How to Say No When Someone Wants to Pick Your Brain
Melinda and I were chatting after a group class at the gym. I congratulated her on finishing an e-book for her website, and she started to tell me about a new initiative she was working on. She said, "I'm planning on working with a coach on this. I've pretty much decided on someone. He's local." I nodded politely, thinking, okay, thanks for sharing... Then she said, "Oh, you're a coach, right? Maybe we could have lunch sometime and I could pick your brain."
Even after all the times I've been asked to 'just let me pick your brain', this one was particularly, umm, bold (I'm thinking of another b-word, but I'll keep it clean!). She was willing to pay for a coach's services, but wanted to just "pick my brain".
This comes up quite often for my clients too, especially those who offer 'soft' services like coaching. Services that don't always include something tangible.
That doesn't make the service any less valuable
Your brain, and all the expertise and experience in it, is not something to "pick". All that you offer is valuable, and you deserve to be compensated
in exchange for sharing it.
In my exchange with Melinda, I was so dumbfounded at the irony of the situation that I just responded vaguely, something like, well, we'll see. Not exactly the take-charge, clear, and boundaried power response I was hoping for. Powerful Me had taken a little vacation, or was checking her iPhone. My self-image took a little hit.
That experience taught me something very important about interactions with people who want to 'just pick your brain'.Be prepared
There was no need to run myself down about what had happened. I just needed to prepare for the next time.
So I got busy working on this issue. First, I called on Powerful Me to help. I've found it useful to give her a name: Madeleine. Conjuring up an image
of this aspect of myself has been really helpful, and I recommend it. In my case, Madeleine is blonde and tall, and looks prosperous and confident. One of the things I admire about her is that she has the nerve to wear big jewelry.
This tool isn't about splitting off parts of yourself. It's my version of a well-known psychology technique, where you can consciously
call on parts of yourself that you need, right then. It's a helpful bridge, until the rest of you catches up.
With Madeleine on the scene, I could move on to my goals
: Really get clear on what I wanted to communicate. Set boundaries. Be gracious.
The last one, being gracious, is important to me. Often, people have no idea what they are really asking. It's up to me to make that clear. So, in the meantime, I can communicate that in a way that doesn't demean them in any way, treats them with respect, and still gets my point across.
With me so far? Next step: write a script
I've used scripting many times in my career as an entrepreneur. For client calls, for cold calls, for difficult meetings. It's always been useful.
I rarely stick with the exact script, but having the key points clearly in my mind and the body memory of having practiced saying what I want to say, help me to stay focused in the most difficult situation.
Here's what my script looked like:
Melinda, I really appreciate that you value and respect what I have to offer as a coach enough to want me to share my expertise. I'd be happy to talk with you about your initiative. It sounds really exciting, and that it will be an important part of building your business. My process for working with people is to schedule a coaching call. If you'd like to have lunch, I'd prefer to not have a business focus. That way, we can really concentrate on your business and you'll get the full value of my experience and knowledge. Here's my card. If you decide to go ahead, send me an email and we'll set up a time for a coaching call.
Let's break it down, so you can see the moving parts:Melinda, I really appreciate that you value and respect what I have to offer as a coach enough to want me to share my expertise
This sentence highlights that I have expertise in this area. I remind her that this is an opportunity to explicitly
value and respect what I offer. I show my appreciation
for her implicit acknowledgement.I'd be happy to talk with you about your initiative. It sounds really exciting, and that it will be an important part of building your business
Let her know I'm interested
in working with her. Join
in her excitement, and show that I recognize
the importance of this initiative to her business.My process for working with people is to schedule a coaching call. If you'd like to have lunch, I'd prefer to not have a business focus. That way, we can really concentrate on your business and you'll get the full value of my experience and knowledge
These statements clarify my process
, the one that I know from experience works best for my clients. I reinforce how I value her business
and that I want her to get the most value from our interaction. I demonstrate my respect
for her time and money.Here's my card. If you decide to go ahead, send me an email and we'll set up a time for a coaching call
I offer her the opportunity to contact me using the process I've outlined, and give herclear steps
to follow to initiate our coaching relationship.
The next time I had someone want to pick my brain, I delivered a version of that response, and it worked! They were a little startled at first, but I got an email the next day to set up a coaching call.
That example will give you an idea of how you might approach your own script. Call on Powerful You. Think about the points you want to communicate, and how you'd like to say it. Write it down.
it. Say it out loud several times. Pull it out every once in a while and rehearse it again. That way, you'll be ready when it comes up. Next time, Powerful You will be available when you need her.
There will be times when you'll want to give your expertise freely. Just do it consciously, with an intentional decision.
One more thing: don't let yourself get discouraged if you don't handle a 'pick your brain' situation as well as you would have liked. It's a 'dust yourself off and start again' scenario. Dust yourself off, and get prepared. With your new script in mind, you'll do a lot better at handling situations where your value isn't being recognized.
Be prepared, and you'll walk away with your brain, and your self-esteem, intact.
Ursula Jorch, MSc, MEd, mentors entrepreneurs starting their businesses and seasoned entrepreneurs in transition to create the business of their dreams. Her coaching programs provide knowledge, support, clarity, inspiration, and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to empower you to reach your goals. Start with a free guide and other valuable info at www.WorkAlchemy.com