Etiquette for Young Adults: Meetings and Introductions


It is important to understand how to properly introduce yourself and how to introduce others. For some, polite forms of greeting are natural, but for most people, particularly children and teens, mostly because they are unfamiliar with the ritual, it is an awkward, uncomfortable situation for young people. It need not be. With a little guidance and a lot of practice, greeting others will become comfortable and natural and will make others feel comfortable being around you.

How to introduce yourself

When meeting someone for the first time, look him or her in the eyes with a non-challenging, friendly gaze and simply start with "hello/hi, my name is __________." Provide some information about yourself, with your name as a point of reference. Use the setting to guide you. If you are at a gathering with your parents and you are meeting adults, children, or teens who know them, introduce yourself as their child. "Hi, my name is Mary; I'm William and Judith Bartholomew's daughter/son." If you are at a school event, then be sure to mention what grade you are in and who your teacher is. "Hi, my name is Mary, I'm a 7th grade student here; my teacher is Mrs. Rupp." Allow the person time to reply with his or her name and some information about themselves. Respond to inquiries politely, and listen when the person speaks to you. If he or she asks a question that you don't know the answer to, direct them to an adult who can answer their question.

The other party will usually respond by giving his or her name. After the "formal" name and brief information exchange has taken place, you should initiate an "ice breaker." An ice breaker is more information about yourself, or a question to the other person that engages them in a brief conversation. If they haven't given you enough information about themselves, use a general question for your ice breaker. Here are some examples:

How are you enjoying the party/event/gathering?

How do you know _________________?

Do you live in the area?

Discussing sports, music, personal hobbies or interests, school information, and/or current events and news are all good things to talk about with strangers. Stay away from controversial topics, and don't ask or offer very personal information. It is considered rude to ask strangers prying, personal questions. Keep first introductions light and easy. Keep in mind, that even if you have met someone several times, asking or offering very personal negative information is inappropriate and usually makes people uncomfortable.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Etiquette for Children and Teens course?

How to introduce someone else

Whenever you are in the company of people you know, who do not know each other, you should introduce them to each other. Consider yourself a good will ambassador in these situations. For example, if you are at a movie with a friend and you run into a group of classmates, you should introduce your friend to your classmates. You could say something like the following:

"Laura and Teresa, this is my friend Madison, she plays basketball with me. Madison, these are my friends from school, Laura and Teresa."

Other introductions follow the same protocol, whether you are introducing family members, friends, or acquaintances. If you are the only one who knows all parties, it is your "job" to introduce those you know to each other.
Handshaking properly is a matter of practice. You want to exude confidence and self assurance when shaking someone's hand. You are conveying to the other person that you are happy to meet him or her. A good handshake makes a great first impression, so make it positive and memorable. If you have a weak, limp handshake, you are telling the other person, "I'm not sure of myself and I'm not sure I want to meet you." If you grip too hard, you are causing the other person pain! Yes, a too hard hand squeeze actually hurts! So be careful not to "vise grip," the other person. Essentially, your grip should be firm, but not painfully so, and you should look the person in the eye as you shake his or her hand. Also, you should not hold onto the person's hand too long or too briefly. To get your own technique down so that it is comfortable, practice with family and friends. It is best if you can practice with an adult who often has to shake hands for business interactions and meetings. If someone extends their hand to you in greeting, do not leave him or her hanging, always reach out in return and shake. As you practice, keep in mind that the point is to make the other person feel comfortable and at ease. Do not hug or kiss strangers in greeting.

When introducing yourself to someone your own age or younger, a handshake may seem too formal; let your good judgment be your guide. A simple, "Hello, my name is___________," works well for those your own age. It is still appropriate to provide some information about yourself, as explained in the "Introducing yourself" section, and to give an ice breaker by asking the person your own age a question or two about themselves.

How to greet family, friends, and guests
In casual situations, it is appropriate and favorable to greet friends and family in a casual way. A wave, a smile, a hug, or a kiss on the cheek are all fine ways to say hi to friends and family members who are visiting. Keep in mind, that when you are seeing family members you have not seen for a while, it is appropriate and polite to shake hands, hug or provide a kiss on the cheek. It is also necessary to spend some time speaking with them. Depending on how close you have been previously, you should hug them or shake his or her hand warmly. You should ask how they are and what is new with them. If you are aware of interests of theirs, you should inquire about them. You should also inquire about other family members that they live with, or are close to. When speaking with close friends and family, it is not impolite to ask more personal questions or give more personal information. For instance, it is perfectly fine to ask about a family member who may have been ill or was having some difficulty. Likewise, it is fine to offer information that is personal in nature. Use good judgment though; your parents may not want "Great Aunt Katherine" to know that your sister eloped with a boy she met in college, or that your grandmother has become very forgetful lately. If you are unsure about what is okay to share with extended family and friends, ask your parents beforehand if it is okay. They will appreciate your discretion.
Conclusion Introductions are not mysterious, nor do they have to be awkward. Once you have practiced the proper introduction etiquette, you will find it gets easier. After time, it becomes second nature. When introducing yourself, be confident, but not cocky or egotistical. When introducing others, be sure to give some information about each party to the other. It helps give them a point of reference. Don't forget to give some information and to ask polite questions about the other person. As long as you are not asking overly personal information of strangers, this is not considered rude or nosy.

