There are five words in the English language that, when strung together in a sentence, make my stomach squirm and my teeth clench. Those words are: can I pick your brain?
I have totally been guilty of saying this in the past. It has been said to me many times, too. And chances are high that you have been on both sides of this fence as well. “Can I pick your brain” is a phrase that seems complimentary at first glance, right? So why is it something that, as a Life & Business Coach, I am advising you NOT to do? I’ll tell you why…
Several years ago my own business coach at the time, Sandi Krakowski, opened my eyes to how this phrase and expectation sets business owners up for failure. I’ve since pondered it many times and actively sought to eradicate it from my vocabulary and thoughts altogether.
“Can I pick your brain” is a question that keeps one party (if not both) in a lack and poverty mindset while simultaneously making the other party (the one getting their brain picked) feel like their services and expertise are not valued or worthy of anything more than a “back-handed” free consultation.
Think about this for a moment…
What is the biggest challenge that women in business often face? Feeling worthy! We constantly feel like we have to prove ourselves and our services or products to everyone. And this mindset of “can I pick your brain” is keeping us from rising above and becoming spectacular in our areas of expertise.
So how do we fix it?
I truly believe that the majority of people who ask this question are not doing it from a heart of taking advantage of others. Many times it is something that they are completely unaware of and have never given thought to. Sometimes it’s just a complete lack of tact. And yet other times, at the heart of this question is the deep yearning for connection and learning from those who have gone before us.
The truth is that there is an honorable and a dishonorable way to build connection and network. The dishonorable way – the “Can I pick your brain” way – can make someone feel like you are trying to take advantage of them. The honorable way can build lifelong relationships that benefit each party in more ways than just business.
To truly cultivate honor and connection among fellow women (and men for that matter) in business, I recommend embracing the following rules of engagement:
1. Don’t Pick Their Brain – Build A Relationship!
The best business/client relationships I have are with the women that have taken the time to build a relationship with me, first. They have sowed time into getting to know who I am, not necessarily just what I can do for them. When this happens, it makes me feel honored and respected. The beauty of this is that I’ve been able to learn about them, too! And in turn, we’ve done business with each other, and we’ve sent referrals to each other. This is how long-term friendships are born!
That doesn’t happen when someone just messages you out of the blue wanting to “pick your brain” for something that you charge for but they don’t want to pay for. If you’ve been guilty of doing this wrong, it’s okay. Forgive yourself, and start doing things differently. Offer to take someone out to coffee for a networking date with the sole purpose of building a relationship, nothing more. It works! And, if you’ve been guilty of letting people take advantage of you, then forgive yourself and them, and start applying this tip, too. Remember, we reap what we sow. *wink*
2. Don’t Pick Their Brain – Ask the RIGHT question!
A simple question to ask that helps you get started on the right foot is this: “I’m not sure if this is a service I could hire you for or not, but I was wondering about…”
This simple question gives people the chance to explain about their services and products, while also giving them the chance to decide how they can honor you back. It also gives them a chance to let you know what resources they have that are free that could be a good starting point.
3. Don’t Pick Their Brain – Invest in them!
Once you’ve learned about their product or service, do the honorable thing and experience their help for yourself by becoming a client or customer! If you find yourself connecting with this person in a great way, then show them your appreciation by becoming a loyal client or customer. It will help you grow in many ways and you’ll find that your business will begin to expand and grow too, as a result. At the very least, refer people to them and share their business with your sphere of influence.
I know, a lot of this seems like elementary, basic networking skills. Guess what, it is! Yet sometimes our pride and ego get in the way and we forget about honor. When that happens, we risk taking advantage of people in ways that hinder progress. Let’s change that and be business professionals of a different sort. Let’s be the kind that no longer says “Can I pick your brain,” but instead cultivates relationships with honor.