How to Ask Someone To Pick Their Brain (Hint: Don't!)

 Photo:  Christin Hume  

Photo: Christin Hume 

In the business world... 

it’s fairly common to receive an email from someone asking you to coffee because they “just want to pick your brain.”

I was inspired to write this post after listening to a Being Boss episode (for the life of me I can't remember which one!). But the guest said it’s actually okay to write these emails, just don’t say that dirty little phrase: "can I pick your brain because" it implies all take and no give and can sometimes come across as rude and frankly, uncaring about the other person’s time and expertise that they’ve worked so hard to obtain that you are now asking them to give you for free.

This is NOT to say that people mind having these meetings. Not at all! Generally most people love to mentor or to help out someone else who is coming along. However, we do ask that you phrase your requests a little better.

Here are three tips to help you actually get that meeting:

  1. Be personal + specific + do your research. They say that flattery gets you everywhere and this is true! If you are going to reach out to someone, research them a bit before you do so. Find something personal and specific that you can mention in your email that you admire about their work.

  2. Be generous - is there something you can do fit this person in return? Give more than you take. Offer to buy them coffee or lunch or get creative and offering them a free hour of YOUR time in your area. This lets them know you know that their time is valuable.

  3. Be upfront. Tell them what you want and your exact request. Don’t be vague. What is it that you want from this person? Do you want to sit down over coffee and ask them about their life in general? Chances are that’s too broad of a topic. Narrow down and ask them about their first year in college and what that was like. When your email lands in someone’s inbox, if they are considering it, they want to know what they are getting themselves in to, be able to answer your question concisely, and know they aren’t wasting their time.

If you are on the receiving end of a lot of these emails, Kaarin wrote a great piece for The Write Life that I’ll link up here.

Tell me: have you asked for a pick your brain meeting? How was it received? How can you implement these suggestions for your next meeting?


Sydney is a personal wardrobe stylist with over eight years of experience in the fashion industry. She specializes in helping women create sustainable and timeliness wardrobes that work for them, not against them. She is also the creator of BEYOND where she provides coaching services for aspiring personal stylists helping them take their styling hobby to a full-time business.

Sydney is a graduate of the Los Angeles-based School of Style, holds dual masters degrees and currently lives in Richmond with her husband and three cats. She loves black coffee, vintage, and the great outdoors.

For styling or coaching inquiries: please contact: sydney@chicstripes.com