For many people making introductions when in social situations remains uncomfortable and confusing. But following these simple rules will earn you the status of the most polite host in your social circle!
First, don’t stress about forgetting someone’s name, or title, and let this stop you from introducing people to each other. The only truly rude thing you can do is not to introduce people that you know have not been introduced. If you forget someone’s name, apologize, and keep going with the introductions. Don’t keep apologizing – once is enough.
Second, introduce people by the names they prefer. If you are in a casual situation, you don’t always have to use someone’s full name and title. Use your discretion to realize when just the first names are enough.
Third, speak clearly. Rushing through an introduction, or mumbling someone’s name defeats the whole purpose. If you are unsure of someone’s name, or its pronunciation, say just that: “I am not sure how to pronounce your name. Could you say it for me?”, or “I am sorry, I am momentarily forgetting your name.” Mumbling a name instead is more likely to make the other person feel slighted then admitting you’ve forgotten it.
The fourth rule is especially for those who fancy themselves match-makers, or truly believe the two people they are introducing will become instant friends – don’t over-share during the introduction! It very well may be that you are right, and a year from now the couple you’ve just introduced will be sending you a wedding invitation with a special thank you, but for now they are strangers, so keep excessive praise and personal details to yourself.
Rule number five applies both when you are introducing someone, as well as when you are the one being introduced. Look at the person you are introducing, or being introduced to. Looking around signals to the other person that you don’t really care.
Six, the order in which people are introduced can be important, so use your judgement. Usually, a younger person is introduced to an older person, and someone of a higher standing is named first, though the other person is introduced to him, or her, first. (As in: “Mrs. Jones, I’d like you to meet Alan Brown.”) Also, traditionally, men are introduced to women.
Seven, be courteous with your introduction. Don’t interrupt a serious conversation to introduce someone new, and don’t order people to meet each other. Say “I’d like you to meet So-and-so.” not “Come here and shake So-and-so’s hand.”
Eight, when introducing someone to a group, be sure to mention everyone’s name. Don’t say something like: “Everybody, this is John. John, meet everybody!” Take the time to name names. This will probably not ensure that John will remember everyone’s name, but it will mean that everyone will be aware that they are being introduced, and not continue chatting among themselves, completely unaware that they are being introduced.
Nine, don’t repeat names, or go into confusing relationship explanations. It is unnecessary to say “Emma, this is Tom. Tom, meet Emma.” Mentioning the names once is enough. Likewise, it is unnecessary to explain that Tom is your cousin twice removed, whose mother your guest may remember from two years ago, and who also happens to be their late uncle’s old neighbor. This is confusing and irrelevant during the introduction, though may prove to be an interesting topic of conversation later on, so save it for then!
And finally, rule number ten: use your better judgement! Modern etiquette is about making people around you feel comfortable and welcome, not about following rigid rules. If you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. Apologize once, keep going, and concentrate on everyone around you having a good time instead.