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How to Handle Introductions Gracefully

Find tips on what to do in awkward introduction moments.

How to Handle Introductions Gracefully

People wince inwardly when you mispronounce their names. It is a serious breach of business etiquette. If you don't know the correct pronunciation of someone's name, ask! If you are still in doubt, ask apologetically for the person to repeat it. Jokes or wisecracks about a person's name are not funny and are offensive.

Say What?

If someone introducing you mispronounces your name or gives you the wrong title, wait until the introductions are over and say: "Jim is not the first person to have trouble pronouncing my name. it's …(give the correct pronunciation)."

And: "I'm afraid Jim has given me a promotion (or demotion). Actually, I'm now …(give the correct pronunciation)."

In any case, don't make a big deal out of it.

If your own name is difficult to pronounce, help the person who is trying to pronounce it—and botching the job. You can smile and say: "It's a tough one, isn't it?" Pronounce it clearly without making a big deal about it. That just calls too much attention to the fact that the other person has made an error.

Coming Up Blank

It happens to everybody. If you're the one making introductions and you forget the name of the person you're introducing, you can say something like "I remember our chat at the Cézanne reception, but I've forgotten your name for the moment" or "Please tell me your name again. I'm having a temporary memory lapse."

Get the name and go right ahead with the introduction. Don't make a big deal out of it by apologizing more than once. Everybody has experienced mental vapor lock from time to time and will understand your predicament.

When you're introduced to someone, say the person's name and repeat it during the conversation to imprint it in your memory.

If you're the one being introduced and the introducer seems to have forgotten your name, jump right in, extend your hand, smile, and offer your name.

Faux Pas

Don't address someone verbally by a corporate title unless you happen to be speaking with the president of the United States, in which case you say, "Mr. President."

Because so much of the corporate culture is based on rank and status, titles are vitally important. You can't refer to a senior vice president as a vice president or to the chief operating officer as the chief executive officer.

In the company of others, especially with people outside your firm, show your boss respect by addressing him or her formally as Mr. or Ms. Smith.

Ms. is the appropriate address for a woman in business, regardless of what she calls herself in her private life. Mrs. and Miss imply social, marital, and sexual distinctions that have no place in the business arena. Of course, if a woman tells you directly that she wants to be addressed as Mrs. or Miss, it is best to comply. However, when using Mrs. in a business context, use the woman's first name rather than her husband's—for example, Mrs. Sally Kelly.

Career-conscious people entering the business world must be aware of more rules of behavior than they could expect to encounter in most social situations. You need to be aware of the sort of behavior that is expected in the world of work so that you can move within that world with confidence and ease.

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