Introductions are a valuable way to expand our connections, but are dangerous to our reputation when they’re badly executed. In this email etiquette post, Baydin explains how to use double opt-in introductions.
Our connections are one of the most valuable tools we have for progressing our careers, getting a table at an exclusive restaurant, and establishing a social life independent of Netflix. Providing introductions for your contacts helps expand their connections, but can create unwanted obligations (and damage to your reputation) if they’re badly executed.
Badly executed introductions usually begin with a contact approaching you, “Hey, I’m selling these really awesome beluga whales. I would like to talk to your very important friend David about buying one as a company mascot.” Your pride at knowing important people combines with your desire to help your contact, and you thoughtlessly compose an email introducing the beluga whale seller to David.
David receives the email and is annoyed. He thinks, “Why the hell did this person (you) think I’d be remotely interested in purchasing a beluga whale?” He chooses to ignore the introduction completely, but more choices=more work, and he resents you for adding to his load and making him feel like a jerk. The beluga whale seller doesn’t give up, emailing David to set up a meeting. Out of a feeling of obligation to you (and a caffeine low), David accepts the meeting and ends up wasting an hour of his time learning about the advantages of beluga whales. When he returns to his office, David sends you a scathing email instructing you to “please dear God never introduce me to anyone ever again.” Ouch… that didn’t go as planned.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to avoid this mess: the double opt-in introduction. When you want to introduce two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in before making the introduction. For example, the beluga whale seller opted in when he sent you the request to meet David. What you should have done next was email David and asked him to opt-in, “Hey David, one of my contacts is selling beluga whales as company mascots, are you interested in talking to him?” and which point David would have responded, “Hell no,” and everybody (beluga whale seller included) could have saved a lot of time.
To finish with a little Voltaire/Spiderman wisdom, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Being well-connected gives you power, but with that power you’re responsible for not wasting your contacts’ time on introductions that aren’t valuable to them. Using double opt-in intros help ensure that your introductions provide value for both parties
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Have any anecdotes about bad introductions? Let me know in the comments section and check back next week for the etiquette of asking for an introduction.