How To Be Polite, Well-Mannered, and Ladylike or Gentlemanly


The custom which prevails in country places of introducing everybody you meet to each other, is both an annoying and an improper one. As a general rule, introductions ought not to be made, except where there is undoubted evidence that the acquaintance would be mutually agreeable and proper.

But if you should find an agreeable person in private society, who seems desirous of making your acquaintance, there cannot be any objection to your meeting his advances half way, although the ceremony of an “introduction” may not have taken place; his presence in your friend’s house being a sufficient guarantee for his respectability, as of course if he were an improper person he would not be there.

It is customary in introducing people, to present the youngest person to the oldest, or the humblest to the highest in position, if there is any distinction.

In introducing a gentleman to a lady, address her first, thus: “Miss Mason, permit me to present you to Mr. Kent;” or, “Mr. Trevor, I have the pleasure of presenting to you Mr. Marlow.” When one lady is married, and the other single, present the single lady to the matron—”Miss Harris, allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Martin.”

When you introduce parties whom you are quite sure will be pleased with each other, it is well to add, after the introduction, that you take great pleasure in making them acquainted, which will be an assurance to each that you think they are well matched, and thus they are prepared to be friends from the start.

In introducing parties, be careful to pronounce each name distinctly, as there is nothing more awkward than to have one’s name miscalled.

In introducing a foreigner, it is proper to present him as “Mr. Leslie, from England;” “Mr. La Rue from France.” Likewise when presenting an American who has recently returned after traveling in distant lands, make him known as “Mr. Dunlap, lately from France,” or “Mr. Meadows, recently from Italy.”

It is very easy to make these slight specifications, and they at once afford an opening for conversation between the two strangers, for nothing will be more natural than to ask “the recently arrived” something about his voyage, or the places he has seen during his travels.

When presenting a governor, designate the State he governs—as, “Governor Fenton of New York.” In introducing a member of Congress, mention the State to which he belongs, as “Mr. Sherman of Ohio,” or “Mr. Banks of Massachusetts.” Do not forget that Congress includes the two legislative bodies.

When introducing any of the members of your own family, mention the name in an audible tone. It is not considered sufficient to say “My father,” “My mother,” “My sister,” or “My brother.” But say, “My father, Mr. Stanley,” “My brother, Mr. Weston,” “My sister, Miss or Mrs. Hope.” It is best to be explicit in all these things, for there may be more than one surname in the family. The eldest daughter should be introduced by her surname only, as, “Miss Sherwood,” her younger sisters, as “Miss Maud Sherwood,” “Miss Mary Sherwood.”

In presenting a clergyman, do not neglect to put “Reverend” before his name. If he is a D. D. say, “The Reverend Doctor.” If he is a bishop, then the word bishop is sufficient.

When you are introduced to a person, be careful not to appear as though you had never heard of him before. If he happens to be a person of any distinction, such a mistake would be unpardonable, and no person is complimented by being reminded of the fact that his name is unknown.

If by any misfortune you have been introduced to a person whose acquaintance you do not desire, you can merely make the formal bow of etiquette when you meet him, which, of itself, encourages no familiarity; but the bow is indispensable, for he cannot be thought a gentleman who would pass another with a vacant stare, after having been formally presented to him. By so doing, he would offer a slight which would justly make him appear contemptible even in the eyes of the person he means to humble.

What is called “cutting” another is never practiced by gentlemen or ladies, except in some extraordinary instances of bad conduct on the part of the individual thus sacrificed. An increased degree of ceremony and formal politeness is the most delicate way of withdrawing from an unpleasant acquaintance. Indeed, what is called “cutting” is rarely ever practiced by well-bred ladies and gentlemen.

On introduction in a room, a married lady generally offers her hand, a young lady not; in a ball-room, where the introduction is to dancing, not to friendship, you never shake hands; and as a general rule, an introduction is not followed by shaking hands—only by a bow. It may perhaps be laid down, that the more public the place of introduction, the less hand-shaking takes place; but if the introduction be particular, if it be accompanied by personal recommendation, such as, “I want you to know my friend Jones,” then you give Jones your hand, and warmly too.

It is understood in society, that a person who has been properly introduced to you, has some claim on your good offices in future; you cannot therefore slight him without good reason, and the chance of being called to an account for it.