Due 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”.