this behaviour is acceptable. But this is not the case everywhere else. It’s important to know the rules of introduction so that you can properly choose when to use or break them.
Refined introductions are an art form, an ability that comes with study and practice. Because it’s not just about knowing proper forms of address. It’s also about knowing the right time, the right occasion, the right people, the right words. Refined introductions can lead to lasting and beneficial relationships. Not following the rules can lead to relationships that end in catastrophes, with you to be blamed.
Have you ever arranged a blind date that ended in a disaster? Have you ever helped a friend get a job who later gets fired for being a bad employee? Have you introduced a friend to a person who works for a cause abhorrent to your friend? All of these occurrences are due to bad introductions.
The first and most important rule in the art of introduction is always take into consideration the persons you want to introduce. Do they have similar beliefs? Do they follow similar moral codes? Do they have friends in common? Do they have hobbies in common? Do they have similar desires and goals? And most importantly, do they have personalities and characteristics that would blend well together? To be effective at introductions you must first learn to look at people honestly – learn who they are, what they like, what they believe, and how they act in different situations.
Here are more rules to follow. When introducing strangers…
- Look at the person you want to address first in your introduction, and then turn your gaze to the other person as you complete the introduction. Don’t forget to smile and speak clearly. At this point, your demeanor matters as much as those being introduced. Your behaviour will be the first influence on this budding relationship. If you sound unsure or look unhappy, you will be instilling mistrust into the relationship from the start.
- Always use polite language. For example, it would be proper to say: “Let me introduce you to”, “I’d like you to meet”, an “May I introduce you to”. In formal settings, “May I present” is a great option. When introducing persons remember to take responsibility of the introduction by claiming it with “I” or “me”.
- Always use titles and last names like “Mr. Meyer”, “Miss Givens”, “Mrs. Hope”. Remember Mr is used to address men. Miss is used to address women who are not married. Mrs is the abbreviated word for missus and is used to address women who are married. When introducing younger people in informal settings, this rule can be relaxed. Since the younger generation are very informal today, they most often would prefer you to use both their first and last names. For example, it would be proper to say, “Betty, this is Susan Jones. Susan, this is Betty Michaels”.
- Introduce gentlemen to ladies rather than ladies to gentlemen. For example, it would be proper to say, “Mr. Smith, let me introduce you to Miss Edwards”. Etiquette is a chivalrous pursuit. It gives special attention, honour, and respect to women. Thus, a gentleman should feel honoured to be introduced to a lady.
- Introduce the inferior to the superior when the genders are the same. For example, it would be proper to say, “Mr. Smith, let me introduce you to Governor Edwards, of Florida”. Etiquette is not only chivalrous, it is also hierarchical. Sometimes, you can rebel and break hierarchical rules. But there are times you should absolutely follow this rule, in order to not appear unrefined.
- Introduce single ladies to the matrons. For example, it would be proper to say, “Miss Smith, let me introduce you to Mrs. Edwards”.
- You can introduce someone as “Miss Liu, of New York” or “Mr. Sinclair, from London” in very formal circumstances. Specifying the cities or countries the persons are from or are currently living in can help provide an opening for conversation.
- Introduce a statesperson by their last name and the state he/she represents. For example, it would be proper to say, “Mr. Smith, let me introduce you to Governor Edwards, of Florida” or “Mr. Liu, let me introduce you to Mrs. Jones, of Idaho”.
- Introduce a clergyperson by putting his/her titles (ex. reverend, bishop, pastor, rabbi, sheikh, or etc) before his/her name. For example, it would be proper to say, ” Mr. Desmonds, let me introduce you to Reverend Andrews”.
- Do not introduce an acquaintance you happen to meet while walking with another friend. Permissions for an introduction should be obtained before creating a formal introduction. This rule is an old one that may prove uncomfortable to follow in today’s society. In such circumstances, carefully watch for non-verbal cues from both friends. If both friends are looking at you with expectation in their expression, proceed with an introduction. Otherwise, you will appear rude in their minds. If one friend appears disinterested, provide an excuse to quickly, but graciously move on with whom you began the walk. Often times the most convenient option is to not stop and talk. Do not give an opening to conversation. Instead you can acknowledge the acquaintance with a graceful nod or wave of the hand as you walk by.
- Never present a gentleman to a lady without first gaining her permission. Even if a gentleman requests an introduction, it is important you respect a lady’s right to say “no”.
When introducing your family members, it can get a little more complicated depending on how large your family is. First, when introducing a family member to a stranger, always say their relation to you and their name. For example, “my father, Mr. Smith”, “my daughter, Miss Collins”, “my brother, Mr. Jones”. Remember to always say their surname. There may be multiple fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Specification helps avoid embarrassing confusions. When introducing multiple siblings, introduce the eldest daughter by her surname as “Miss Smith” and her younger sisters as “Miss Donna Smith, Miss Tammy Smith” and so on.
Sometimes, introductions don’t go as planned or are forced out due to your discomfort or other people’s impropriety. If this happens, don’t get upset. Smile and move on. Look at the experience as a lesson on how to improve your skill.
If someone approaches you and your friend, and stands there, effectively demanding to be introduced, do so. Rules are not as strict today. To not do so could be construed as a snub. In such an event, your friend will know that this was not a formal introduction based on your approval of the newcomer.
When introducing strangers, you take the responsibility of their meeting. You certify that both persons are respectable according to your standards. People put their trust in you to make the right decisions. Honor that the next time you want to introduce strangers to each other.
- Each person has their own individual social network. Some have friends that are mostly religious leaders, some politicians, and others business professionals. Take a piece of paper and write down imaginary introductions based on your social network.
- Now, write down fake introductions between friends who have already met. Make sure to include opening statements.
- Now think of 20 acquaintances. Which introductions do you think would have the most successful outcome. Narrow the list down to 4. Then, write imaginary introductions for them.
- Now go back, and answer why you wouldn’t introduce some of your acquaintances to each other. And then ask yourself, why would you introduce the 4 you chose.
- Now, imagine you have a social network superior to the one you have now. Create people with imaginary titles and locations of residence. Now, write down proper introductions for them.