Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

Please provide a refresher on greeting and introductions.

Many times recently I’ve had to introduce myself to other guests at a gathering because the host neglected this duty. Then I ended up introducing them to each other too! What’s up with that?

In other group activities such as small group exercise class, I’ve introduced myself to people, but they don’t tell me their names in return. Should I assume they want to be left alone?

Thanks for your advice.

Denise DeVries, Kilmarnock

Dear Ms. DeVries,

Right off the bat, I confess. The topic of introductions is not only the most involved area of etiquette I teach but, at times, I myself have gotten ensnarled in the finer points of making them. It is a big subject and, if a reader ever asks, I will be happy to synopsize it in a column. But in this column, I want to respond to your puzzlement over just one component, self-introductions.

In deference to your inattentive host, there is a lot to attend to at the beginning of a party. You don’t mention the size of the event, but could he have been greeting other arriving guests or refreshing appetizers and drinks? Could he have thought everyone knew everyone else? If the answer is no and, instead, he was involved in extended conversation about the rising price of almond milk, shame on him! One of the most important responsibilities of a host is to break the ice by introducing guests to each other.

Hurrah for you, though! In the absence of an introducer, you did the right thing and presented yourself to your companions. To do so, we need only say, “Hi.  I don’t believe we have met. My name is John Doe” or simply, “Hello. My name is Suzy Queu.”

We can reasonably assume that if someone wants to be left alone, they won’t attend a small group offering or a party. If they make eye contact, I think you are safe to speak to them. After all, even if they are working undercover they can give you an alias. So, if the other person fails to give us their name, it is not an invasion of their privacy to ask, “And your name is?”

I greatly admire self-introducers. For some of us, it is difficult to make that step for fear that we should already know the other person and might offend them. Or if we find ourselves in the position of introducing two people to each other, we fear they might know each other already and we would seem presumptuous.

However, if there weren’t people such as you, there would be a world of people who would leave events wondering who they were just with. Please don’t stop; I hope I will have the pleasure of your introducing yourself to me one day!

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at