Networking Etiquette Question: What should she have done?

My friend Dr. Treva Diana Lee wrote me a note on Facebook that was a bit of a take on "Dear Abby," regarding a networking situation she experienced. Okay Dr. Treva, I think this is a fun game and I will play! I'm also looking for comments from (maybe, if we're lucky) Bob Burg and Tiffany Smith Nielson who is an etiquette expert.

Dr. Treva wrote:
I was at a networking event last week and with what I thought was accepted practice was offering my card while also offering to shake hands. Much to my chagrin, one gentleman declined to shake hands and handed back my card saying he had no need for what I had to offer I was rather taken aback by his rudeness and wondering how do we make the unwritten rules of networking etiquette more widely known?


Dr. Treva, don't be embarrassed. At least not for you. The gentleman in question did not handle the situation very well. In North America, the convention is to shake hands when offered. To refuse without a reason ("I have a cold" or "I've got an injured finger") is not polite. The act of handing back your card is also not very polite.

You didn't do anything wrong, so the best course of action for you was to just ignore his behavior and move on. It was not a good strategy on his part to reject your hand or your card. He may have just severed a potential relationship that could have been beneficial to you both.

Here is one thing that is a personal preference of mine: I generally don't offer my business card on immediately meeting someone. I wait until they ask for it. And, for me, the important thing is not necessarily to have them get my card, but for me to get their card. Who knows what they'll do with my card? But I know what I can do with theirs.

If someone tells me about their service and offers me their card, I will take it. Even if, for example, I met you and I didn't need your services because I have a dentist that I am happy with, I would still take your card because you never know who I know who might need your services. Or maybe I want to stay in touch because of other talents, connections, or interests that you have.

How do we make the tenants of good networking more widely known? Share this blog with other people and subscribe to my weekly newsletter :-)

1 comment:

  1. Her only mistake, perhaps, was in offering her card without a valid reason for doing so. In the future, don't offer your card just because you're meeting someone. I blogged about this just today - find a way to provide value to them, and offer them your card as you communicate that value. For example, "I read something this week that addresses the very issue you're talking about. Let's exchange cards and I'll share it with you."