Don’t Ask

Your Co-Workers - Here’s a better way to get the best answers

“Don’t Ask Your Co-Workers  - Here’s a better way to get the best answers Puzzled by a tricky question from a client?  Looking for hard-to-find information? Stumped by a request from a partner or referral source?  

Don’t ask those closest to you – your peers, your partners, your buddies.  

Instead reach out to dormant ties for help.   Why?  Professionals contacted people they hadn’t been in touch with for 3+ years.  When they compared the advice and resources they got from current contacts with the information they got from dormant ties, they found the dormant ties came up with much more valuable advice and resources. 


A study reported in the MIT Sloan Management Review reports it’s because those dormant ties you’re out of touch with have been off meeting new people, discovering fresh resources, and gaining unique insights.  But your current contacts are more likely to share much of your same knowledge base, contacts and viewpoints.  So, their help will be . . . well, not so helpful!

But what will I say, you ask? 

People in our training programs, are, at first, reluctant to reach back to people they’ve “lost.”  “It’s embarrassing.”  “I should have stayed in touch.”  “He’ll think I just want something.”  “She won’t remember me!”

So, in our courses we provide suggestions. 

Here are a couple of the most popular “scripts” to ease re-connecting with someone you haven’t talked with in a while.  No phony baloney stuff here – change these scripts to make them feel authentic to you.

  1. Start with a reminder of good times and why you liked working with him.

“Hi Ron, I was thinking about the fun we had working on that project together.  I’ve missed your sense of humor/your way of making proposals stand out/the special way you have of seeing the big picture.  Got time for lunch next week?”  (or “Got time for a quick conversation right now?  There’s something I’d appreciate your advice about.”) 

  1. Start with a very short update on you and ask for an update on her.

“Hi MaryAnne.  It’s a voice from the past – it’s Ellen Raymond.  I’m with a new firm/just moved to San Antonio/just saw your name on LI and wanted to get back in touch.  Got a minute to catch me up on you – now or later this week?  (Short conversation.)  I remembered your talent with _____ and wonder if I could get your advice about a situation/challenge I imagine you’ve had more experience with than I have.”   

Compete the call - or the lunch - by asking, “How can I help you?”  And, if it feels desirable, plan to stay in touch via LinkedIn, phone, email, or any of the other many ways to continue the relationship.   

When you need help, don’t go it alone. 

Thanks to the Internet, you probably have a huge pool of dormant ties to go to.   Think back – to that guy you worked with two jobs before this one, to the woman who you went to grad school with, to the one you met at the conference a couple of years ago.  With most of them you have already earned some degree of trust – and that’s quickly reactivated when you re-connect. 

One executive in the MIT Study admitted that this was a real eye-opener for him.  He said it showed him how much potential there is in re-connecting with people he’d lost track of. 

Learn much, much more in Lynne's courses on Illumeo.


Lynne Waymon is the CEO of Contacts Count LLC, an international training & consulting firm that specializes in working with corporations, government agencies, associations, and professional services firms.