So I was scrolling around the AOL home page one day when I saw this headline:
The Biggest Mistake You’re Making When Introducing Yourself
and my very first thought was “Using my real name?”
I don’t know what this says about me, but it can’t be anything good, right? About the most positive excuse I can imagine for a reaction like this is that I have a psychotic desire for privacy.
Anyway, I clicked on the link, if for no other reason than it was the only one on the AOL home page that did not include the term “jaw-dropping” or “mind-blowing.*” It was an Inc. Magazine article by someone named Kat Boogaard who thinks your introduction should include more than just your name and job title.
Ms. Boogaard writes that she used to say, “I’m Kat, and I’m a writer” Really? Who introduces themselves that way, unless you’re at an AA meeting: “I’m Phil, and I’m an alcoholic.” If you’re at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t say “I’m Kat, and I’m a writer” unless the person you’re talking to had introduced himself first with something like, “Hi, I’m Barack, and I’m the President.”
In any case, Kat found “I’m Kat and I’m a writer” to be woefully inadequate. She continues:
“I’ve expanded things just a touch to say something like, ‘I’m Kat, and I’m a writer who helps businesses and brands engage their audiences through thoughtful blog posts and articles.’ See the difference?”
Well, first, “Just a touch?” It’s more like J.R.R. Tolkien deciding he needed a fourth book. And, yes, I think we can all see the difference…as we backpedal across the room to get as far away from this lunatic as possible. “I’m Joe,” I might reply, although my name is Mark, “and I just remembered that the cash bar is over there.”
Now let me say that I empathize completely with Ms. Boogaard’s problem, since I, too, am a writer. She says that she began elaborating because people always asked her if she was writing a book. I guess she thinks the easiest way to avoid this is by including the entire “job description” part of her resume in her introduction.
I have never had someone ask me if I am writing a book. When I tell people I’m a writer, the next thing they say (if they are still talking to me at all) is always–always–“What do you write?”
I could say I’m a blogger, which would imply that blogging is my main source of income, which would be farther from the truth than “I’m Joe.” I could say “I write direct mail,” which is accurate, but many people aren’t sure what that is. For awhile, I tried short-circuiting the discussion by saying “I write junk mail,” but that seemed to be denigrating to my profession, and often resulted in accusatory stares. “You write spam?” would be the next question, and I would find myself adamantly denying it with increasing volume so that the person could hear me while backpedaling.
Look, I can understand not leaving it at “I’m a writer.” But if you can’t edit your introduction enough to be able to get it out before the hors d’oeurves get cold, I would suggest that you’re not a very good writer. How about “I’m a corporate social media writer,” or something like that? You can add the rest if the person you’re talking to shows any interest.
Ms. Boogaard admits that her novel-length introduction style “can feel a little unnatural (and possibly even a little arrogant) at first.” She recommends writing your intro out and rehearsing it until you’ve memorized exactly what you want to say while smiling and maintaining eye contact.
I just don’t think people want to know that much about you right away. You should leave a little mystery so that people don’t immediately think you’re a pompous ass. And besides, if you memorize your introduction, it may be difficult to alter it for various situations. For instance, if you happen to be attending a Yankees game, you may not want to use your rote opening line of “Hello, I’m Linda, and I’m the free agent recruitment director for the Boston Red Sox.”
But I thought I might give Ms. Boogaard’s method a try the next time I was at a gathering of strangers. So I started thinking about my introduction.
“Hi, I’m Joe and I write direct mail, which is what the United States Postal Service delivers, not the unwanted email that promises a harder, longer-lasting erection,” I might say. With a smile and direct eye contact.
Well, I’d least then I’d have a good reason not to use my real name.
See you soon.
*As I’ve previously documented, the folks who write web teasers are out of control. Just yesterday, there was this lead-in: “Victor Barrio, a 29-year-old professional bullfighter, was killed in the gut-wrenching incident as he competed in a fight in Spain on Saturday.” I would contend that “gut-wrenching” is perhaps not the most tasteful adjective for this event.