I’ve found LinkedIn to be a powerful social media tool for building and maintaining business relationships. Over the years, I’ve connected with several hundred people, all of whom I know. I’m no Mr. Manners, but I wouldn’t dream of sending an invitation to someone I hadn’t met before.

However, I have noticed that some people’s social network “compass” is quite different from mine. Has this happened to you?

Phase 1:  The Innocuous Email

It all starts out innocently enough; I receive an email stating the following: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. – John Doe”

I rack my brain, but for the life of me I cannot recall ever knowing a John Doe. Did we meet at a recent networking event, work together, go to school together? Is he another executive recruiter, trying to “source” me for job candidates?

So, curiosity getting the best of me, I click “View invitation from John Doe,” and I almost always find the following:

1. John and I have never met.

2. John and I have “connections” in common.

Phase 2:  The Search for Intent

Do you know everyone in your social network?

John Doe, a person I have never met, wants to connect with me, but unfortunately he hasn’t shared why. Does he like one of my blogs, does he have a business proposition to discuss, is he looking for work? Depending on John’s intent, I might be very interested in connecting with him, but for some reason he’s decided it’s OK to keep me guessing. This drives me nuts!

Phase 3:  Offering an Olive Branch

Because I only connect with people I know, I don’t automatically accept the invitation; instead, I respond as follows:

Dear John,

Thank you for your invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Please forgive me, but have we met? I would be more than happy to connect with you, but as a rule, I do not accept LinkedIn invitations from people I do not know. If you are interested in connecting, please let me know why and provide some times when you could be available to meet face to face or speak via phone.



Phase 4:  Resolution

Most of the time I hear back from John Doe, and he provides a rationale for connecting. We have a conference call, and if the call is productive I often accept the invitation to share my network and more.


How do you respond to connection requests from people you don’t know? Do you find connecting with strangers valuable to building a strong business network? Please share your comments below.