Creepy. That’s the only way to describe it. Creepy.

I was at a conference a few weeks ago when a guy walked up to me with a used-car salesman grin, and a very obvious personal agenda in mind.

He shook my hand vigorously and proclaimed: “Hey, you really know your stuff on this violent extremism issue, I’d like to pick your brain.”

We’ve lost so many skills in inter-personal communications. It’s almost unbelievable.

Do me a favor. Close your eyes and say this out loud and slowly: “I – want – to – pick – your – brain.”

What comes to mind? Are you excited about that conversation? Or like me, do you have some weird vision of the top of your head being exposed while some freaky dude physically picks at your brain like a chimpanzee pick fleas off another?


Humans are social creatures. We are born to connect, to build relationships.  This is a timeless reality. We are constantly looking for ways to sustain our identity and to build networks or tribes with other people. It’s how we are hard-wired.


In fact, in this hyper-connected and trust deficit world, the leaders of the 21st century will be the right-brain thinkers who can tell stories and build relationships.

Trust, relationships, and story telling are key components of this reality, but we’ve lost these skills…hence the use of such ridiculous phrases as this.

We’ve gotten lazy. Our communication muscles have atrophied just like a flabby muscle from watching too much TV.

We are also living in a society that is lacking trust. A recent Gallup poll says that 2/3 of Americans say “people can’t be trusted.” That is a staggering number, and a significant increase from recent years.

Without trust, we can’t really build the relationships we need to succeed.

How we listen and how we speak to each other are at the heart of this matter. How we communicate, including the words we say to each other make a big difference, even if we don’t realize it.

Try this.

Instead of saying, “Hey Mary Ann, let me pick your brain on how to solve our employee dispute. …”

Use this, “Hey  Mary Ann, you’ve got amazing experience in this company, it would be really helpful if I could get your perspective on how we might solve our employee dispute.”

Can you see a difference?

Not embedding your request in an overt desire of cannibalism is  refreshing.

And, just by valuing Mary Ann’s perspective and asking her to share it, you can establish a legitimate human connection that opens the door for not only helpful information, but a long – term relationship that provides much more value to both people.

This stuff isn’t as intuitive as we might think. We need to work at it. I spent my entire adult life as a Green Beret mastering these skills in some of the darkest places on earth – and I still have to work at them.

Be on the look out…I’ve got some training courses coming down the line that will help you build these inter-personal skills to a whole new level of mastery. More to follow soon.

Don’t forget to join my mailing list if you haven’t already and share this post with your friends and network.

Until next time, thanks for what you do, and remember…NO BRAIN PICKING!!!




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