You might not think it is that important to know how to make an introduction. It’s not a skill that most of us are taught, either by our parents or in school. Some people naturally figure this out, but if you have social anxiety and tend to avoid meeting new people altogether, you might struggle with knowing where to begin with this.
The first thing to consider is the types of situations in which you might need to make an introduction. If you think about this ahead of time, then you won’t be at a loss for words in that particular social setting.
How to Make an Introduction: Introducing Yourself
You will find as you go through life there are numerous situations in which it is an advantage to know how to introduce yourself. Whether you are anxious or not, sticking to a script or protocol as to introductions will help to alleviate that feeling of awkwardness about not knowing what to do next.
- Simple really is best. Just say, “Hi, I’m Sarah.” Don’t launch into a description of yourself or who you are. This will come out in later conversation.
- Unless you are in a business setting, don’t try to prop yourself up with job titles or accomplishments. Only say what helps the other person get to know who you are.
- Focus on the other person. Ask questions and listen after you introduce yourself.
I remember one particularly good example of this from a school meeting I attended. The parents were set in small groups at tables for the night, and a woman came over and sat down at our table. “Hi, I’m Kathy.” She said with a smile. After learning our names, she followed it up with, “How old are your children?” It was simple and perfect for the setting we were in, and got us talking right away. Always consider the setting, and the simplest question that seems relevant, after you make the name introductions.
This works well if you’re in a setting where it’s obvious who you should be introducing yourself to. What if you’re at a party, don’t really know anybody, and need to find someone to talk to? The same rules apply. Find someone who looks sympathetic, walk up and say, “Hi, My name is Heather.” Then ask a question or make a statement relevant to the situation, such as “How do you know Tom?” or “Great party, eh?” (Forgive my Canadianism – eh means, “Don’t you think?”)
Some people with social anxiety get hung up after the introduction. You might know how to say your name and shake hands, but then you find there standing awkwardly with nothing to say. If you’ve followed up the introduction with a question, the easy way to continue is to keep with that line of questioning (without sounding like an interrogator).
Here, you can try mixing together signs that you are listening with signs that you want to learn more. A good rule of thumb is to ask at least three follow-up questions on a topic before letting it drop.
It could look something like this:
“Hi, my name is Amy.”
“Hi, I’m Michellle.” (shake hands)
“So, are you from around here?”
“Yes I’m actually Carol’s neighbor across the street.”
“Oh really? How long have you lived there?”
“A few years. We moved here after my husband was relocated for work.”
“Oh, that must have been quite the transition. Where were you coming from?”
If you listen intently, most people drop clues about what they want you to talk about next. Some people will start a monologue about themselves, but most will give a sentence or two, with the expectation that you will further the topic with a question. If you don’t ask the natural question, that conversation dies quickly, and you will quickly run out of things to say.
So remember, try to ask at least three questions before dropping a topic, but feel free to ask more if it feels natural.
How to Make an Introduction: Talking About Yourself
Remember that eventually, people are going to start asking you about yourself. If everyone followed the rule of asking questions, we’d all be listening and not talking. And that doesn’t work. As much as your socially anxious self might want to avoid it, eventually you will need to talk about yourself during an introduction. This is how people can get to know more about you, which is the whole point of the introduction. If you keep getting stuck at hello, this is where you need to focus your attention next.
Think of the common questions you are likely to be asked, and have a series of answers ready.
Some common topics that will come up are your family, work, travel, hobbies, and hometown, so have at least one sentence ready to say about each of those.
Try to have something to say that people can relate to, beyond just a job title, etc. For example, author of the Four-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss talked about how he introduced himself as a drug dealer (he actually sold nutritional supplements). It was his way of being interesting. You’ll find your own way.
Don’t forget the most interesting bits of yourself either.
How to Make an Introduction: The Forgotten Introduction
How to Make an Introduction: Add Your Own Value
As a person with social anxiety, it’s easy to slip into the trap of feeling like you are not a person worthy of meeting. Maybe you try to avoid introductions because you feel like you will have nothing to say and it will become awkward.
Here, it’s helpful to draw on the core value of wanting to help other people when practicing how to make an introduction.
So, once you are introduced, start thinking about the problems that person might be facing and how you can help him or her overcome them. Instead of just making aimless small talk, zero in on how you can make a real difference.
You can do this by asking questions that go a little deeper than the mundane.
How do you do this?
Do some research beforehand, so you know who you will be meeting. This won’t always be possible, but when it is, it’s really helpful to have something to drawn on when you make conversation or ask questions. Social media makes this really easy to do. And if you get the chance to converse on social media before an actual in-person introduction, research tells us that is all the better.
How do you handle making introductions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. In the meantime, I challenge you to introduce yourself to ten new people over the next few months. Keep a running tally, and you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to learn better how to make an introduction.