The introduction is such a seemingly simple moment in an interaction. Yet, it is critical to the success of a new relationship. After all, the introduction is the very first step in building that relationship. Done right and you start on the right foot. Done wrong and all the focus turns from the pleasure of the meeting to “Why did he or she do that?”
An introduction well done offers you the opportunity to make a strong first impression, and additionally it gives important clues about your professionalism and your confidence. Confidence is critical to building relationships because when people have confidence in you, they trust you; and business is built on trust. So, from the beginning, introductions matter.
The introduction—whether it is a self-introduction, such as at an event or when a person introduces you to another—is governed by four amazingly simple steps. Follow these, and you will be successful.
1. Stand up. Man or woman, if someone reaches out to you to shake hands and you are sitting, stand up. It’s a measure of respect. It also lets you bring your eyes level with the person greeting you. If, for some reason, you are trapped in a situation where you can’t stand, then acknowledge it. As you reach out your hand to shake say, “Excuse me please for not standing, but it is so nice to meet you.” (The obvious exception is for those in wheelchairs. In such a case the standing person should do their best to meet at eye level, and not loom over the person in the chair.)
2. Shake hands. Business situations are neither the time nor the place for a fist bump. Shake hands by extending your right hand to clasp the other person’s hand, with the crook of your thumb gently touching the crook of his or her thumb. Then squeeze—not a bone crusher and not one of those awful limp, dead-fish type grasps. Think of it as using the same amount of pressure as you would use to grasp a door handle to turn it. In most situations it is expected to shake hands, and it would be rude not to.
3. Look them in the eye and smile. Eye contact is critical in an introduction. We speak with our eyes, and that eye connection is as important as the tactile feeling of the handshake or the sound of a person’s voice. In addition, the smile is a welcoming gesture that implies your pleasure at having the opportunity to meet the other person.
4. Names. Say your name clearly and repeat the person’s name. “Hi, I’m Peter Post, it’s nice to meet you, Ms. Frost.” By repeating the person’s name, you start to imprint it in your memory for future use. Better to start on a formal note, and then let the other person invite you to use their first name.
If you have a business etiquette question, please email it to [email protected] You can hear more Emily Post etiquette advice on the Awesome Etiquette podcast featuring Lizzie Post and Dan Post Senning. Listen and subscribe at infiniteguest.org.
Post’s newest book, The Unwritten Rules of Golf, Morrow, is available at emilypost.com.
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.