Can I Pick Your Brain? Sure, Why Not?

Don't Say No
My Grandparents’ 50th Anniversary

20 years ago this week, my grandfather passed away. I still miss his easy, laid-back manner and willingness to help anyone. My grandfather would patiently explain things for hours. He never got frustrated when I didn’t understand something, and I wasn’t the only one he took the time to help. Sometimes he even helped people who didn’t necessarily want help…there was one time on a trip to (French-speaking) Canada when he helped someone push a car during a snowstorm and because of the language barrier we’re still not exactly sure how that person actually wanted my grandfather to help! I only remember him telling me “No” one time, when at 13 I wanted to buy a black string bikini – it was the kindest, firm refusal I have ever received.

I’ve seen several posts on why you should say no when someone asks to “pick your brain” and, as I learned from my grandfather, I have a hard time saying no. I may not be able to spend a huge amount of time, or answer every question, and it may not be on the timeframe you desire, but I am generally happy to share the knowledge that I have.

Here are some of the posts I have seen on why NOT to let someone pick your brain:

Many of the people I read saying “no” are consultants, and while I truly understand their need to make money, I’m confused as to why they think having a conversation about what they do for a living is a bad idea. I personally like Barry Moltz’s response – pay it forward by letting them pick your brain, but do it on your schedule and set your own limits.

I’m using this as the topic for my 1-year anniversary of moderating #SMchat on Wednesday, 3/16/11, at 1PM ET. Here are the questions I am asking:

  1. Have you ever had someone “pick your brain” (yes/no)? If so, how often? If not, why not?
  2. Does your answer depend on how well you know the person who asked or the type of company they represent?
  3. Would you be more likely to participate if you were in the beginning of your career or once more established?
  4. Could a “brain picking” session could turn into an advantage, either personally or professionally?
  5. Is blogging/participating in online chats/answering online Qs/etc. the same thing as having your brain picked?

I’m hoping my online friends will be able to shed some light on both sides of the topic. Let’s talk about it then. Please feel free to comment below if you can’t make the chat or if you would like to bring up something I have missed.