The Best Way To Deal With People Asking You For Free Advice

by Simona Terron
We’ve all been there; we’re getting our coffee buzz on, putting on our thinking caps and preparing to slay a massive report that’s been bugging us for weeks and is due the same afternoon. Only to be interrupted by that eager intern who needs to know something urgently and you’ve been appointed as mother hen for the day. Or that over-friendly colleague who pretends she needs help with something official but actually just wants a little personal advice about her dating life.

Don’t fret just yet or lose your cool. There are other ways to deal with such time-wasters than to ignore them or blow them out of the water. These are people who are perhaps most likely simply awed by your experience and professional versatility, and they wish to borrow some of your wisdom, life tips and perhaps a wee dash of stardust. That can be a nice ego massage but it can also lead to speed bumps in your day, week or general life schedule.

Signing up to be someone’s mentor is another thing altogether and is not just admirable but also highly recommended. Giving away free advice whenever people ask to pick your brain or grab a cuppa coffee with them is another.

Marie Forleo, business strategist and marketing maven, author and owner of Marie TV suggests three ways in which to deal with people who make this request of you. To start with she suggests a basic, “If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and method of payment.”

But since not all of us are sassy enough to pull that off and not come off looking arrogant or worse, too acquisitive, here are three of her scripts you can borrow:
  1. The 'Spice Girl' Script: Force the person to get hyper-specific about what they want, what they really, really want from you. You could simple ask, “My work schedule is full, so coffee is not doable these days. Are you interested in becoming a client or did you just have a quick question?” This will either lead to them being scared off or getting real, real quick, and getting to the point because they realize you’re super busy. This works wonderful to convey that you consider your time as valuable and so they’d better do the same if they want to connect with you.
  2. The 'Pay Me' Script: You have got to get that your experience and expertise are valuable, plus you deserve to earn an honest living. No person in their right mind would expect to walk into a store and walk out with products without paying (because that would be considered stealing). In much the same way, you shouldn’t let folks think they can walk away with your ideas and thoughts without having to pay for any of it. Feel free to direct such people to your product or service, which you can pitch to them. If you don’t have either one, you can simply tell them, “I don’t have time to grab coffee unless we’re doing it as an official business meeting, and if you’re game, my charge for a consultation is…”
  3. The 'Mama' Script: You can share your current struggle with juggling your personal and professional life and mention how you have too little time to add anything else. Marie recommends telling such people that you barely have time to visit your mother, so it’s unlikely you have the time to sit and have coffee with them and you hope they don’t take it the wrong way.
Being direct and polite is often a better and more winning combination than the approach where you just ignore or weasel out of conversations where people want you to share your knowledge. Try these tips and let us know if they work or not.

To watch Marie in action sharing these fabulous tips, watch this video:

Image: Shutterstock
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