Adam Grant is the author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success and a recent blog post entitled “No, You Can’t Pick My Brain, but I’ll Talk to You Anyway.” I agree with him; please do not ask to pick my brain. Is there anything humans ask each other to pick that sounds inviting? Like Adam, I say yes to people who seek my counsel. I also ask them to please not use that expression with me. I say yes because I like to help.

There are more effective ways to ask for and offer help than to invite the picking of brains (although in October, that might be more acceptable, especially if you’re a zombie fan).

These are my favorite ways to ask for and offer help:

How can I help you. Instead of just saying “May I help you,” which is a yes or no question, asking how you can help someone helps them consider what they need, to think about themselves, and have the opportunity to come up with something truly helpful you can do.

Help me help you. This is one of my favorites. I first heard it from a marketing EVP I used to work with. He’s very generous in helping people and his request is brilliant. By asking someone to help you help them, it forces them to focus on what they really want and need. 

Can you help me please. Who could say no to this? It’s such a disarming thing to say.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” -Ronald Reagan