By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
On January 13, I turned – well, let’s just say another year older. Over the course of my life, I have had many successes. One of them, however, has not been getting people to call me by the name given me at birth – Jennifer. Instead, in many cases, I have been an unwilling participant in being addressed by a name that those around me wish to call me: Jen (most dreaded); Jenny (eh…); Guinevere (not too bad); Glenda (long story).
In Part One of “What’s In a Name,” I lamented about all of this. Then, after taking a big sigh, I provided a list of etiquette tips for addressing people which may be used in social situations and in the business world. In doing so, my hope was to help raise awareness that a person’s name really is important to them; and that to treat it as less than that is not only impolite and disrespectful, it can be hurtful as well.
A social slip-up with a name botch or introduction flounder can be easier to recover from than a serious business blunder that offends a top CEO. So, for those of us involved in careers – whether outside the home or working from home, here in Part Two I offer tips for how to exhibit professional behaviors and employ formalities that will keep you in good favor with your colleagues and supervisors.
But first, an important review of those etiquette tips for addressing people – from Part One:
• Address a person using the name by which you are introduced – unless and until they tell you otherwise. For example, a new employee at work is introduced to you as ‘Michael.’ You shake hands and continue to address him as Michael until he says, “Please, call me Mike.” Then, Mike it is!
• If you are unsure as to what name a person would like to be addressed, ask.
• Don’t make assumptions. Because one person goes by ‘Mike,’ not all Michael’s wish to be addressed as such.
• In regular situations, it is best to use both a person’s first and last name when making introductions. To use only a first name is not introducing the total person.
• In a professional setting, keep the forms of address equal. If you use Ms. Smith, you must use Mr. Brown. You should not say, “Mary, this is Mr. Brown.”
• Mention something about the people you are introducing. This will give them a starting point for their own conversation. “Mary Smith, this is Joe Brown. Joe shares your alma mater.”
Below are helpful hints for addressing those with whom you work and interact with professionally, as well as making proper business introductions. I left out formalities for introducing dignitaries and other notable people, such as elected officials, though if you know you will be in that situation I suggest you research the styles most often used in diplomatic and international arenas.
• The first person’s name you say is always the most important person in terms of rank and status. In business, these are the typical determinants as to who is introduced first; gender and age are usually not factors in a professional situation.
• Following this initial introduction, everyone else’s name is introduced to that most important person.
On Advanced Etiquette’s internet site, specific wording for making introductions is addressed (www.advancedetiquette.com). For a formal introduction, it is strongly emphasized to never use the word “meet” when introducing people because the emphasis will be thrown off the most important person to the wrong person. Readers are asked to identify who is the Chief Financial Officer and who is the newly hired staff member, in the below introduction:
“Jane Doe, I would like you to meet John Smith.”
If, by following proper introduction “protocol” in which the most important person introduced is the first one, the CFO is Jane. However, by the way this sentence reads, John is the more important person. To keep things clear, it is suggested that you use the words “this is” as the bridge between saying the most important person’s name first and then introducing the second person as in:
“Jane Doe this is John Smith, our new staff member. Jane Doe is our CFO.”
The Advanced Etiquette site also cautions against getting too wordy when using the word “introduce” and suggests that saying, “Jane Doe may I introduce John Smith” is preferable to may I introduce to you (correct, yet wordy); or may I introduce you to (incorrect because switching the words “to you” to “you to” once again directs the emphasis away from the most important person.
Albeit, some might perceive these etiquette rules as “over the top.” At your next opportunity, however, pay close attention to how people meet and greet, talk, and interact in a business setting. Those who are able to do so properly, professionally, and seamlessly really do stand out among those who cannot “hold their own” in this regard. If you also want to appear knowledgeable and well-spoken, it will benefit you to brush up on how to address and introduce those with whom you are involved professionally. Similarly, in a social setting you will make everyone around you feel comfortable, respected, and as though you are truly interested in them!
These etiquette rules may not always be easy to remember, yet they can become a more natural part of your daily interactions if you just put them into practice. The easiest way to remember a person’s name is simply to use it – and people feel important and valued when you do. There is no better way to connect with others, and be seen as someone who can move about comfortably in professional and social circles, then to truly understand what’s in a name!
- Do you have any “mind tricks” you use to remember names when introduced to new people at a social event?
- What do you think about the etiquette tips shared in this two-part blog series – whether for a social or a business setting? Are your colleagues and business associates making proper introductions?
- Do you believe some of these “rules” of introduction are still relevant in today’s business world? Is this an important part of doing business?
- Any thoughts and insights you have will be helpful to our readers, and we are interested to know your opinions – please share!