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Social skills: Don't bungle up your introductions!
Suneeta Kanga

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May 21, 2008

Picture this: Payal Khandelwal, an executive with a bank and her friend, Pooja Daswani, are attending the wedding reception of Payal's senior colleague's daughter. As expected, there is a mix of guests at this occasion -- family, friends, colleagues, business associates and some of the bank's clients.

Rajesh Shetty, a colleague of Payal's, comes over to say hello. Payal introduces her friend to him and the three of them start chatting.

Soon after, a client known to Rajesh stops by to exchange pleasantries. Rajesh gets into an animated conversation with the client, leaving off to introduce Payal and Pooja to the newcomer. Neither does he excuse himself to the ladies, saying something to the effect of "Do excuse me, I'll catch up with you ladies in a while". After a few moments of awkwardly standing around while Rajesh and the client chatter away, Payal and Pooja move away, rather miffed at Rajesh's lack of social etiquette! It's rather plain that he does not come across as a well-mannered, courteous individual!

Being able to introduce people to each other is an important social skill and why so many folks tend to overlook this fact is truly a mystery! The only solution is to master the art of introductions. Anytime you find yourself with two or more friends, colleagues or acquaintances who haven't met each other before, it is only proper that you introduce them. By not doing so you are making them both feel awkward and uncomfortable in each others' company.

"Who is this person?" and "What can I say to someone I don't know?" are the questions that cross their minds. And the very essence of etiquette is not to have anyone in a social situation feel awkward and unsure of himself/ herself. Simply put, it's better to make a bad introduction than not make one at all!

So what is a 'proper' introduction?

That really depends upon the circumstances. An introduction can range from being very formal to business-related to downright casual.

How does one make an introduction?

In principle, a smaller personality -- no disrespect intended -- is presented/ introduced to a larger personality.

In social situations ladies, the fairer sex, are to be shown more respect and importance (please remember that this is not so in a business scenario).

Then comes the age consideration.

Bottom line -- you move or introduce a less important or younger individual to a more important or elder one.

And finally, things like social status, popularity, wealth etc may also figure into the scheme of things.

Don't worry; it's not as complicated as it sounds! The question is -- How do we show respect to an individual during an introduction? Simple -- take his/ her name first!  

For instance: "Mr CEO, allow me to introduce Mr Senior Manager."
"Mrs and Mr Much-Married, I'd like you to meet Mr Bachelor Boy" (be sure to introduce the lady first!)
"Aunty Senior Citizen, this is my niece, Teeny Bopper."

And that's just the start. There should always be a follow-up to the initial introduction, which familiarises both parties with each others' backgrounds. A good introducer may also mention an area of interest that the two share.

For instance: "Mr CEO is also a renowned author." And follow that up with "Mr Senior Manager works for XYZ organisation."
"Mrs and Mr Much Married are our dearest friends and live in
Delhi." And then, "Bachelor Boy has actually recently moved to Mumbai from Delhi."
"Aunty Senior Citizen is the ex-principal of ABC school." Follow up with "Teeny Bopper has just finished her HSC."

Be sure to maintain eye contact with the individual whose name you're taking; it simplifies things.

How does one navigate something like this is a large group without bumbling?

You don't. When introducing someone to a large group where seniority, sex, age etc can cause a lot of confusion, it is better to go round introducing in a circle: "X,Y, Z, meet A, B, C and D". If there are just one or two newcomers to a group, you can say something about them, like "Abhishek is in the Merchant Navy" or "Natasha studies in Canada [Images] and is down on vacation."

Who is in charge of making introductions at social gatherings?

At social gatherings, ideally, the host or hostess should introduce the guests to each other (unless, of course, it's on a truly large scale, like a wedding reception). But anyone else can do the honours too. If someone you know joins the group, he/ she should be introduced to everybody around.

If people are acquainted, say "I think the two of you have met before" or "I don't think I need to introduce you."

What if I don't know a soul at a social gathering and the host/ hostess is busy?

Introduce yourself! Don't stand around looking lost. Just approach some friendly-looking person/ people and say, "Hi, I hope you don't mind me joining you -- I'm Nitin Patel and I don't know anybody here!" Upon which, hopefully, they will proceed to give their names in turn. Next, you could probably say, "Nice to meet you. And how are you acquainted with Mr Khan, our host?" Who knows, it could be the start of a great friendship!

How are business-related introductions any different?

They are much simpler, actually. All you need to know is the hierarchy of designation. In business terms, the individual who heads the organisation, irrespective of age and sex, ranks highest. And then you just move downward! But don't forget -- customers/ clients are rated the highest, even higher than your boss!

Follow-up lines are remarkably easy too -- company's names, titles, designations, departments, teams, areas of expertise, regions, groups etc come into the picture here. The same rules apply when you need to make introductions at business-related social functions, seminars, conferences etc.

At formal business meetings, a full introduction is not always necessary, especially if the positions of those present are self-evident. So if you're sitting down for a meeting, and you know the people on either side of you, you may simply say, "Sachin Khosla -- Vinod Kumar".

Suneeta Kanga freelances as a corporate groomer, international etiquette expert, beauty advisor and aesthetics and style consultant for various individuals and organizations including airline training centers, finishing schools, banks and corporate business organisations. She can be contacted at


Photograph: Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images

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