Conversation and Listening Skills


This article will focus more on how to start, continue, and end a conversation. A good conversation has many purposes. It allows you to get to know others better, it helps them get to know you better/ It gives you different views and opinions, and provides a wealth of information. Conversing with close family and friends is not addressed here because rules of "etiquette" do not apply to those we are close to. However, there is certain etiquette to follow when conversing with anyone other than close friends and family members.

How to start a conversation

When getting to know anyone, it is best to start a conversation with a general question about the other person. It is also good to provide information about yourself, your interests, and your life. Often, once these general bits of information are passed between people, a commonality is established. For instance, you may mention that you enjoy basketball, the other person tells you they also really enjoy the sport. The conversation can flow and develop from that one common interest. Most people like to talk about themselves or their interests. The key that unlocks the door of conversation is asking the right questions that will get a person talking, then finding something you have in common to discuss. Try different questions until you find one that gets a conversation going.

Some people are easy to talk to, while others are not. When dealing with those who are shy, reserved, or just quiet, don't push them too hard to converse. Ask them a few general questions about themselves and see if that breaks the ice. If not, offer some information about yourself and see if that gets them talking. If they still don't seem interested in talking. Let it go. Don't ever force someone to talk to you, or make them feel uncomfortable for not doing so. Most importantly, be kind. The person may be having a bad day, or have a personal issue, or is just very shy. Do not take it personally and do not insult the person for not speaking with you. Politely excuse yourself, and meet someone else who prefers to talk.

What topics, and which situations, to avoid

There are some topics that are off limits -- basically, any topic that would make another person uncomfortable. A good general rule of thumb is, "if it would make you uncomfortable, angry, or annoyed" if the topic were brought up to you, then chances are it will make the other person uncomfortable, annoyed, or angry too. If you are an easy-going type, don't assume that others are as easy going, too. For instance, you may be fine discussing the cons of private schools, even if you attend one, but someone else may not want to hear negative comments about the school they attend. "Touchy" or potentially dangerous subjects often involve negative comments about religion, politics, and ethnicity. These are personal, highly charged topics that are best saved for someone who knows you better. Someone who does not know you may misunderstand your comments.

How to listen well
Listening well is a skill that takes practice and patience. It mostly involves paying attention to what another person is really saying. It is a good feeling to be heard, and if you want others to listen to you, you have to listen to them, too. Waiting for someone to finish talking so that you can say what you want to say, is not listening. Interrupting someone so you can say something is not listening. Thinking about what you are going to do on the weekend while someone is talking, is not listening, either. It takes focus to really hear what another person is saying. Some people are easy to listen to. They may be interesting and fun and they may talk about things that you want to hear, so it is not hard to listen to them. However, not all people you talk to will be this engaging. This is where etiquette really comes in. You should politely listen to people, even if they are not saying things that are interesting to you. When your mind starts to wander, focus in on what the person is saying. Make eye contact, nod and ask questions. This lets the other person know you are really hearing what they are saying, and that makes people feel good. Think about how you feel when someone is really listening to what you have to say -- doesn't make you feel good? It is polite to show others that same consideration and respect. That is good etiquette in practice.

Getting others involved in a conversation

If you are having a conversation, and another person joins you, it is good etiquette to get them involved in the conversation. If you are talking, pause to greet the new person and say, "Hi Madison, we were just talking about last night's basketball game," then finish your conversation or let Madison add her input, too. If another person was talking, wait for him or her to pause, and invite the other person/people into the conversation by telling them what you were talking about. If you were talking about something the new person does not know anything about, change the subject to something that would include them.

Ending or changing a conversation gracefully

If you have been listening politely, but the other person has gone past the limits of being polite to you by talking way too long about something you can't or don't want to discuss, it is fine to steer the conversation to something else. When they pause, change the subject to something that interests both of you. There are times when you have to end a conversation abruptly, rather than let it just end naturally. Maybe you have to leave, or you see someone you have to speak to, or you just feel you do not have anything else to say. The best way to end a conversation is to say, "It was good talking to you. I have to go now, I'll talk to you soon." If the other person keeps talking smile and say, "I really have to go, I'm so late!" If the other person is "on a roll," and you suddenly realize you have to go, let them know the urgency -- say something like this: "I'm so sorry! I just realized I have an appointment. I really have to go; let's continue this conversation later." Then excuse yourself and go. If a conversation begins to get heated, stop the dialogue immediately. Say, "I don't think we should discuss this anymore," or, "I'd rather not talk about this subject anymore," then change the subject. If the person wants to continue with the argument, smile and excuse yourself saying that you have to get something to drink, or that you have to be somewhere. Don't get involved in angry, heated debates with strangers. Change the subject or leave as politely as you can.
Conclusion Starting a conversation is easy with practice. Most people like to talk about themselves or their interests. Ask questions until you find something you have in common with the other person. A conversation will naturally flow from that common thing. Listening well takes practice and patience, always remember how good you feel when you are heard, that will make listening to others much easier. Do not rudely end a conversation. Let it end naturally, if possible; if not, end it gracefully with an explanation or excuse as to why you must end the dialogue.