Who to introduce to whom

Q. Please tell me the proper way to introduce one to another. Is it Ms. Important I want you to meet Mr. Unimportant? That is woman to a man, older woman to another woman or man, older man to younger man?

C. C., Saratoga, CA

A. Who to introduce to whom has always been a baffling question. Whole chapters have been written listing all the possible situations and how to make the introduction. All the advice can be distilled down to one simple rule: speak to the person you wish to honor first. In your example the correct introduction would be to turn to Ms. (Mr. or Mrs.) Important and say something like: “Ms. Important. I would like to introduce Mr. Unimportant, my associate (or whatever relationship you have with Mr. Unimportant).” Then turn to Mr. Unimportant and say something like, “Mr. Unimportant. I would like you to meet Ms. Important, a director of XYZ Company.” A more real life scenario would be “Grandmother, I would like to introduce my girlfriend, Frieda Smith, to you.” Then turning to Frieda say, “Frieda, this is my grandmother, Mrs. Abbott.” Tradition dictates that if introducing a man and a woman of equal status (either in business or social situations) you speak to the woman first. Likewise, age takes precedence—speak to the older person first. Speak first to a person with a title: Senator, Doctor, Reverend. In business, follow company ranking, but a client is considered more important than anyone in the company, including the CEO.

Q. I, as well as others, received flowers from the 10 shareholders of my company. Please let me know how the thank-you note should be addressed – a note to each, or one to the 10 collectively? Any other advice would be welcomed. Thanks!


P. M., Austin, TX

A. The best approach is to send a note to each person individually. I can’t see how you could send a collective note to one person and hope the others see your thank you as well.

There is one alternative which I usually don’t recommend but can see using in a situation such as this—individual e-mail thank-you notes. These e-mails wouldn’t be sent to a group because it would be difficult to write an effective salutation. “Dear Shareholders” isn’t very personal.

The reason for the receipt of the flowers matters. For a situation such as bereavement or a birthday, a personal, handwritten note to each group member is the right approach. In your situation in which the flowers were sent to several people, perhaps as a thank you for extra effort, the individual thank you e-mail to each person works.

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