Ask Keri: If someone you know asks for free advice about nutrition, how do you respond?
Keri says: Great question! This can be very hard because on the one hand most of us want to discuss nutrition, health, and wellness with everyone and anyone all the time, because we’re passionate about what we do. On the other hand, it is also our business and we make a living doing it.
First of all, remember: Your knowledge is your product. Your friends that own stores don’t give away clothing. Your friends that are accountants don’t do your taxes for free.
For a very close friend or family member, though, I give give give (and give some more). If they want help and are truly going to put in effort, I always give because I feel like it is something I have that I can give to the people I love. I’m happy to. But, it is easy to do this with everyone…and you can’t. You won’t be able to pay bills and you will become resentful. Once you get past your immediate family and very close friends, you need to have clear cut boundaries. These will differ for everyone.
Outline your boundaries, and then for people outside of that inner circle, try this approach: I usually say something like, “If you have a quick question, I’m happy to chat for a few minutes.” You can make sure to schedule a call in between other appointments so this person knows you are doing them a favor and you won’t get sucked into a half hour of chatter. Then, without hesitation or feeling bad, you have your one-liner ready, such as, “I’m happy to schedule a consult. You can email me at…” or “I can call you when I am in the office to set an appointment.” Use something you feel comfortable saying that indicates a clear switch into work mode. The person will most likely respect you more, and if the quick free advice you did give was great, it may have just been a perfect marketing opportunity.
Think of people you know who own restaurants, for example. If it’s not your sister, you wouldn’t expect to go eat at the restaurant five days a week for free. But if you do go eat there, you might expect for them to send out a round of drinks or a complimentary appetizer, and then later you’ll go tell everyone you know how great the meal was.
Finally, don’t be afraid to give when the time or person is right. As a smart professional, you’ve business sense you can lean on, and there are many instances in which giving a little more than you normally would feels right for your career path. There are even times when it will feel like an incredible opportunity to be able to demonstrate your knowledge. It’s always going to be a balance and is usually case by case, but set some boundaries you can rely on, first.
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