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How to say ‘no’ to requests for social network introductions


I was interested this week by a Harvard Business Review ‘tip of the day’ article which raised what I thought was an interesting question.

How do you say ‘no’ when someone asks you for an introduction that you’re just not comfortable making?

The author, Jodi Glickman, talked about her experience of being asked by a colleague for an introduction to her literary agent.  For a number of reasons, it wasn’t appropriate as it would have reflected poorly on both the friend and Jodi and so she suggested a policy we can all adopt if faced with the same dilemma:

  • Be transparent
  • Provide a consolation prize
  • Stay in touch positively

Personally I think these are all useful and I wish I’d known about them a few weeks before Christmas when I faced a similar problem with a raft of introduction requests on LinkedIn.  Unknowingly, I followed Jodi’s points but undertook a few other actions which I thought I’d add to her list.

  1. Believe that it’s OK to say no and practice… honestly, you wouldn’t believe how hard some people find it to turn down social network requests for fear of being ostracised by Groups or ejected by ‘socmed’ police.
  2. Don’t just ignore it.  Take a moment to proactively explain why you think a direct introduction might not be the best option right now.  We can’t assume the person asking knows everything that we do about the sought after individual or what they might have going on right now, or indeed what you have going on.
  3. Ask for contact details that you will pass on through different channels.  This gives you the option of explaining the nature of the introduction to your contact and putting them in control of any further communications.
  4. It’s OK to have a policy of not introducing people you barely know to others – as long as you explain that politely and professionally (if appropriate).  it might even be an idea to write a few words on your social network profile to this end?
  5. Don’t just introduce everyone who asks without thinking first – see point 1!  Your contacts won’t appreciate you clicking ‘yes’ or ‘accept’ to requests for connections from unrelated and irrelevant sources any more than you would if the situation were reversed.
  6. Don’t run to the moderators or group owners too soon if you get an irrelevant or inappropriate introduction request.  There are lots of nationalities and cultures represented on social networks and it might just be that someone has a different approach to you and in reality isn’t taking the proverbial.  Try some of these ideas first.

What have you done or said to requests for tenuous introductions?  How do you feel about receiving introductions to make a connection you don’t see any value in?

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