How to Politely Decline a LinkedIn Invitation

490861_not_a_gate.jpgDue to my visibility from this blog and my participation in the various LinkedIn Yahoo Groups (which exposes your e-mail address), I typically get at least 5-10 invitations to connect on LinkedIn every week from people I don’t know. The vast majority are generic, not personalized, but even the ones that are, I decline almost without exception if I don’t know the person. However, it’s not that I’m not open to meeting and talking with new people — I am — that’s just not how I choose to use LinkedIn, or how they recommend to.

So how does one politely say “no” while still leaving the door open to starting a relationship?

I start with a standard response that goes something like this… personalized if their connection request was personalized:

Thanks for inviting me to connect on LinkedIn. I would love to start a dialog, get to know each other and find out how we might be of service to each other. You have my email, so feel free to drop me a line and we can get started.However, I do use LinkedIn as they recommend and as my experience has shown to give me the best return on my time investment, and I only connect (create a permanent referral link) with people I know well professionally, and in most cases have actually worked on some kind of project together.

For more on why I practice and advocate this approach, see http://linkedintelligence.com/the-connection-that-wasnt-there.

If you’re truly interested in a relationship and not just a link, I look forward to hearing from you.

I used to start off with the bit about how I only connect with people I know well in a professional context, but I found that seemed to really put people off, and that’s certainly not my intention. I don’t want to put them off — I just want people a) to respect my boundaries, and b) learn how to use LinkedIn more effectively. Now some people know exactly what they’re doing when they send invitations to people they don’t know, but many others do it just because “it seems like the thing to do”, and they haven’t really given a lot of thought to it.

Less than 5% of people I send that to ever reply to me. Makes me wonder how much value there could possibly have been in that link in the first place if they aren’t even willing to start a dialog and get to know anything about each other.

So if you’re one of those people sending invitations to strangers, be sure to actually read the decline message — “No” may just mean “Not that, not yet,” rather than “Not at all, never”.

16 Comments

  1. I have had similar responses from unfamiliar people jumping up and down to network with me, and these same people have yet to respond to my followup emails.

    There is no substitite for face to face meetings. Tradeshows & conferences have nothing to fear from linkedin!

  2. I’m one of those people who do not send invitations to strangers but boy, I do get a number of requests from strangers. I must admit I’m still at a loss how to make the best use of my LinkedIn membership although I’ve been a member for a year now. I have 46 connections, a small number of recommendations, and am an active networker, both online and offline. But networking via LinkedIn still eludes me – seems I need to spend some time exploring and reading to find out what it is I’m missing! I read about you on Des Walsh’s blog so it’s good to find more information about LinkedIn.

  3. Welcome, Kathie! You’ve described exactly the challenge so many people face — the mechanics of using LinkedIn are very simple, but actually making effective use of its capabilities to accomplish your career or personal goals, well, that’s less obvious.

    I’ll be rolling out some more resources soon in a more structured format, but in the meantime, I suggest you start with the Using LinkedIn category, which is most likely where you’ll find what it sounds like you’re looking for.

  4. This is very helpful. I’ve been wondering what I could do in response to some of the invites I’ve received from open networkers. I’m glad to see that I am not the only one who prefers to have some relationship prior to connecting.

    Thanks!

  5. Hi there, thanks for the advice. I found this posts because I have been wondering why I have been receiving so many random invitations from strangers on LinkedIn. I guess it is like all forms of current social media, in the respect that many will try to take advantage or capitalise from it in so way, leaving the legitimate business networkers wondering how they made so many connections without even networking.
    Great post!

  6. Thanks for sharing these tips here, I was actually wondering about this only the other day, lots of people have randomly decided to add me, with this info I will be able to decline them politely.

  7. I think internet marketers and business people are now using linkedin to market their products and build their network. It’s now typical nowadays to get friend requests from people you don’t know. It’s sometimes very beneficial to your career. I know a physical injury lawyer who connects with other lawyers in other fields like criminal lawyers and business lawyers to exchange client referrals.

  8. Thanks for the great advice. I received a couple of invites from complete strangers so used your suggested reply.

    One person replied to say that he wanted to develop a very close and intimate relationship with me!

    Even though it was a bit funny, I was shocked. Of course, it may have been an innocent message but I don’t think so.

    I reported the message to LinkeIn as spam, but it strengthened my resolve to only connect with people I know well, or who are well-known industry leaders.

    I have included the latter as I have received a couple of invites from people in that category and I do value those connections.

  9. Really good Post, thanks! I have a (somewhat related) question: On my LinkedIn account I have a few individuals from my former employment who asked me to join their LinkedIn network, and I accepted (thinking it was impolite not to say yes). This was in my totally naive phase. I am now at a different company and I really feel that I don’t want to share my professional information with them. How can I politely “unhook” myself from their network and get them out of mine? Thanks! Ulla

  10. Good article. I tried to reply something similar to the list of 300 pending invitation in my inbox. I however cannot find the “Send a message” button. How do you send a message before accepting an invitation?
    Thank you,
    Manuel

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