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June 17, 2011
Are Your Introductions Worse Than George Costanza's?
 
Whether you’re making out with someone whose name you can’t remember or you missed connecting with someone you’ve been trying to meet for a year, the root of the problem is the same: poor introductions.

In a famous Seinfeld episode, Jerry is dating a woman whose name he can’t remember but feels he can’t ask her since they’ve already made out. All he knows is it rhymes with a female genital part. So he asks his friend, George Costanza, to stop by for a quick hello so he can catch the woman’s name. George pops in and says, “Hi, I’m George Costanza.” Mystery Woman says, “Nice to meet you.” George then turns to Jerry, shrugs his shoulders, and mutters on his way out, “Hey, I tried.”

That’s trying?

Friends Don’t Make Friends Say “Mulva”
If George had done a better introduction, he would have followed up with, “And your name is?” But like most people, he stinks at introductions. So Jerry was forced to guess at his date’s name and blurt out, “Mulva.” Of course, Mulva (aka Dolores) should have been better at following up and said her name to George. Jerry should have been a better listener, because he probably never even heard his date’s name in the first place since no one pays attention during introductions. There’s plenty of blame all the way around.

How to Make Introductions In Person
I am a staunch feminist and believe women and men are equally intelligent, yada, yada. But in general, women are awful at introductions. And the bar is low because men aren’t so great either. Here are some key tips that everyone can use:

If you are introducing just yourself:

1. Smile, get eye contact, and hold it for a beat. Do not be scanning the room, looking at your reflection, or anything else.

2. I can’t believe this needs to be said. But it does. Hold out your hand and give a firm handshake. Ladies: pretty much all of you are terrible at this. Stop with the passive, limp, holding-out-your-hand-as-if-you’re-getting-a-manicure handshake. Give a good couple of pumps.

3. Clearly say your name and supply a blip of information. “Hello, I’m George, I designed Jerry’s house.” or “Hi, I’m Elaine, the bride’s sister.”

4. Don’t be a low talker. Speak up.

5. The other person may only reply, “Nice to meet you.” (Ladies, I am talking to you). In that case, you’ll have to say, “And your name is?”

6. When the other person says their name, do not be multitasking in your mind what witty thing you are going to say next. Your only task: listen to the name. Repeat it in your head.

7. Repeat the name back to the person and, if possible, ask something about the name. “Is that Sara with an ‘H’ ?” If you’re up for it, add, “Because Sarahs with an H were always the smart ones in class.”

8. Use Japanese manners when it comes to business cards. If you exchange cards, really look at the card and the name. Carefully tuck it away.

If you’re introducing two people:
Take a bit of time. Do not just say, “Jim, this is Bob. Bob, Jim.” Instead, “Jim, you know that app we’re always using to find the best bathroom in the city? Bob Benes here designed it. Bob, this is Jim Brown, our company CTO.”

There are More Ways to Make Bad Introductions
Because of email, LinkedIn, and social networking, there are many more ways to do half-assed introductions. Here are some tips to change that.

1. Help the introducer help you. Sometimes bad introductions happen because the person doing the introducing isn’t sure what to say. What are the main things you want them to say about you? Give them three bullet points. They can edit it a bit but this way you’ve done 95% of the work.

2. Ask for help. If you’re the one doing the introductions and aren’t sure what to say, ask for the key bullet points.

3. Think about what’s in it for other person. I get messages that sometimes say, “You should talk to so-and-so.” I appreciate you thinking of me. Give a little bit of story as to why we both would find this beneficial.

Don’t Be Promiscuous With Introductions
Before that second glass of wine, commit that you will not gush to people you’ve just met, “I’m going to introduce you to Ms. Big Wig,” unless you know Big Wig well and have a good feeling she will want to meet your new friend. Otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time and making yourself out to be a flake. Here’s why: You probably will not follow through with the introduction (stop protesting, you know it’s true). Even if you do, Big Wig likely will never respond to your friend. If Big Wig actually does, she often finds it was a big waste of time and vows never to accept your intros any more.  

Set Everyone Up for Success
I’m not saying don’t introduce people. I’m saying make sure your introductions have a possibility for success. And that begins with you following through with the above tips.

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As the editorial director of Mojo40.com, Susan Kim’s goal is to help people over 40 get their career mojo back with content that is helpful, entertaining, and free of marketing-ese like shifting paradigms. She previously was the creative director at advertising.com (AOL). You can connect with her via LinkedIn and Twitter.
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