Etiquette Guide: First Impressions and Introductions

– By Diana Minnocci –

It’s no surprise that Emily Post would begin her landmark Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home with a focus on introductions. First impressions, as we’ve so often been told, do last a lifetime. While Post’s guide became a best seller in 1922, and some of the formalities she enumerates have since become obsolete, a lot of her advice is still invaluable to the woman who hopes to put her best (stiletto-heeled) foot forward. Here we’ve compiled a list of the introductory etiquette rules that every fashionable lady should live by.

 Introducing Others

If you’re the one making the introduction, be sure to use full names. Post writes that you should introduce those of an older age to those of younger age, but she also believes that men should always be introduced to women; a more modern rule would be to introduce the person you’ve known for a shorter period of the time to the one whom you know well. Quick tip: When in doubt, simply name the person you want to impress first. If you’re introducing someone with a professional title, like a doctor or politician, use the appropriate designation and only their last name. If the professional in question wants to be addressed by her first name, she will take it upon herself to offer it.

Etiquette, like style, is eternal.

 If You’ve Forgotten a Name

It’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact of life that you’ll forget a name you should have remembered. To save face, you might turn to someone you know well and casually introduce them to the other party. When executed correctly, it’s a really clever way to avoid embarrassment. But, if you’re concerned that you won’t be able to do that gracefully enough, Post explains that you should be honest in the most polite way possible: an “I’m sorry, but I seem to have forgotten your name” will work in a pinch.

 Meeting Someone New

After you’ve been introduced, always offer a handshake. It may seem antiquated in an informal setting, but it’s better to extend your hand than to risk looking disinterested. If you find yourself sitting at the moment of introduction, and you are able to rise, you should do so. (All the better to allow for a full view of your outfit, right?) And, it’s generally helpful to repeat the person’s name as you shake hands, as researchers have found that it aids in recall.

Of course, research also suggests that initial impressions are based upon non-verbal cues and especially appearance more than anything else. So be sure to always dress to impress, and, if all else fails, you’ll still win points for style.


Diana Minnocci is a freelance fashion writer with graduate degrees in English and Women’s Studies. She’s particularly obsessed with fine lingerie and red lipstick, and is a lover of all things vintage. You can follow her on Twitter @dianaminnocci.
Feature photo credit: Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia

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