Please stop telling me to “feel free.”

It’s one of the most ridiculous phrases I come across … and I come across it frequently.

You know, as in when people email you asking for something … but they don’t want come right out and ask for it, so instead, they tell you to “feel free” to do it.

As in, “I’m looking for a new job; feel free to pass my resume along.”

Or, “I want to pick your brain so feel free to suggest a time when we can talk.”

(Being told someone wants to pick my brain is another phrase I absolutely can’t stand.

It immediately conjures up images of a pick-axe being taken to my noggin, leaving a gaping hole in what is, for the most part, a decently-shaped skull currently covered with quite nice hair.

But I digress.)

I’ve seen it on blogs as well. “Feel free to share this blog!”

Or, “Feel free to leave a comment!”

Or (this is the worst of all, IMHO), “Feel free to sign up for my RSS feed!”

Really?

Now, I think that most of the time, folks don’t even realize they’re doing this.

They’re so used to using corporate BS, that insidious phrases such as “feel free” have crept into their every day vocabulary.

Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up in America, but I find myself digging my heels in and resisting the urge to throw something at my laptop (after all, it’s not the laptop’s fault) when I see this.

I should feel free to do what you want me to do?

Why, of course I should!

Except, I’d be far more likely to consider doing it if you just came out and asked me.

As in, “I’m looking for a new job; would you consider sharing my resume with those you think appropriate?”

Or, “I’d love to pick your brain; would you have 10-15 minutes when we might talk?”

And as far as blogs go, don’t even put it on there. If people like it, they will share it!

Here’s the thing.

We are all free to do anything we want. Or not to do it, as the case may be.

If you really want me to do something for you, just come out and ask.

And if you’ve taken the time to be nice to me in the past, chances are I will do it.

Even if you haven’t been in touch with me for months, or years. I tend not to forget people (for now, we’ll see what happens as I grow older), and I really don’t mind being asked for help.

Countless people have helped me, and when I can, I like to do the same for others.

But telling me to “feel free” to do something just reminds me that I am equally free not to do that same thing.

Especially if I don’t know you from Adam, you’ve secured an introduction to me via so-and-so (which is fine, that was a smart thing to do) … but don’t you think I should at least have a sense of who you are before you go around telling me to feel free to do stuff?

It’s not just what one asks for.

It’s also how one asks for it that counts.

Image: Carbon Arc via Flickr, CC 2.0

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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