IIntroducing – oneself or others – is one of the most frequent social “rituals”. Yet it can often cause problems.
«I am a Pisces, ascendant mayonnaise…»
For a number of reasons it is easy to feel awkward and become stiff as a board, or on the contrary to start talking non-stop, just like Renato Pozzetto does in Questo e Quello (This and That).
To manage introducing with ease – both socially and professionally – just keep a couple of basic rules in mind.
«By the time he’d been introduced to half the people there, Fantozzi was already completely drunk.»
First of all, there’s the question of who should be introduced to whom. According to etiquette, the least “important” person is introduced to the person of greater prestige, saying their name clearly. This is why the young are introduced to the elderly, interns to managers… the modest accountant Ugo Fantozzi to the illustrious Countess Serbelloni Mazzanti Vien dal Mare.
A good habit is not to stop at someone’s name: you can tell something about the people who are introducing themselves to provide useful ideas to continue the conversation. At work, you can briefly specify what each does for a living, while in private it is enough to share some anecdotes. Just like Giorgio does when he introduces Milton to Fulvia in the Taviani brothers’ recent Una Questione Privata.
Despite our best intentions and every possible trick, there are however times when you inevitably feel stranded. It happens, for example, when we mishear someone’s name. Don’t panic: a poker face is enough to face the situation head-on. A simple “Have you two met?” can be useful to get out of trouble.
Don’t believe it? Look at how Ugo Tognazzi and his companions pull this off (with ease) in an epic scene from Amici Miei, in which they introduce themselves to the hosts (whom they have obviously never seen before) at the party they have crashed.
A meeting is usually sealed by a handshake. And here begins another chapter. First of all, it should be the person to whom the other was introduced (and therefore, as we saw above, the “most prestigious” person) who should be the first to stretch out their hand. Also, the way we shake hands says a lot about us. A “floppy” hand (which Italians also call “dead fish”), immediately conveys little empathy and disinterest. On the contrary, a “bone crusher” like Adriano Celentano’s is a very immediate way to convey a certain arrogance.
It is, therefore, better to avoid excessively lively handshakes, unless the intent (as for Celentano) is precisely to intimidate.
The ideal handshake is energetic but not aggressive, and is accompanied by a visual contact that lasts for a few seconds (and that is also useful for memorizing the other’s features). Again, on the subject of bon ton, it is also advisable to remember that you always stand up when introduced.
«My name is Silvio, I’m from Milan… and I only came because the psychoanalyst ordered me to»
Introducing oneself is a practice that was completely discouraged until very recently; today, however, especially in the professional field, is widespread and appreciated.
It normally happens when a group of people who do not know each other come together to study or work. In order to understand who is in front of you, it is a good idea to open meetings with a “round table”, during which all members say something about themselves… Perhaps without revealing anything too personal, as Renato Pozzetto does in the cult scene from Noi Uomini Duri.
Think of networking meetings or all those crowded situations in which we do not know other guests and the hosts are too busy introducing everyone else to everyone else. We need only introduce ourselves: the important thing is to proceed politely, without being aggressive or thuggish. Which could also be useful for the Gorilla K2 played by Alberto Sordi.
It may also be useful to have two or three sentences ready to “declare” who you are and what you do, perhaps without taking a leaf from Diego Abatantuono’s book: remember how Attila memorably (though perhaps not exactly elegantly) introduced himself?