Receiving invitations to connect with people on LinkedIn is exciting, especially when you have developed a professional or personal relationship with the other person. You like them, admire them and know that you can help one another. However, let’s be honest – even people you know, you may not want to connect with for one reason or another. What do you do in those situations?

There are three options for handling LinkedIn invitations that you may not want to accept:

  1. Ignore the invitation. Sure you can feign ignorance for not receiving it, but they will probably ask you about it the next time they see you. If you are active on LinkedIn, they will probably wonder why their invitation was not accepted so you’ll have to tell them face to face.
  2. The sneaky approach is to accept the invitation and then drop them as a contact. This approach will work for a while – until they have a need to refer to your profile and find that it is missing in their contact list.
  3. Take the direct approach and let them know you appreciate the invitation however you are going to decline it. Since they are someone you know, you should give them a reason.

You may not want to tell them the primary reason you don’t want to connect with them – such as you don’t like them, you don’t respect them or their affiliation may not be productive in your business or job hunting efforts. Instead, think about a different way to say it.

For example, you might say to a friend:

My LinkedIn approach is to connect with people who are in my field of expertise or business segment.

I use LinkedIn to communicate with recruiters and colleagues.

We are connected on Facebook which I use for friends and family – I use LinkedIn for my professional interactions.

To a business colleague, you may want to open the door to further conversations before you accept their invitation – especially if they are someone from your past. People change and mature and perhaps some of the things you remember may not be who they are today.

Here are some ways to respond to someone you are not sure about connecting with on LinkedIn:

My approach is to connect with people I can recommend to others. It’s been awhile since we last talked, let’s get on the phone or meet and update one another.

It’s been awhile since we worked together. Let’s update each other and share how we can help one another by connecting on LinkedIn.

When you respond back to someone, it requires them to take a personal action step beyond hitting the Let’s Connect Button, you find out if they really do want to connect with you or if you were in a list of people who were uploaded from their contact list.

Perhaps you have another approach to politely telling someone you don’t want to connect with that you know well – if so, I would love to hear about it.