Business Consulting

How to Say No to This Dreaded Question

Whats the dreaded questions?

This one:

“Can we get together for coffee? I’d like to pick your brain about something.”

It’s no big secret that I stink at saying “no” – but the one “no” that irritates the heck out of me is the request for coffee so someone can “pick my brain”. Was there ever a worse expression?

It’s not that saying no to coffee and brain-picking is hard. What really gets under my skin is the imposition of the request. I’m being asked to meet with someone – who I probably don’t know – so that he or she can freely tap into the expertise I’ve built up over the years. Frankly, it’s often just a complete waste of my time.

But you can’t really say that to someone. Nor can you really say that out loud (even though I just did.) So what ends up happening is that I feel bad about thinking that.

Until now.

I saw an old friend the other night, and her mother, who’s known me since I was nine years old, joined us, too. And wouldn’t you know it, her mom shared an expression that totally helped me reframe how I think about the coffee requests.

While my friend’s mom was talking about the incredible amount of time it takes to get from one side of Washington, DC to the other in order to meet people for dinner who she didn’t particularly want to spend time with, she said,

“You know, Ina Garten says you should never accept a dinner invitation from someone if you don’t plan to reciprocate.”

And there you have it. The Barefoot Contessa cleared it up for me. I’m not going to feel guilty about this. I’m just not going to accept an invitation unless I genuinely think I might want to reciprocate down the road.


One less thing to feel badly about.

Frederique is the founder and CEO of Her Corner, a global peer-group community of women business owners committed to growth in their businesses. Her Corner applies a systematic, process-based approach that includes business-driven agendas, carefully selected facilitators, and metrics-focused growth measures in order to give women the springboard they need to move forward.

Her Corner is Frederique’s fourth business that grew out of a personal need for access to other motivated and ambitious women business owners with whom she could collaborate in order to accelerate growth in their businesses.

When Frederique is not managing the business operations of Her Corner, she can be found either running accelerator programs for Her Corner members or at the Kogod School of Business at American University where she teaches entrepreneurship, business management and organizational behavior.

Frederique holds an MBA from the Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary and a BA in International and Russian Studies from Davidson College. She is a dual citizen of the United States and European Union, is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and conversant in Russian and Italian.

Leave a Reply

Start typing to see posts you are looking for.

I am a business owner operating effectively but looking to learn how to take my business to the next level and earn some more mullah!