How To Introduce People Online

Suppose you think Sally and Bob would benefit from knowing each other. You might think that a nice thing to do would be to send an email to the two of them to make the connection.

That used to seem reasonable enough to me, until I read this:

“Single opt-in intros are lazy and disrespectful and make you a terrible person. Good people do double opt-in intros.”

He’s right, and I had been doing it wrong my whole life. Since making introductions can be a natural part of working out loud, here’s how to do it well.

A short lesson in empathy

The original blog post by Anand Sanwal is funny, useful, and well worth reading. (I’ll wait.) It’s the best advice I’ve ever seen on the topic.

It provides a quick lesson in empathy. When you send an email introducing people, even if it’s well-intentioned and only takes you a minute or two, you burden the recipients with an obligation they never asked for.

Instead, the “double opt-in intro” has you first ask each person individually if you can make the introduction. That allows them to opt out (“Thanks, John, but I’m too busy now”), possibly saving everyone some time and potential embarrassment.

In your email to each individual, be sure to provide three things:

  1. Context: what motivated you to want to introduce the other person?
  2. Value: how will they each benefit from the introduction?
  3. Opt-in: ask for explicit permission before making the introduction.

As you write your email, put yourself in the shoes of the recipient and think how you would feel if you were them.



Is it really necessary?

You might object that neglecting the opt-out is such a common practice that it’s okay to do it. Or perhaps the recipients shouldn’t be so precious about their time. But if you truly intend the introduction to be a contribution, then the right thing to do is to ask each recipient first and make it easy for them to decline your offer.

Even if they reject your introduction, they’ll appreciate your sensitivity and respect for their time. Practicing empathy is always a good thing to do.

Do you agree? How do you introduce people?

My thanks to Mark Gadsby for introducing this tip in the Working Out Loud Facebook community.