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Leverage "Uncommon Commonalities" to increase your reply rates

A few years ago, I read an awesome article from Adam Grant called 6 Ways to Get Me to Email You Back.

This really changed my approach to outreach and drastically improved my reply rates, mainly thanks to one core concept: uncommon commonalities.

In his book "Influence," psychologist Robert Cialdini explained that we're more drawn to people who are similar to us.But not all similarities are created equal. It's the rare, uncommon ones that have the most impact. They make us feel like we belong, while also making us feel special and unique. That's the key to capturing someone's attention and making them want to connect.

Examples: The Good and The Bad Good:

  • "I saw that we both volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in college. I was part of the fundraising team - what did you do there?"
  • "As a fellow competitive chess player, I was impressed to see your tournament wins. How did you get into the game?"
  • "Saw we both worked at ACME Inc. back in the day. Would love to swap stories about our time in the trenches!"
  • "Read that you climbed Kilimanjaro last year. As a fellow mountaineer, I'm in awe. How was it?"


  • "Looks like we both have experience in project management. We should connect!"
  • "Hey fellow New Yorker, how about this weather?"
  • "I see we're both humans. We should grab coffee!"

To leverage the power of uncommon commonalities, go beyond the superficial. Highlight specific shared experiences or niche interests that the other person likely doesn't have in common with many others.

10 Areas to Find Uncommon Commonalities

  1. Unique educational experiences (e.g., a specific school or club within the school, being part of a specific research project, studying an uncommon subject)
  2. Hobbies or interests (e.g., running, collecting vintage records, practicing calligraphy)
  3. Shared career transitions (e.g., switching from in-house to agency recruiting, from software engineering to product, staying for 6 years in the same company)
  4. Mutual connections or affiliations (Startup incubator, community, etc.)
  5. Hometowns or places you've lived (e.g., growing up in a small, little-known town, living abroad)
  6. Specific causes or charities you support
  7. Personal accomplishments or challenges (e.g., running an ultramarathon, learning to code as an adult)
  8. Unusual skills or talents (e.g., being fluent in Esperanto, having a pilot's license, being a hot dog eating contest winner)
  9. Shared uncommon point of view (e.g., looking at the person's previous LinkedIn posts)
  10. Pets (if you have a dog, the person too, just ask about the breed and it's usually a 100% reply rate :))

You can find these hidden gems by thoroughly reading their LinkedIn profile, personal website, social media posts, and any articles or interviews featuring them. Keep an eye out for brief mentions of interesting experiences or passions - those are often the most fruitful.

Once you've identified an uncommon commonality, mention it in your outreach message. Clearly state what it is, why it stood out to you, and how it made you feel connected to them. The more specific and genuine you are, the more likely they are to appreciate your thoughtfulness.