Introductions Deconstructed (Rules and Exceptions) – Part 1: The Basics

Which is correct? When making an introduction:

A. It’s preferable to make an introduction incorrectly than not to make it at all.
B. It’s best not to make an introduction at all than to make it incorrectly.

The correct answer, of course, is “A.”

Introductions are meant to make people feel welcome and comfortable. If you focus on that goal, maintain a positive attitude and have a ready smile, you’ll do well. However, knowing and observing the conventional rules of introductions will enhance your brand and distinguish you as someone who is competent and in command.

Following is a refresher on the accompaniments to any greeting or introduction:

Attitude:  An introduction begins with a positive attitude, which is your cornerstone for success.

Smile:  A smile lights up your face, conveying warmth, confidence and friendliness to all around you.  When you return someone’s smile, a bond forms that helps to break the ice. There’s nothing as powerful as a smile to disarm and charm.

Make Eye Contact: When you make eye contact with someone, you are conveying interest in him or her.  If you’re being introduced to several people, as their names are mentioned make contact with each person, if only for a moment each.

Stand: When being greeted or introduced, both men and women should stand to show respect. When seated at a crowded table where there is little room to stand, briefly raise yourself out of your chair and extend your hand. Failing to stand when being introduced implies ignorance, disrespect, disinterest, or arrogance. The exception applies to a blanket introduction to a roomful of people, such as in a conference room or auditorium.

Voice Tone, Pitch and Register: Keep your tone friendly and your register at mid-level so that your voice is pleasant and welcoming. Modulate your pitch so that it is not too loud or too soft.


Casual Greeting

When greeting friends or acquaintances in a casual setting, a wave, high-five or “hey” called out in a friendly manner is acceptable.

Formal Greeting

When greeting teachers, professors, your boss, parents,  professional associates or acquaintances, dignitaries, senior citizens, customers and so on, a more formal, but friendly, “how are you,” “how do you do” or “pleased to see you” is preferred and, in many cases, required.



The person of lesser social or professional status is introduced, or presented, to the person of greater status.  The name of the person of greater status is always stated first.

Examples of persons of greater status:

  • Woman or man in a high position, such as a government official, chief executive officer (CEO) of an organization, president of a college or superintendent of schools
  • Head of a country, state, county, city or village, or elected official (president, prime minister, governor, mayor, senator, representative
  • Member of a royal family (king, queen, prince, princess, duchess, duke)
  • Religious official (minister, priest, rabbi, high lama, imam)

Examples of introductions:

  • Mayor Smith, I’d like to present Roger Grant, who has recently moved to the village.
  • Pastor Lindstrom, have you met our new club president, Sharon Stamp?


A male is introduced to a female, except when the male occupies a greater status or is significantly older, is a guest or client, or the female is a family member such as mother or sister.

Examples of introductions:

  • Jane, this is our newest member, Bart Cooper.  Bart, I’d like you to meet Jane O’Hara.
  • Grandfather Blakely, I’d like to introduce our neighbor, Mrs. Jeffries.
  • Senator Crenshaw, may I present Janet Cafferty, head of the volunteer committee.
  • Mrs. Kerry, this is my mother, Carolyn Grant.


A younger person is introduced to an older person, except if the younger person occupies a greater status.

Examples of introductions:

  • Dad, this is my new lab partner, Mary Jones.  She just moved to Holly Hills.
  • Mayor Allen, have you met Millicent Hall, a member of our new Senior Citizen Center?

Family Members

Family members who occupy the greater status are still introduced to the other person or persons, as it is simply considered courteous to do so. Anyone to whom you are introducing a family member is considered a guest, and guests are always afforded the courtesy of greater status. The exception occurs when a family member is significantly older or holds a high office or position.

Examples of introductions:

  • Ms. Shaw, please meet my mother, Barbara Nelson.
  • Class, this is my brother, Professor Jordan.
  • Great Aunt Helen, please meet our guests, Hank and Betty Linden.
  • Dad, I’d like to introduce Professor Moore and Dr. Ellington; gentlemen, this is my father, the President.

Forms of Introductions

Use the Following:

  • Shirley, may I present Dan Carter? (Cordial)
  • Professor Jackson, have you met my mother, Janet Mason? (Friendly)
  • Major Rawlings, I’d like to introduce Private Benjamin. (Formal / cordial)
  • Linda, my brother, Ralph. (Correct, but somewhat abrupt and lacking warmth)
  • This is Ms. Anderson, Mom.  (Warm)
  • Sandra, this is my fiancé, Alex.  (Warm)

It’s considered good form when making an introduction to mention something about the person being introduced, such as, “This is Mary Stuart.  Mary recently participated in the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count.”

Avoid the Following:

  • Using commands: “Ms. Andrews, shake hands with Mr. Bramson.”
  • Using the words, “my friend”: “Jackie, this is my friend, Ethan,” might imply that Jackie is not your friend.
  • Repeating names: “Ms. Jones, this is Mr. Smith; Mr. Smith, meet. Ms. Jones.” The exception is if the name is foreign, or difficult to pronounce; in that case repeating the name may be helpful to the other person(s).
  • Introducing your spouse by his or her surname to another adult: “Dr. Howard, this is my wife, Mrs. Jansen.” This type of introduction is considered to be discourteous to the other adult to whom you are introducing your spouse: instead, use your spouse’s first name, such as, “Dr. Howard, this is my wife, Kate.”

Note: Some etiquette authorities believe that saying to the person of greater status, “I’d like you to meet Mark Manning,” is technically incorrect because it implies that you are presenting the person of greater status to the person of lesser status. My feeling is that this is splitting hairs, and the eminent etiquette authority, Peggy Post, granddaughter of etiquette guru, Emily Post, agrees, as she provides this wording as an acceptable example. However, if you wish to be conservative with your introductions, you may wish to avoid these words and instead say, “I’d like to present Sally Jones,” or “I’d like to introduce Peter Piper.”

Next week: Introductions (And the exceptions): Part 2.

                                                           Until next time,





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