The Etiquette of an Introduction
I’m sure that a few of you saw the word “Etiquette” in the title of blog post and thought to yourself, “PASS.” For many in our generation, etiquette is a bunch of rigid rules about forks and napkins – and we couldn’t care less.
Well, let’s think for a minute about a generation that DOES care about the rules of etiquette. I would guess that generation includes our bosses, successful members of our industries, our significant others’ parents, and the list goes on. You might not care about etiquette – but a lot of people out there do!
And ultimately, etiquette gives us a framework to avoid awkward situations. It helps us prepare for and predict situations that happen as we work and network every day. One example is introducing one person to another.
All of us find ourselves introducing people to other people in our daily professional and social lives. The proper introduction may be a bit more technical than you imagined!
Three Steps to the Perfect Introduction
Step One: You need to determine who of the two you are introducing is more “superior.” You determine this through a number of factors — who is older, who is higher ranking, and if you’re in a social situation, whether they are male or female (females are superior, BTW). Another important factor is familiarity. Counter intuitively, the LESS familiar you are with someone, the MORE superior he or she is. Etiquette is the art of interacting with strangers and acquaintances, not close family and friends.
Some people are “automatic” superiors, such as elected officials, members of the clergy, and members of the royal family.
Step Two: Once you’ve determined who is “superior,” you introduce the inferior person (B) TO the superior person (A). You accomplish this by saying the superior person’s name first. “A, I would like to introduce you to B.”
Step Three: Once the technical introduction is complete, I like to add a bit of context to jump start the conversation. “So-and-so and I were in the same sorority at Iowa State.” Or, “So-and-so and I are on the same team at Wells Fargo.”
Keep in mind that the introduction language matters too. You don’t need to say, “A meet B. B meet A.” Good phrase to use are “A, I would like to introduce you to B” or simply, “A, this is B.”
Rachel Geilenfeld has been presenting and writing about etiquette since 2005. She holds a BA in political science from Iowa State University and a JD and MBA from the University of Iowa. She is a political professional based in West Des Moines.