How to Do Introductions
Updated: May 3
Table manners seem to be the area in which I receive the most questions, but it is introductions that have people the most baffled. After I explain the correct way to conduct an introduction, I often get that starry-eyed stare that tells me, “I really don’t understand what you just said.” To help all of us, I have broken down the process into a simple format. Before I proceed, let me say this. Do not let a lack of confidence in handling an introduction keep you from DOING an introduction. Even if you are unsure, most people do not care. They will wonder, though, why you do not introduce an acquaintance who joins your group at a party. When a person walks up and no one introduces them, it is awkward for everyone. As the old advertising slogan said, “JUST DO IT!”
Introductions are made based on hierarchy in business situations, and based on seniority or respect, in social settings.
Example: The CEO of a company is of higher rank than the Vice President of another company. Whereas, in social settings, a grandmother is afforded the respect of having more seniority than someone in their twenties.
To determine hierarchy, seniority, or respect when conducting an introduction, always ask yourself this question. “Which person do I wish to show the most respect?” Emily Post Institute states, “It all boils down to speaking to the person you wish to honor first.” Once you determine the hierarchy of respect, you will then proceed by introducing the person of lower rank to the person of higher rank.
Example: “Senator Jones, I would like to introduce to you, Mr. Smith.” You state the name of the higher authority first (Senator Jones), but you are introducing the person of lower authority (Mr. Smith) to the person of higher authority (Senator Jones).
In a purely social setting, your grandmother would be the person you want to show the most respect as opposed to your college roommate. It would look like this, “Grandmother, I would like to introduce to you my roommate, Suzy Martin.” You would then look at Suzy and say, “Suzy, I would like you to meet my Grandmother, Mrs. Brown.” Do you see how this follows the same formula? You are first speaking to the person you wish to honor. In this situation, you speak first to Grandmother, but you are introducing your roommate to your grandmother.
This is how I remember the order of introductions. Imagine you are living in the day when a young woman was making her formal debut (being introduced) to the king in a courtly ceremony. She would be escorted into a large room where the king and queen were seated, and she would be formally presented (introduced) to the royal couple. It would sound like this, “King Henry, presenting Lady Elisabeth Walton.” The word “presenting” is the same as saying “introducing to you.” The lady was being presented (introduced) to the king. It would be no different than if the escort said, “King Henry, I would like to introduce to you, Lady Walton.” The person of lesser authority was being introduced (presented) to the person of higher authority. The order of our introductions, which came from the aristocracy, are still conducted in this manner today.
Once people understand the formula of an introduction, the only time they tend to get confused is when the roles seem mixed up. In a social setting, females are given the higher honor of respect. You would always introduce a male to a female. “Debbie, I would like to introduce to you Edward McGee. Edward, this is my best friend, Debbie Wright.” What do you do in a social setting if the male is of higher authority? What if you are with a male U.S. Senator and need to handle and introduction with a female? Does the same rule where females are given the higher honor of respect in social settings apply to this situation? When you are unsure, go back to my original question and ask yourself, “To whom do you want to show respect and deference?” In this scenario, I would place the senator in higher authority, even in a social setting. So, the introduction would sound like this, “Senator Jones, I would like to introduce to you my colleague, Suzy Martin. Suzy, I would like you to meet Senator Jones.”
I like to know the “why” behind what I am doing, and most social skills (etiquette) we practice today have their origins somewhere in history. For a few more history lessons on our modern protocol, hop over to the blog titled Rules Without Reason.
As you hear me say repeatedly, manners are a condition of the heart. How we act and treat others reflects the character inside our soul. When it comes to introductions, whether you remember the correct order or not, just do it. Showing kindness to two people is what will be remembered.
Together with you,