Let Me Pick Your Brain

Upload Your MindOver the years, I have lost count of the number of people who have said, “Hey, I’d love to get together to pick your brain about something I’ve been working on.”  The frequency of the request has been in the triple-digits, literally.  Much as I really like and enjoy being with the purveyors of these requests, I must admit, my heart sinks just a little bit more each time the expression is used.

Let’s just say this:  There are common expressions I really love… and there are some I, well, love a whole lot less.  “Let me pick your brain” is in the whole lot less category.

First of all, OUCH!  Sounds like it could be painful.

Second, it just comes across as such a selfish ask.  I’m not much of a “what’s in it for me?” kind of gal and I suppose one could argue that it is just a matter of semantics, but there must be a better way to request assistance.

In networking, the best connectors are very, very generous with their time, information and resources.  Most are even willing to offer a little pro bono consulting advice on that project you’ve been working on. Rather than asking if you can pick your contact’s brain…

  • Express how much it would mean to you to spend a little time together;
  • Recognize him/her as an expert or well-regarded source of knowledge on the matter at hand;
  • Show him/her the respect they deserve by acknowledging that any time spent is a highly valuable, very scarce resource;
  • Rather than say, “Let’s get together so I can pick your brain,” consider a softer approach such as, “I’d love your input on a project I’m working on,” or “Your thoughts on my approach would be really appreciated;” and
  • Please, please, please be sure to thank him/her AND ask “What can I do to help you?”

Finally, after the “brain picking” has taken place, if you believe your contact has more information to share that would be helpful to your effort, you might consider engaging him/her on a professional basis by offering a paid contract for him/her to provide the expertise.

So, the moral of this story:  You can pick your friends and you can pick your brain, but should you really pick your friend’s brain?  I think not.

2 thoughts on “Let Me Pick Your Brain

  1. Once again, Alana, you have not only identified another flaw in how many people “network,” but you provide viable, real-world suggestions on how all of us can improve our networking skills. Thanks!

  2. I love this! As a physician, we are used to making orders and engaging in “one way” communication with the team we lead. Now that I am in private practice and pushing forward a better way for primary care – networking is something I need to get better at! Many people have “picked my brain” and it does hurt! Thank you for writing this piece.

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