How do I turn down someone who wants to “pick my brain”?

I know you probably get several requests from people who want to meet with you over coffee. How do you deal with these requests if you can tell that a.) the person is not serious (“I just want to pick your brain!”) or, even worse, b.) a bro who seems like he could be interested in you but is disguising it as a “business meeting”? (I feel particularly embarassed asking the latter part of that question, but it’s a real thing that happens to many women.) Do you have a standard response? I feel bad saying no, but we also have to value our time, right??


Did you see this article? I’m of mixed minds about this. I do a LOT of free emailing/coffees/q&as, and i think it helps my career overall. But there is a limit, and I’m not sure how to define it…

i think of it as professional development. cultivating an audience for my work, getting editors to like me more, putting my name out there and claiming my work. if someone is outright demanding of my time, or keeps replying with questions after i’ve politely answered them, i just drop the thread. and i usually don’t meet in person for coffee unless it’s a personal favor for a friend-of-a-friend. i keep it to email, where i can answer at my leisure. and i usually don’t respond to big, broad questions like, “how do i jump-start my career?”

so i guess i do have some rules…i am a pretty big proponent of the Adam Grant give-and-take theory, honestly. i give so much that i never feel bad asking people for their time or specific advice.