The [Dying?] Art of Introductions
The [Dying?] Art of Introductions

The [Dying?] Art of Introductions

Last week I atten­ded a writers’ event with a group I’ve just joined: the Tri-City Word­smiths. I entered the room with a little anxi­ety, think­ing it likely I wouldn’t know any­one. Turned out there were two people I knew, so I could tell my anxi­ety to stuff it. Still, when the lead­er of the group sug­ges­ted we go around the room and intro­duce ourselves, I was pleased.

I told my daugh­ter about it later, and she said, “Oh no! I hate the whole ‘go around the room’ thing, can we just not??”

Now, I’m an intro­vert; my daugh­ter is more like a full-on recluse. So I under­stand her point of view. But I explained to her that I like the intro­duc­tion phase. She prefers to not speak or be spoken to unless she chooses. For me, how­ever, the intro­duc­tions help me cross a line from not feel­ing wel­come to feel­ing welcome.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine came over with her daugh­ter who’s a bit young­er than mine. I for­got to intro­duce the daugh­ters to each oth­er, for which I apo­lo­gized to my daugh­ter later. She said it was fine, because obvi­ously they each knew who the oth­er was.

Well, yeah, but…

This is what really got me think­ing about intro­duc­tions. Is it an archa­ic prac­tice? Or is there really some sort of social bar­ri­er that is removed, a door that is opened, that helps people to engage in conversation?

In Jane Aus­ten nov­els we read about intro­duc­tions being required in soci­ety before a per­son should engage in con­ver­sa­tion. Des­pite his reas­on­ing, Mr. Collins broke a social more by speak­ing to Mr. Darcy without an intro­duc­tion. I’m not talk­ing about hav­ing per­mis­sion to speak to a per­son you don’t know; I’m talk­ing about feel­ing at ease speak­ing to a per­son you don’t know. This is not an issue for every­one, but it cer­tainly is for some. With the intro­duc­tion we are no longer strangers, but acquaint­ances, which makes enga­ging in con­ver­sa­tion easier.

I am a very wel­com­ing per­son and, des­pite my intro­ver­ted tend­en­cies, am often the one to speak to someone in a group who doesn’t appear to know any­one, (prob­ably because I can relate to that situ­ation). When the tables are turned, and I’m the one who doesn’t know any­one, if no one takes on that role, I’m left in that awk­ward pos­i­tion of hav­ing to pre­tend to be out­go­ing, and intro­duce myself. Some­times I can’t bring myself to do that. Without those intro­duc­tions I would be more com­pelled to sit by myself and not speak to any­one, after which I would go away feel­ing less inclined to return.

If I go to a gath­er­ing that is hos­ted (a party, or a meet­ing, as opposed to a conference/convention where it’s every­one for them­selves) I really appre­ci­ate when the host makes intro­duc­tions, to make sure we have all met. And rather than a simple, “This is Julie,” I love a little snip­pet of how this per­son is related to the host: “This is one of my writer friends, Julie,” or, “This is Julie, my friend from work.” I don’t even mind being re-intro­duced to people I’ve met, because at least the host is mak­ing sure we’ve met. Erring on the side of being extra wel­com­ing. (I’m always intro­du­cing people over and over, and some­times I feel a little silly when I recall that the two parties know each oth­er, but still… I’d rather do that than not at all)

There’s also a thing about names. I used to be really good with remem­ber­ing people’s names, yet over the years that abil­ity has been leak­ing away from me. So even when I’m at a gath­er­ing of people I’ve met, par­tic­u­larly if we’re talk­ing about folks I have met only a few times, and infre­quently, I feel like a total dummy, and embar­rassed, because I can’t remem­ber a person’s name.

Even when a per­son is being intro­duced, hosts rarely use full names any­more. And yet you can learn so much from know­ing a person’s full name.

I recall the time my friend Catri­ona intro­duced my at-the-time fiancé to her moth­er, using his full name, and it turned out she grew up with his dad in Scot­land, some­thing they would nev­er have learned if Cat hadn’t used his full name. Her mom was able to reach out and remake her old friend’s acquaintance.

What if it’s a per­son you have heard of by name, but don’t know their face very well? If you’re only giv­en their first name you have no way of know­ing it’s a per­son you’d heard of and are pleased to have met face to face.

My folks were con­sum­mate hosts. My mum was a big pro­ponent of the Full Intro­duc­tion (using full names), because she loved learn­ing about people, their back­grounds, who they’re related to, and so forth. She loved form­ing con­nec­tions that way. Vis­it­ors always felt com­fort­able and wel­come in their home.

My daugh­ter says that in her gen­er­a­tion, intro­duc­tions aren’t a thing. If she goes to a party, nobody makes sure every­one has met. Usu­ally, she says, people just go and talk to oth­er guests. They say, “My name’s Sandra,” or they just start talk­ing. OR, she just winds up talk­ing only to the people she already knows. She says she doesn’t find it to be a problem…

Except that recently she atten­ded a baby shower, where the host didn’t intro­duce people. My daugh­ter only knew three people there, and those were the only people she talked to the whole time. None of the folks she didn’t know intro­duced them­selves to her, and she didn’t speak to them. She came home feel­ing “Meh” about the whole event.

Are intro­duc­tions a lost art? Is the non-intro­duc­tion bar­ri­er that I feel real? Or does my daughter’s gen­er­a­tion think everything is fine without The Intro­duc­tion simply because they don’t know what they don’t know?

I would love to try an exper­i­ment with three rooms of people: in Room One, a host-type-per­son intro­duces every­one. In Room Two, we have a few pairs or tri­os who know each oth­er, but nobody else in the room. In Room Three no one knows anyone.

The nat­ur­al inclin­a­tions of the indi­vidu­als will play a role, for sure: how many intro­verts and extro­verts are in each room? That sort of thing. But I would be inter­ested to see what the dynam­ic and mood is like in each space.

Mean­while, I’m going to err on the side of intro­du­cing people, and mak­ing cer­tain that guests feel as wel­come as pos­sible. And I’ll appre­ci­ate it when oth­ers do the same for.

Hi, I’m Krista Wal­lace. Nice to meet you.