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Great introductions help people break the ice

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, at 12 a.m.

It’s adorable when kids label you. “Hi, Sarah’s mom!” “Bye, George’s piano teacher!” “Hi, Grandma’s mailman!” It’s not adorable when adults try it. “Carla! Have you met Volunteers A Lot Mom?” It just sounds bad. Which explains why a lot of us stand around not introducing one another.

Believe it or not, silence sounds worse. So says executive presence and leadership consultant Lisa B. Marshall, author of “Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation” (St. Martin’s Griffin).” Always introduce,” Marshall said. “Introducing others is about respect and making the situation more comfortable. Otherwise you leave someone standing around not wanting to interrupt.”

Here are Marshall’s tips:

• Work around your memory lapse. “Either admit, ‘I’m sorry, I’m blanking. Remind me your first name,’” she said. “Or you can just say, ‘Have you met Vincenza?’ Often the other person will say, ‘Oh, hi! I’m Jennifer.’ It saves you the pain of admitting you forgot Jennifer’s name.”

• Offer some details. Marshall suggests tossing in one of the following three add-ons: “How you know each of these people, why you’re introducing them or some area of common ground: ‘Such and such is a really great cook. I know you’re interested in cooking.’ Something they can build instant rapport with. This makes the heretofore strangers seem less strange and inspires a more seamless post-introduction conversation.”

• Know the hierarchy. “I’m not an expert in etiquette,” Marshall said. “However, etiquette does call for younger people to be introduced to older people, women to be introduced to men in social settings, and in professional settings lower rank to a person of higher rank or clients to internal people. ‘George have you met my client Nancy? Nancy’s been the CEO of SciTech Company for the past five years, and George recently was promoted to product development manager for our XYZ product.’”

Marshall added, “If you’re introducing the new intern, you wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, CEO. Here’s the new intern.’ You would say, ‘Intern, let me introduce you to the president of the company.’” Except you wouldn’t call her Intern.

• Repeat yourself. Help all parties remember each other’s names by repeating them a couple times. “You don’t want to sound like a used car salesman, but repetition does help cement a name into memory,” Marshall said. “Nancy, I’d like you to meet Joe. Did you know Nancy is running in the half marathon this weekend? And Joe is a competitive runner as well.”

“Chances are,” Marshall said, “one of the people is standing there thinking, ‘What did she just say his name was? Oh, there it is again. Phew.’”

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