“Reaching Out” Will Get You Only So Far
- On October 6, 2015
“I can’t stand it when people say they’re going to reach out.”
I hear that all the time. The phrase seems to make people downright squirmy.
Reach out is tentative—maybe you’ll make the connection; maybe you won’t. I get an image of an outstretched arm that may or may not find somewhere to land. President Obama, for example, says he will reach out to the next speaker. I get the feeling he’s not sure how successful he will be—or even wants to be.
In business, you want to be decisive and convey decisiveness, which is why contact is a better choice. As you read the following examples, replace reach out with contact (or contacted) and hear how more purposeful the sentences sound.
• You are the first person I have reached out to about the matter.
• No one from the company reached out to me.
• Mr. Smith said he reached out to colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic to find a solution.
• Every year, we reach out to our members to check in, ask for updates, and verify contact information.
To avoid using contact twice, here’s how I’d rewrite the last example: Every year, we check in with our members to ask for updates and verify contact information.
I’ve seen reach out used in the context of networking, for example, “It is helpful to know what you want from the person you are reaching out to” and “You can reach out to people and ask, ‘How did your career start?’”
If I’m putting in the effort to network, I’m going to call people, email them—maybe even invite them to lunch. I’m not going to just reach out and hope for the best.
But by all means, release your inner Diana Ross and “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand and make this world a better place, if you can.”
It’ll make for a good night of karaoke.