Pick Your Brain
I’m not about being stingy with what I know.
Have you ever had the experience of being out to dinner with a friend and before you know it, the whole meal turns into a coaching session? I know I’ve been there. Maybe you’ve had a coffee date with someone to whom who you just couldn’t say no. You show up begrudgingly and leave feeling resentful when they ask to “pick your brain.”
Let’s not forget the other times when being of service is easy and you would never dream of not helping!
For instance, my mother in law just had to request some money back for a service rendered (actually, service not-rendered, which is why she needed her money back!). That’s something I’m really good at (communicating in sticky situations), so I was grateful to help. Sure, technically it would fall under the category of coaching, but these are not the instances I’m referring to.
Sticking to clear boundaries is not the same thing as withholding from your friends, family, or even strangers on the street. Coaching is what you do for a living and if you want people to respect that, you’ve got to set the tone.
Let’s start with setting boundaries with acquaintances, mailing list subscribers or other people you may not actually know very well. What do you do when they ask to pick your brain…fo’ free?
Step 1: Just say no!
You’re a business owner. Sometimes (er…most of the time) there’s simply no time to go on coffee dates to give free information that your valued clients are paying for. That is completely understandable and doesn’t need an explanation. “I’m sorry I can’t make it,” or “I wish I could, but I can’t” is all you need to say.
And no, this doesn’t mean you’re rude. You’re just being clear.
Step 2: Provide an alternative resource.
Personally, I’d love to help everyone who comes my way, but I just can’t. There are not enough hours in the day and I just don’t have the bandwidth.
I write a lot of blogs, offer a ton of free seminars, and have an active social presence. There’s a method to this madness — I want people to have access to me and to my knowledge. Plus, this helps me add value to my community while still protecting my time with my family and preserving my time with my clients.
As a result, I always have somewhere to direct inquirers!
Maybe I direct them to a social platform where I answer questions, a blog that’s related to the topic they want to discuss, or an awesome resource I know will help with their concerns.
So what might that look like?
“I get asked this a lot, and I just can’t say yes to everyone, so to be fair, I actually have a personal policy that I don’t do ‘pick your brain’ meetings.
That said, if you have a question, I answer every one I’m asked on my Facebook page. That way, you can get the answer you’re looking for, but I can also serve the community at large by sharing my opinion.”
And there you have it.
It’s simple. It’s true. And I’m still being generous with my knowledge.
Then… there’s the more awkward issue of maintaining boundaries with your friends.
So, I have a few friends who tend to turn our catch-up lunches into full-blown coaching sessions because they’re curious about my opinion and value my expertise. And, to be honest, these one-sided lunch dates just don’t feel very good.
But you know what?
It is MY responsibility to show my friends how to treat me. So there is no one to blame but myself when I feel exhausted and ‘coached out’ after hanging with a pal.
Now let me back up and explain that there’s no problem with asking friends for advice. I have a very good friend who is a hairdresser. Who do you think I go to when I’m ready for a new ‘do? Of course, my friend the hairdresser.
I have another who’s an investment banker. Where do I go when I need advice on a potential investment? My friend the investment banker.
There’s no harm in asking for advice!
But if YOU’RE feeling resentful, YOU haven’t set clear boundaries.
So let’s take a look at what that might look like.
When I’m out to dinner and the conversation starts to move into the realm of coaching, brain picking, advice seeking, etc., I say:
“I really want to help you as much as I can, but I also want to make sure we have friend time. So, it’s 7:30 now, what do you say we talk shop for the next 15 minutes and then if it’s okay, I’d like to clock out for the rest of the night.”
Again, it’s not rude. It’s true. And I’m still leading with service. Plus, I’m preserving our friendship connection and taking care of myself.
Now, you might be thinking, “What about inviting friends to become clients?”
Good question, and I actually have a couple friends who are clients. But for some reason, in those sticky heat-of-the-moment conversations, asking my friend for money just doesn’t resonate.
For some, that does feel authentic. And if that’s what resonates with you, by all means, go for it. For me, I don’t mind being generous as long as I’m clear about my boundaries and always feel good about my friendships.
So, how do you manage the pick-your-brain dilemma? I’d love to know your tips in the comments!