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The courteous way to exchange business cards

The process of exchanging business cards is very important and the etiquette for doing it well varies across international cultures.  For the purposes of this article these comments relate to westernised business culture.

The business card exchange is a simple transaction that can be done well or badly.

A ‘card dealer’ will push their own business card first and take the other person’s card in the context of a swap.  They will more often than not either put it in with a handful of other cards they are busy collecting or will put it away without giving it so much as a second glance.  Remember when this has been your experience and picture how it made you feel.  The common feeling is that the other person is not sincere, the card and you are not important to them and don’t really matter.

The card ‘collector’s’ mission is simply to collect as many cards as they possibly can in the belief that each card gathered is another new sales opportunity and or contact.  The reality is that they will then do very little if anything with those cards so they are as good as worthless to them.  Having alienated the people they collected the cards from as well, they have just very successfully restricted their network building and been remembered for the wrong reasons.

My absolutely best advice on this is simple.  Ask the other person for their card first – never offer yours until you have done this.  Pay attention to the card when you receive it and make a positive comment about it.  Keep it in your hand while talking as this signifies that it is important to you whereas if you put it straight into your pocket or your bag this indicates the opposite.

Once you have received the other person’s card, only then ask if you can give them yours.  They will invariably say yes because you have been courteous in the way you have asked for and received theirs.  Ultimately you have been polite, courteous, respectful and sincere and they will remember you for all the right reasons.

February 23, 2011 | Category: Etiquette & Courtesy — Tony Altham
Comments (2)


  1. Some genuinely choice articles on this site, bookmarked .

    Comment by Laura Minnatee — January 8, 2012 @ 20:17

  2. Thanks for your comments Laura – you may also be interested in my book – http://www.amazon.co.uk/SOS-NETWORKING-Profitable-Referral-ebook/dp/B00AV8ZM2M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1361610490&sr=8-1

    You can also borrow it for FREE on Amazon Prime.

    Happy Networking.

    Comment by Tony Altham — February 23, 2013 @ 09:11

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