Have you ever been in a situation where you met someone for the first time and they refused to shake your hand? It can be quite unnerving and difficult to continue a conversation when placed in this uncomfortable situation. Why? Does it have something to do with the actual physical touch?

The act of shaking hands is a way of saying, “I’d be happy for us to get to know each other.” By refusing to shake hands, the exact opposite is communicated. It is true that different cultures greet each other in very different ways, but the handshake has become a universal symbol for peace and an invitation to trust.

So, how does a handshake apply to the rules of online networking? Let’s say you’ve met someone at a networking function and they send you a personalized request to connect on either Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Should you refuse to connect with them if you barely know who they are or can’t remember meeting them? It depends.

By refusing to connect, you miss out on the chance to find new customers, the opportunity to find employment/employees and exchange ideas while learning and sharing in a network of trusted relationships and groups. You never know where any new connection may lead, and no one knows what the future has in store.

On the other hand, there are people who send out invitations with the goal of spamming accounts with unwanted solicitations. This is as bad as shoving a business card into someone’s hand at a networking function and then walking away.

Follow the rules of social media etiquette and send every invitation to connect with a personalized message. Sending a generic invite without any indication of how the person found you or why you should connect is rude and the viral equivalent of a sleazy salesman. Always remind the recipient of your relationship or reasons why you would like to connect when you send an invitation.

One of the benefits of social media sites is that they are a tool for future face-to-face networking. Take your social media connections to the next level and ask if you can meet them in person at a public location. This is an opportunity to take your viral connection personal and shake a hand!

So, take a deep breath, be more open to social media invites and imagine what it might be like to be refused a handshake.

What about you. Do you accept all social media invites or do you have any examples where you have refused a invitation for good reason?

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