This is a great way to screw up your personal brand…

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responding online

In today’s super connected world, your reputation…your personal brand is more important than ever. It’s a small world and people will talk…or post…or review without much prompting. Whether you realize it or not, every interaction is either improving your reputation or hurting it – which brings us to a behavior that I see and frankly find baffling.

Maybe this has happened to you recently. A friend or networking contact introduces you to a friend of theirs via email. It’s a warm connection that’s been made because there’s some perceived benefit to the two of you meeting. You politely thank your friend for the introduction and via email say ‘hello’ to your new contact and express interest in following up on the introduction and getting together for coffee.

It’s all very straightforward and simple. It happens every day with all sorts of people. You already have a contact in common and there were probably good reasons given for getting together.

And the other person never bothers to respond…

Let me ask you this…

When this happens to you – when the person you’ve been introduced to (often a friend of a friend) completely ignores both the original email and your response what do you think?

Do you think:

“Wow – what a great person I’ve been introduced to…they are so busy saving lives that they of course couldn’t find time to respond to l’il ole me.  I really like them and will speak well of them.”   😉

Probably not.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that when our brains are confronted with a mystery…a lack of information…then we can’t help but make up a story to fill in that gap. And that story is almost always much more negative than the reality.

In this case, you have someone who hasn’t responded to you or your friend – you are likely going to think 1 of 2 things:

“This person is a train wreck…they are so disorganized that they couldn’t even respond to a simple set of emails.”


“This person is a jerk – despite the warm introduction and not knowing anything about me, they can’t be bothered to respond?”

Either way, the next time that person’s name comes up, you can bet an opinion will be shared and it won’t be positive. If that starts happening multiple times, it doesn’t take long for a bad reputation to be established…

I’m sure they’re just super busy…

More than likely, the answer is that the person you’re trying to engage with is just super busy and they’re trying to get a bunch of stuff done and they just don’t have time to meet right now (or even respond to the emails). Or it’s possible that they really did just lose that email – stuff happens.  Or maybe they checked out your website or your LinkedIn profile and they didn’t see a point in meeting.

What ever the situation, that’s not the problem. There’s no requirement to meet with anyone. The problem is the perception that’s generated when there is no response.

Whether you agree with it or not, there’s is a social requirement to at least acknowledge people and respond. That doesn’t mean you have to follow through on the meeting – I’ve seen people who are able to dis-engage gracefully with one of the following responses:

“Thanks for the introduction – it’s great to meet you (at least via email) but I am crazy busy right now and if it’s alright with you, I’d like to postpone getting together for a few months. Things should open up for me after this summer. Thanks for understanding and have a great week.”

Another alternative:

“Thanks for the introduction – let’s find a time for a quick 10 minute phone call so we can have a quick chat and see if that goes anywhere – what works for you?”.

Getting together for coffee or lunch isn’t everyone’s thing and it does take a lot of time – but giving no response comes with a guaranteed negative outcome and it literally only takes a few seconds to politely let someone down nicely.

What do you think?

Has this happened to you?  Have you done this people – either on purpose or because you legitimately just missed the email? What were your thoughts? What else could you do or change in this situation? I’d love to hear other thoughts and opinions – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach