How to Stand By Your Value and Sidestep Bloodsuckers – While Still Remaining Approachable

If you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

And then they will violate them.
And then they will tell their friends that it’s OK to violate them.
All because you failed to set a precedent of value.

You know the types of conversations I’m talking about. Those unsolicited phone calls, emails or in-person requests from people you barely know (or don’t know at all) that want to abuse your expertise for their own personal gain without reciprocating any value in return.


Today I’m going to teach you how to handle these situations in a professional, approachable, value-driven way that (still) maintains your integrity, wastes minimal time and effort for both parties – all while simultaneously educating people on your boundaries.

1. “I just have one quick question.”

No, they don’t. Their “question” is rarely quick and usually requires a lengthy answer that you probably don’t have the time to offer.

An example of “one quick question” is, “What was the name of that satanic death metal band we listened to last night?” NOT, “How did you get your start as a writer?”

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “I’m glad you asked! My free ebook addresses that issue in great detail. Download it here, read it, and if you still have questions when you’re finished, get back to me.” Delivers value and challenges them to work.

o “You know, that question would take about an hour to answer. When would you like to set up a one-on-one coaching session to do so?” Sets a precedent of value.

o “That’s a great question. And I definitely have a great answer for you. How much money would it be worth to you to have that answer?” Risky, but makes them put a price on their problem.

o “I’d be happy to sit down with you and share my thoughts. My One Quick Question Fee is $250. How about Thursday at 10:30am at the Starbucks on Walnut and Main?” Sales closer.

2. “I’d like to get together to talk about an opportunity.”

Odds are, it’s an opportunity for them to sell you something. Or make money off of you. Which I’m not saying is a crime – salespeople have to eat too.

But your job as the master of your boundaries is to require specific information about this “opportunity” before proceeding to waste two hours of your day sitting in a coffee shop listening to some glossy-eyed housewife pitch you on her amazing system for becoming your own boss and making a six-figure income selling non-FDA approved herbal supplements that may or may not cause rectal bleeding.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Can you email me a copy of the meeting agenda?” Odds are, they won’t have one.

o “If we got together, what, specifically, would the agenda be for our meeting?” Asks for clarification.

o “Are you affiliated with any direct selling or network marketing organizations?” Weeds out the pyramid people.

o “Could you give me a specific description of this opportunity in twenty words or less so that I can make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed?” Forces them to be more concise.

3. “I’d love to buy you lunch.”

Riiiiight. That way you’d be committed to (at least) twenty minutes of facetime so this bloodsucker can ask every possible question he can think of, listen carefully to your advice, and then take ZERO action on any of the gems you gave him because he didn’t pay.

No. You’re not a lunch whore. “Will work for food” is not part of your business plan (barring extenuating circumstances). Not anymore.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “What is your positive motivation for wanting to meet with me?”Calls their bluff.

o “What specific questions do you have? I bet most of them could be answered via email more efficiently.” Saves time, mixes the medium.

o “Thanks for the invitation! I’d love to get together if my schedule wasn’t so darn full. My lunches for the next few months are either client/prospect meetings or coaching/consulting sessions. And I need to make those my priority during that time slot to optimize my time and reach my goals. If you would like to book a one-on-one session, attached is my fee schedule and availability. Otherwise, I respectfully decline.” Sets boundaries, retains value.

4. “Could we chat on the phone sometime?”

In the words of Scott “Dilbert” Adams, “Nothing good can ever come from answering the phone. It’s always someone asking you to do work. Incoming phone calls rarely involve people volunteering to help you.”

Interesting point. And in many cases, true point. See, it’s harder to set boundaries, restrict time or say no to someone on the phone. Nobody likes rejecting or being rejected in person OR on the phone. Email, on the other hand, is much easier, accessible and efficient. Plus it’s less threatening.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “We (could) talk on the phone, but you’ll have a better chance of reaching me and a MUCH quicker response if you send an email.” More efficient.

o “Actually, I hate the phone. Here’s my email address…” Honest, efficient, mixes the medium.

o “Well, what’s your burning question? I bet I can answer it right now…” Time saver.

5. “I’d like to set up a meeting with you.”

First of all, meetings are useless. They waste time, kill productivity and bore people to tears. And the fact that most businesspeople still have meetings every day is an indication that evolution never happened.

