If you’ve added me on LinkedIn, you might remember my first message: something in the lines of “Why have you added me?” (e.g. “What’s the reason for this connection?”, “How can I help you?” etc. etc…). Out of a mix of courtesy (if you look for me, courtesy dictates it’s me that has to start the conversation) and duty (I’m on LinkedIn for work: if someone contacts me, it’s my duty to understand what help can be provided).
the Internet had other plans.
Premise: what do people want?
The answer to this question is vital to just about every endeavor involving people – for the very simple reason that: it involves people. And people are not tools: they have their own personality. And with personality comes personal tastes (how to achieve) and goals (what to achieve). Meaning that: everything they do has to align with what they’re looking for.
And what is it that they’re looking for?
Keep this question in mind for the next sections.
Curiously enough, the reaction to my intro is 60% of the time a negative one – either passive aggressive (ghosting or contact deletion) or open hostility (various shapes of the concept “If you don’t want this connection you can just delete me”).
“Curiously” because the basic structure of a professional conversation is: “What can I do for you?”, succeeded by the intention/problem. And from there, the conversation starts (e.g. “Yes, I can do that: tell me more, and let’s see how can we do something together”).
Hence, if this is not welcomed, something out of the professional world might be the reason for this connection.
Think of this scenario: you knock on your dad’s door, he opens, and asks in a mildly positive tone “Why have you come here?”. Would you be happy about this? Of course not: it’s your dad – you’d expect a warm welcome. Maybe not even said question: after all, he’s your dad, and he loves you. That in itself is assumed to be a reason good enough to see each other. So, being questioned about the reason of that visit would make you sad – because that’s a sign that, maybe, he doesn’t really love you.
And I think this is one of the reasons people get upset about being questioned for why they are making connections: they’re not looking for professional endeavors. They’re just very lonely. Which is fine – but: LinkedIn is a professional networking site, not a club nor Badoo. Different places are meant for different endeavors.
A basic tactic of antisocial* behavior is to act as if you’re not interested in human interaction, so as to fake a higher social status and try to gain the upper hand in a power negotiation (a hostile negotiation). Or, in plain English: to try and not look needy – even though you are. Because needy people are “not cool”: if you’re needy, it means you don’t have – and people who don’t have are “not cool”. Please keep in mind that we were looking at the matter with a powerplay optic – which is very different from a meritocratic/illuministic optic (a positive, prosocial one).
Within this optic, answering the question “What do you need?” would play against your plan: how can you be “He who has all”, if you open up the conversation with “I need […]”?
*for the love of God: learn the difference between antisocial behaviour, and asocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour is one that hurts others, and asocial behaviour is avoidance of social contact. One is highly dangerous to the community (it actively seeks hurting people), the other is from mildly harmful to neutral (best case scenario, you don’t add nor subtract anything to the community. In the worst one, your inaction might hurt when action is required).
What people want from their work
Have you kept that question of before in mind? Good: you now have the answers. Because people nearly always act towards their goals. And I can’t stress enough the act: words can easily be deceitful, maybe even unbeknownst to who utters them (people can be misguided, and act on cognitive dissonance). But acts are a lot more complex to fake – hence, it’s way easier to spot the truth if looking at what people do.
And here’s where the social experiment was: to witness people’s interactions within the professional world, and to understand what is it that they move forward to.