Why requests to pick my brain hurt my head.
When I was a kid I collected baseball and football cards. Today I collect something far more valuable: knowledge. I add to my collection every day by reading, listening to audio books and podcasts, and talking to experts. I tap into my inner Oprah, and ask questions to try to expand my knowledge, my abilities and effectiveness. Which is why every night I go to bed a little wiser than I was when I woke up.
Pass It On
To return the favor to all those who have shared with me, I try to share what I know with others. That’s why I write this blog. It’s why I guest lecture to college students and why I try to make myself available to those who want to meet with me one-on-one, like Hall & Oates.
Because I have openly demonstrated a willingness to talk about the things I know, I get a steady stream of requests to discuss a wide variety of topics. I am happy to share what I know. However, there is one question I really dislike being asked when people want me to share my knowledge with them.
No one wants to have their brain picked. The idea of brain picking conjures a variety of unpleasant images in my head, of my head. I see graphic depictions of ice picks to the cranium. And vultures picking at my lobes of squishy gray matter. I imagine someone picking my nose and really, really getting up there.
Brain picking makes me think of picking at zits and picking scabs. In other words, asking to pick my brain is not an intellectually enticing pick up line.
Reframe In The Membrane
Brain picking is really focused on the person trying to extract value. Not the person offering the value. Which makes it sound like a selfish request. So let’s not use this phrase anymore.
Pick Your Pick-Your-Brain Substitute.
The next time you want to pick up on someone else’s knowledge try one of the following pick up lines:
- I would love to learn more about __________. And I don’t know anyone who knows more about it than you.
- I would love to hear your philosophy on _________.
- You are the smartest person I know when it comes to _______. Can I ask you some questions?
- You are the Queen/King of ____________ and I would like to be your subject, of this subject.
- If I bought you a Butterfinger would you drop some of your knowledge on me?
- I am extremely impressed by how much you know about __________. Would you consider acting like Sonny, and share?
- I want to learn how you _______________ because no one does it better. (Baby, your the best.)
Note: you are suppose to replace the ________ with the topic you want to discuss. So don’t actually say, ‘I would love to learn about line from you.’ Unless you want to learn about line dancing. Or line tamers.
Think about what you are saying before you ask someone if you can pick their brain. There are much better ways to ask those you admire to share their knowledge, guidance and perspective. Including asking someone to share their valuable knowledge, guidance and perspective. Be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes. Flatter, praise and respect those you would like to learn from. You will be sure to create a mutually beneficial exchange that leaves all brains better than ever. And potentially better than Ezra.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.