Not to mention, “meetings” are often code for “sales pitches.” Stay away from these vortexes. Their undertow is designed to suck you in. Protect of your time.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Dang it! I’m all booked up. Email me with your issue and we’ll solve it online together.” Next best option.

o “I would, but meetings are the bane of my existence. And I maintain a personal policy that doesn’t allow meetings. So, what the best way I can help you the most, right now?” Honesty, levity, brevity, integrity.

o “What, specifically, is your burning question? I bet I could answer it quickly without the need for a meeting.” Forces clarification and compactness.

6. “Can I pick your brain?”

For years I allowed people to “pick my brain.” We’d eat, brainstorm, chat, laugh – even sometimes map out their entire ideas. And it was a lot of fun, except for two things. One: I felt like a prostitute. And two: People NEVER, EVER took a modicum of action of any of the ideas because (a) most people don’t execute in general, and (b) people didn’t pay me.

What I’ve discovered is that when people don’t pay me – they don’t hear me. So, I started charging enough money that people would not only listen to me; but also do what I said. And they did. Funny how that works.

Next time this happens to you, try one of these responses:

o “Fantastic! I’d be happy to let you pick my brain. My brain-picking fee is $2000. How about Monday at 2:00pm at Panera on Brentwood?” Value, sales closer.

o “Actually, you can’t PICK my brain – but you can rent my brain. Go to for details.” Smart branding, unexpected, stands by value, changes the conversation.

o “Actually, my brain’s all booked up right now. Fortunately, my website has over 700 pages of articles and probably contains the answers to most of your immediate questions. Good luck!” Redirection with value.

REMEMBER: Your time isn’t valuable – it’s billable.

The good news is:

You can still reject people without being an unapproachable jerk.
You can still maintain the integrity of your boundaries without being a lunch whore.
You can still restrict the access to your brain without being selfish with your knowledge.

As long as you start by asking yourself: “Is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used?”

Because if you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

Will you stand by your value?

For the list called, “66 Questions to Prevent Your Time from Managing YOU,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

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Boundaries are saviors

Social acceptance ranks among the highest of human needs.

Which is why it’s natural to want to say yes to everybody.

Still, your time is the most precious commodity you have.

And if you don’t set boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

Which, unfortunately, is why you CAN’T say yes to everybody.

And that’s the big challenge of approachability: choosing your company wisely.

Now. Over the years, I’ve always had trouble saying no.

To friendships.
To lunch offers.
To people’s requests.

I guess I was afraid that if I told people no, they would think of me as “unapproachable.”

(Which is sort of a problem if your occupation is to teach approachability!)

So, for many years, I said to yes to pretty much everybody.

And I ended up wasting a lot of time, energy, attention (even money!) on people, projects and pursuits that didn’t match my interests. (For a few extreme examples on this, read Confessions of a Lunch Whore.)

Now, in retrospect, I don’t regret the choice to become more discrete about the company I keep.

Because even though my boundaries were floppy for a long time, I’ve now come to realize a few truths:

You DON’T have to accept every invitation.
You DON’T have to respond to every attention magnet.
You DON’T have to answer every single email you receive.
You DON’T have to stay friends with everyone you’ve met.
You DON’T have to go to lunch with every person who asks.

You DON’T have to pick up the phone every single time it rings.
You DON’T have to work with every client who comes to you for help.
You DON’T have to collapse your agenda for anyone who comes along.
You DON’T have to be friends with every single person you encounter.
You DON’T have to join every organization that wants you as a member.
You DON’T have to give your time to pursuits that don’t match your values.

You get the point.

It’s OK to say no.
It’s OK to turn people down.
It’s OK to choose your company wisely.

That doesn’t make you a snob.

This isn’t about snobbery; this is about discretion.
This isn’t about rejecting people; it’s about setting clear boundaries.
This isn’t about saying no to others; it’s about saying YES to yourself.

And especially in our hyper-speed, A.D.D., instant-gratification culture, setting boundaries is harder than ever before … because there are more magnets for your time and attention than ever before.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, nothing I can summarize in one blog post!

However, here’s a list of required reading to help you master the art of discretion.

NOTE: these six books have been absolutely life changing in the past year.

And I read a LOT.

So, listen up. These dudes are smart:

1. Boundaries, by Cloud & Townsend
2. Where to Draw the Line, by Anne Katherine
3. Crazybusy, by Dr. Edward Hallowell
4. The Power of a Positive No, by William Ury
5. Value Based Fees, by Alan Weiss
6. Finding Water, by Julia Cameron.

