No one likes awkward social encounters, but we have all experienced them. And sometimes the gesture that can remedy those feelings of awkwardness is a simple introduction.
Following are three common instances in which you can recover awkwardness with an introduction:
“Conversation With A Stranger” Awkwardness: You have been in conversation with someone for more than a few minutes, yet neither of you has introduced yourself. The key to remember is that the quicker you introduce yourself, the less awkward it will be. By being quick to say, “by the way, my name is Antoinette. And yours?” it shows confidence and interest. It shows that you value them because you care enough to know their name. You may be thinking, “what about people you meet in passing and start up a conversation? The person that you will probably never see again?” In this situation, your initial thought may be, “what is the use of introducing myself?’ However, if your goal is to portray confidence that can eliminate any awkwardness, take that step and introduce yourself. The probability that you will never see them again shouldn’t be a condition.
“I’ve Known Who You Are For Awhile But We’ve Never Met” Awkwardness: You encounter someone frequently whom you’ve never officially met—maybe from another department at work or you someone you commonly see in your neighborhood. You perhaps have seen them for weeks, or even years, and yet neither of you has taken the step to introduce yourself. Acknowledge the elephant in the room. You can say something such as, “I know we have encountered each other many times, but we’ve never officially met. My name is Antoinette.” Once you’ve taken the initiative, you will most likely discover the other person will be friendlier to you in subsequent encounters. One of my clients experienced this with a neighbor whom he had passed for about a year on walks. Once he introduced himself, he said the next day the passing neighbor engaged in small talk and the conversation flowed seamlessly. But remember, the longer you wait, the more awkward it will become. Remember the famous Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
“I Don’t Remember Your Name” Awkwardness: You have previously met someone, but you have forgotten their name. And now you are in an awkward situation in which, to be polite, you need to introduce them to the person you are with–let’s say your friend, David. The worst thing you can do is to ignore any kind of introduction because of your memory fail. Instead, take the initiative and show confidence by saying, “I am so sorry I forgot your name” or “please remind me of your name” and then introduce them to David. However, if you are in a situation where you should obviously know the person’s name and admitting that you cannot remember would be embarrassing, there is something you can do, which in my experience, works every time. Simply look at the person who you cannot remember their name and say, “I’d like you to meet my friend, David.” The other person will then automatically self-introduce, and the social encounter will flow smoothly.
Did you notice a commonality in all three instances above?
The common theme is that the awkwardness is felt because the of a delayed introduction. And Ironically, that awkwardness we feel can tempt us to delay the introduction indefinitely. The longer the delay, the more awkward it feels. Remember the famous Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”, don’t wait for the other person! It portrays outward confidence while making the other person feel valued, and many times relieved that you took the initiative.