How many times do you find yourself in this social (or business) situation? You are standing in a covey of people immersed in a rolling conversation when all at once you realize that you don’t know the names of some of the people you are talking to. There is a queasy feeling of awkwardness rising in your chest and you don’t know how to correct the situation so you ride the roll through to the inevitable conclusion, parting ways without ever knowing who was who. There is an old saying — referring to a gathering in a private house — that says “The roof constitutes an introduction,” meaning you shouldn’t introduce people in a private home. This is predicated on the assumption that the host has done his job and anyone under his roof should already be introduced to one another. This old rule was accepted in the days before the transportation revolution and familial displacement sent us all scurrying and gathering into far flung places. When your mothers were old acquaintances and all families and friends were well-known in a small community, this rule held true, and so it goes today. But we are a long way from cozy community living. We are citizens or the world. Let us always introduce ourselves.
In today’s hurly burly society one must pay extra attention to the small civilities. In the course of a conversation, it is never too late to say your name. But let’s be clear. You should say your name at the outset and expect the same courtesy of those you are meeting. It is always annoying — not to mention ill-mannered — to introduce one person to another without saying both or more of the parties’ names. And that should be first and last names, mind you. This lapse is yet another casualty of the modern age when we neglect to say someone’s first and last name, or worse mumble incoherently over the din in a crowded room. I know what you are thinking, but what if I don’t know their last name when I make the introduction? Let me be clear. It is not rude to ask someone their last name. Get this out of the way right at the beginning. If you’ve been introduced before and you’ve forgotten this is not a crime to ask again. Just don’t make a habit of it. To habitually forget someone’s name, first or last, is the height of incivility, the depth of laziness and in the end, just plain rude.
On the other hand, you should always remind people of your own name and even volunteer a little history of when you met. “I am Robert Hightower. We met at the Wilson’s Christmas Party.” This will assuage any awkwardness brewing inside the person you are greeting. And this person, in kind, should respond, “Of course I remember, Robert. It is so good to see you again.” No matter if this is true or not. The point of good manners is to make people feel at ease. Generosity is always the first rule of the day.
In greeting and introductions, here are some golden rules to live by:
Always say “How do you do?” or “It’s great to see you.” Never say “It’s nice to meet you,” unless you are absolutely positive you have never met before. In fact, you should simply remove this phrase from your social repertoire altogether and always say “It’s nice to see you.”
Never say “Do you remember me?” This puts the other person in the awkward position of saying “No.”
Never announce a person’s vocation in a social introduction. In business, the opposite is true. If the gathering is business and social, then by all means include the vocation.
Finally, never put someone on pause that has come up to you to say hello. If you are so engrossed in a story with Helen Highwater that you feel compelled to ask Jasper Jones to hold while you finish, you should remove Mrs. Highwater to a private room — or go outside — so as not to be interrupted. Or better yet, call her the next day. Put yourself on pause, never Mr. Jones. This incident is far too common and exceedingly rude. On the other hand, Jasper Jones should not interrupt someone who is obviously engrossed in deep, gesticulating conversation. Although gesticulating conversation has no place at a drinks party, some people do engage in such. SP says keep it light and always be open to widening your circle. Isn’t this why you attend these things in the first place?
and register to win a bow tie.
You know the drill. Advertisers want to know your business before they give us business.