Read those books, and you too will learn that boundaries are saviors.

How do you maintain discretion with the company you keep?

Share your boundary-setting tips here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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NametagTV: Pursue the Passion

Pursue the Passion is a group of three recent college grads who embarked on cross country roadtrips to interview passionate professionals about their career paths.

I’ve been following their story for about a year now.

Their tour recently took them through St. Louis.

I had a chance to meet Brett Farmiloe, James Whiting, Noah Pollock and Zach Hubbell in person.

We had a blast talking about passion, commitment, and of course, not making any money in the beginning! (This pic is from the inside of their (sweet) RV!)

Anyway, totally cool guys with a totally cool idea.

I had some trouble embedding the video into this post, so you can watch the clip on the website of their sponsor,

Watch the video montage HERE.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing what you’re doing?

If you can’t imagine doing anything other that what you’re doing, that’s a good sign!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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Read more blogs!
Rent Scott’s Brain!
Download articles and ebooks!
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Where to draw the line

Boundaries are saviors.

I know this because I didn’t used to have any.

See, that’s what happens when you wear a nametag 24-7: you open yourself to anyone, anytime, anyplace.

And if you don’t set boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you.

Now, in my 2,539 days of nametagging, I’ve experienced my share of boundary violations:

I’ve had stalkers.
I’ve had time wasters.
I’ve had bloodsuckers.

I’ve had prank phone calls at 2 AM.
I’ve had people start fights with me.
I’ve had hatemail and death threats.

I’ve had cult members attempt to persuade me.
I’ve had religious zealots attempt to convert me.

I’ve had dozens of salespeople try to suck me into their pyramid schemes.

I’ve had hundreds of people walk right up to me and rip my nametag right off my shirt.

I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me in the middle of airports and physically poke me in the chest.

All of this from wearing a nametag!

(I mean, wouldn’t that get to YOU after a while?)

THE POINT IS: when it comes to approachability, setting boundaries is a MUST.

Is IS possible to be TOO approachable.

Especially when you’re devoting your time to unaligned pursuits.
Especially when your precious time, physical space and personal safety are at stake.

AND THAT’S THE CHALLENGE: figuring out where you draw the line.

In her bestselling book, Where to Draw the Line, Anne Katherine defines a boundary as “a limit that promotes integrity.”

I think that’s a great definition.

Because ultimately, that’s what boundaries are about: staying true to yourself.

Devoting your time, attention, energy and focus to pursuits that match your interests.

So, straight from the mouth of a (formally) boundary-deficient person, here are a few things I’ve learned about boundaries over the years.

NOTE: I am not a therapist, psychologist or a PhD.

I am a practitioner. Just a guy who’s learned how to draw the line.

Hope this helps!

Boundaries REINFORCE integrity.
You elicit more respect because people respond to policies.

Boundaries DEFINE who you are (and who you aren’t).
Which helps you become the world’s expert on yourself.

Boundaries FREE you to be who you are.
There’s nothing more liberating than developing the strength to say no.

Boundaries IDENTIFY your responsibilities.
Because you’re not just saying no to others, you’re saying YES to yourself.

Boundaries TEACH people how to treat you.
This assures that boundary violations won’t occur again.

Boundaries DEVELOP your discipline and maturity.
People will admire your stick-to-itiveness, commitment and consistency.

Boundaries HELP you avoid manipulative people and situations.
As Mr. Miyagi once said, “The best way to block a punch – no be there.”

AND HERE’S THE BEST PART: boundaries are reciprocal.

This goes back to the etymology of the word approachability, which derives from the Latin apropiare, meaning, “To come nearer to.”

So, in your relationships (with friends, family members, colleagues and customers) here’s how it plays out:

1. When you know your boundaries, you know who you are.
2. When you know who you are, you feel more confident.
3. When you feel more confident, you aren’t threatened by other people’s differences.
4. When you aren’t threatened by other people’s differences, they’re not threatened by yours.
5. When people aren’t threatened by each other, they accept each other.
6. When people accept each other, the rules change.

Boundaries. Are. Saviors.

Got it?


Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a strange man at my front door holding an ice pick who says he’s an old friend of my mom’s. Better go see what he wants…

How do you draw the line?

Share your best boundary management technique here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Are you a friend of The Nametag Network?

Read more blogs!
Rent Scott’s Brain!
Download articles and ebooks!
Watch training videos on NametagTV!

Make a name for yourself here…

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