How to Make an Introduction
During this final month of the year your calendar probably fills up with more parties and events than usual, in both your personal and professional life. For many, in-person gatherings are a breath of fresh air and an eagerly awaited occasion, especially after the dearth of social interaction we endured during the covid pandemic. For others, it makes you nervous.
We’re out of practice! Social skills are like any other skill: use it or lose it. Even if you personally look forward to getting together with others, the pandemic caused our collective social interaction “muscles” to atrophy. Everyone has become a bit more hypervigilant, oversensitive, self-conscious, and awkward. Wow—doesn’t that just make you want to go hang out with people?
Whether this sounds like you or not, you can help. At gatherings, do what you can to create an atmosphere of safety and make others comfortable. If you feel uneasy, remember others likely feel the same and it just takes a bit of practice to rebuild your social muscles. If you have no trepidation yourself, help others who may be struggling.
One simple, yet impactful, way to make others feel welcome, included, and comfortable is to master the art of introductions.
If you are the host or leader of an event, the comfort and satisfaction of your guests or attendees is your responsibility. Make it a point to welcome each person as they arrive and introduce them to others. But even if you aren’t in charge, you can contribute to the event’s success (including how much you enjoy it yourself) by being proactive with introductions.
Here are the main ingredients for a positive introduction:
- Check in: Unless you know for sure, don’t assume that two people do or do not know each other. Ask, “Have you two met?” or “Do you know so-and-so?” Don’t make people ask to be introduced. And even if they have met previously, if it’s been a long time, they may appreciate being reintroduced.
- Create connection nonverbally: Use both your hands and your eyes to connect the two people you are introducing. Make eye contact with each person while gesturing to them. If you want to add a level of sophistication to your introduction, use a different hand for each person and then bring them together to signify connection. For example, “Sylvia [make eye contact and gesture with hand closest to her], I’d like you to meet Zachary [make eye contact and gesture with other hand]. I know you both enjoy gardening [bring hands together].” This subtle signal sends a strong, subconscious “friend, not foe” message.
- Communicate safety nonverbally: Use confident, open body language—stand up tall, claim space, and free up your arms. Also, breathe. Calm, relaxed breathing sends the message that there’s nothing to worry about. All is well!
- Use words: Signal verbally that you’re making an introduction. In casual circumstances a simple, “this is” works fine, such as, “Chloe, this is Sarah.” If the situation is more formal, you can say, “I’d like to introduce you to…” or “I’d like you to meet…” Whatever words you use, give the people involved a heads up that an introduction is coming.
- Provide information: Obviously, you will give the names of the people you’re introducing, but that’s not enough. Also share who they are, such as their role at the company or their relationship to you. If you’ve forgotten or don’t actually know these details (including their name), just say so. Many people are terrible with names and won’t hold it against you if you’ve forgotten, especially if you keep it light and don’t go too long pretending you know. Say, “Kayla, here is someone I think you’d like to meet; however, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit [turn to the other person] that I don’t actually know your name!”
- Facilitate conversation: In addition to sharing names and roles, give a little background information that you think may spark a conversation. You could relate common interests that both parties share, interesting hobbies or talents, how you met, a fun anecdote, etc. This can be the most challenging part of an introduction, especially if you tend to be more introverted and weren’t prepared to make the introduction. Often it simply takes a moment or two of thought, and if you’re breathing well, your thoughts will come to you more quickly and fluidly.
When you’re being introduced, remember that the whole goal of this ritual is to contribute to how comfortable, safe, and included everyone feels. Be gracious. Give attention rather than seeking it. Use pleasant nonverbals: smile, make eye contact, maybe nod your head. Repeat the person’s name once they’ve been introduced (this helps you remember it and makes a good impression). Pick up the conversation and gauge the needs of the other person—do they need you to talk? listen? ask questions? Be present.
And while you don’t want to make others have to ask for an introduction, because you’re such a proactive person, you can ask for one if others neglect to offer—or you can simply introduce yourself.
Many people out there are feeling a little rusty regarding their social skills, a little rough around the edges. If that’s you, don’t withdraw. Count it as your good deed for the day to show up, be present, and make others feel welcome and valuable. If you’re not uncomfortable in social situations, gently and sensitively drawing others out can also be a good deed.
We need each other. We need connection. Stretch your comfort zone a bit and be a catalyst for connection.