If you’ve already recognised that having a rich professional network creates more opportunities for you in the long run, then you’ve probably introduced people to each other over email.
But if you’re doing it the wrong way, you may be sending one or both of your connections a headache rather than a new opportunity.
“I used to see introductions as uniformly positive and just think that it was always exciting when new people got to connect,” Wharton professor Adam Grant tells talkshow host Jordan Harbinger on an episode of the lifestyle podcast “The Art of Charm.” “And then after receiving a few bad intros and also ending up connecting people who already knew each other, I was like, ‘OK, there’s got to be a better way to do this.'”
Grant’s solution is simple: Before sending an email addressed to both of your connections, tell them in individual emails why you think they should chat, and then ask if they’d like to be introduced.
Grant explains what he’s dubbed the “double opt-in system”:
The basic idea is to reach out to both of the people you’re planning to connect and give each of them a sentence or two of the rationale for why you think they would hit it off. And that ought to go beyond just, “Oh, you live in the same city and I happen to know you both!”
It’s, “You’re both interested in the same technology,” or, “You both happen to love this TV show that no one else watches, and I’m sick of the two of you telling me about it.” Whatever it is, you should have what social scientists call an “uncommon commonality,” something that you both really care about or are interested in or good at, but that’s relatively unique to each of you.
In his book “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success,” Grant explains that there are “givers” who are always helping people, “takers” who are always serving themselves, and “matchers” who see everything as give and take.
Being a giver yields the greatest results, he says, and adopting the double opt-in system fits in with that outlook because you’re not imposing anything on anyone. And because this system allows you to screen refusals without hurting anyone’s feelings, “that means that you actually get to test your judgment and you know moving forward what kinds of people to connect,” Grant says.
You can listen to the full podcast episode at The Art of Charm’s blog.
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