“I was interested in you and was wondering how that might work. That’s why I contacted you.”

She confessed.

I wasn’t taken aback. But I was left scratching my head wondering why this hadn’t come up sooner.

Idle Chit-Chat

Purposeless communication has become the norm.

Many people seem unable to express their reason for contacting anyone.

While idle chit-chat may be welcomed by some, others see it as little more than an intrusion on an already busy day, marked by far too much communication coming from far too many angles (phone calls, texts, emails, direct messages on social media, team chat, project management, and so on).

To be fair, some are more subversive or shy about expressing themselves.

And it can be hard to say what you feel on the inside. I should know.

But communicating intent should be considered paramount to building a worthwhile connection.

When someone contacts me by any means, I want to know why.

Think about it:

It would be strange to call up someone you don’t even know and make small talk before telling them why you’re calling.

It would be strange to call up someone you don’t even know and make small talk before telling them why you’re calling. Click To Tweet

So, why do we think this basic etiquette should go out the window when we’re using other modes of communication?

It occurs to me that commonsense is not commonsense, so I thought I would offer some tips on how to have better interactions online.

Crafting a Message That Gets a Response

What’s most important to understand is that people are always tuned into WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”).

If you can’t adequately answer this question when getting in touch with someone, it might be best to hold off until you’ve taken some time to strategize the correspondence.

With that in mind, here’s the basic layout of what should be in your first message (especially if it’s an email):

  • Consider the audience: Are you getting in touch with someone who has a part-time job at the Circle K, or are you contacting the CEO of an online business. When crafting your message, you’ve got to consider your audience because someone with big ambitions is going to expect you to get to the point.
  • Explain who you are: What’s your name? If relevant, include information about your work.
  • Explain why you’re getting in touch: Think of this as the subject line in an email. It should clearly and succinctly state your purpose for communication. If you’re interested in someone, but aren’t ready to jump in to that just yet, it’s perfectly fair to say something along the lines of, “I’m interested in your work” or “I saw your latest YouTube video.”
  • Compliment: Say something that expresses an understanding of the person you’re contacting. For example, “I read your latest blog post and really liked the bit about XYZ.” The more specific, the better.
  • The ask: What is the win-win proposition you’re bringing to the table? If it’s not win-win, then go back to the drawing board and rethink your strategy.

Communication That Doesn’t Make the Cut

Sometimes, it’s easier to define a good message by what it isn’t.

So, point blank, I’ll share with you which of my emails don’t make the cut.

If your email:

  • Isn’t addressed to me specifically
  • Doesn’t express any understanding of who I am
  • Doesn’t express any understanding of what I do
  • Asks a personal question that could easily be answered with a quick Google search or a bit of research
  • Isn’t clear on the mutual benefit

It gets deleted.

And I can tell you right now, I’m not the only one that thinks about communication this way.

Final Thoughts

I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself, so I’m certainly not saying that you should hold yourself back in your networking efforts.

After all, one of the best ways to advance in most areas of life is to meet more people.

But it’s important to bring some mindfulness to your communication. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.

You don’t need to be a mind reader. Simple things go a long way.

And, How to Win Friends and Influence People (affiliate link) is always a good read if you need more sound advice on how to interact with others.

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