Business Card Psychology 101

by Nora D. Richardson

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The Japanese are very particular about the ritual surrounding the exchange of business cards.  The business card (or meishi) is presented face up while bowing down, with both hands on either side of the card, showing respect.  The recipient then bows down to accept the card with both hands.  Upon receipt, the card is read immediately and then placed carefully in an appropriate business card holder.  Stuffing the card in a pocket without reading it, folding the card or writing on it shows great disrespect.

The Business Card Dance

I love going to networking events, not only to meet people, but also to observe how people interact.  It’s a great study of psychology and sociology.  Whether we’re aware of it or not, we Americans also have our own ceremony, even if it’s not so obvious.  I like to call it the “Dance of the Business Cards.”

The purpose of networking is to meet both interesting people and people interested in you and your business.  So how do you know if someone is interested in your business – and better yet, how do you show your interest to another party?

Are You Proud of Your Business Cards?

I’ve noticed two types of business card people at networking events…

Type 1: The Enthusiast.  These people have their business cards available in a snap, always ready and willing to give out their card at a moment’s notice.  You can tell right off the bat that a person like this is excited about their business and happy with their business cards and the image they present.

Type 2: The Detractor.  This person has to dig for their card in pocket or purse, sometimes never producing one at all, maybe saying they left it in the car.  This person is either generally unprepared, or, more likely, somewhat ashamed of their business card or their brand image.  Just one more reason to always present a great brand image at all times!

Card Wrangling

When you give someone your card, pay attention to how they handle it.  When they add your card to the stack in their hand, do they put it in front – or in back?  Fun Fact: If they put it in front, you’re more likely to be seen as a person of interest.  And if they don’t look at your card at all, or just shove it in a pocket, they might not be so interested in you or your business.

…And We Dance!

So dance respectfully, like the Japanese:

  1. Take the card politely
  2. Read the card with interest
  3. Check the back of the card
  4. If appropriate, comment on the card – many people (especially those Type 1s) will appreciate it
  5. Place the card in a neat, safe place

Always be aware of your personal Business Card Dance style and your professional brand as it is represented on your card.  It could mean more than you think!

If you like this entry, be on the look out for “Business Card Psychology 102.”

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Kim McManus says:

I had actually just listened to a description of the Japanese business card ritual in an audio book!

Very interesting insights into human nature. I will be on the lookout for the various scenarios at our next event.

Kim

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