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The "Idea Mooch" - Who They Are & How to Deal

Updated on February 26, 2010

I'm sure you've come across them from time to time; those creatively constipated men and women that are forever mooching ideas; eavesdropping into your imagination and then reinventing your brilliance as their own. I have had a few in my life; friends and acquaintences that drop in from time to time to leach onto my current projects and exploit my creativity. From a very young age, my mother would try to console me with the age-old cliche, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", but I never bought it.

So, to my fellow victims, I offer you the only form of consolation that I know...tips on how to identify and avoid these imaginitively incompetent parasites.

5 key phrases to watch for...

  • "I've always wanted to do something like that"
  • "You know, I've been working on something very similar"
  • "If only we teamed up on this..."
  • "That is so creative! Great minds think alike, right?"
  • "I read that you can make up to $5,000 a month (stuffing envelopes/sending e-mails/assembling crafts/etc)."
  • "I don't really think that idea would work. What was that website again?"

Identify

So you meet a new person and there's instant fremistry (friend + chemistry). They agree with a lot of your ideas and take interest in your pursuits. They provide encouragement for your thoughts and even the occasional much needed ego stroke. And you think to yourself, "Finally! Someone else recognizes my genius!"

But beware....things aren't always what they seem.

I had a friend once that I completely respected on all levels. She was a lot like me, very goal oriented and grounded. We had similar interests and were both major overachievers. I let her read some of my writing one day, soaking up the complements and feeling pretty good about myself. Shortly after, she began identifying herself as a writer, slaughtering the written word with corny rhymes and lopsided stanzas. But I let it slide.

A few years later, I began experimenting with cooking. I took pride in finding new recipes and altering them to perfection. I was so happy with my newfound hobby that I wanted to share it with everyone, so I cooked and baked, and forced my samples onto my friends, family and coworkers. Soon after, I found my friend passing out samples of one-upped versions of my recipes.

Sadly, there were many more examples, and this "friend" was one of the more mild that I have encountered over the years, but it serves as a valuable lesson.

Get out while you still can!!
Get out while you still can!!

Correct

The most obvious way to fix the situation is quite simple; terminate the friendship and move on. But if your gut tells you otherwise, here areare a few tips to try to save your friendship:

  1. When he/she begins asking too many questions or probing one of your ideas, be very, very vague. You can say something like, "It's so early, I don't want to jinx it" or you can even joke about it, "I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you".
  2. Change the subject. Be subtle at first, but if they don't take the hint, you may have to be a little more firm.
  3. Respond to their question with another question. If they ask you, "So how does (insert project here) work?", you reply, "Well how would you do it?".
  4. Deliberatly give them the wrong information, and make it over-the-top. And if they pursue, "But seriously...", then keep it going, say "No, really, that's how it is..." And so on. Eventually they should get tired and change the subject.

If you try these suggestions and he/she still doesn't get the hint, it's probably time to move on. What you see as a "friendship", your "friend" may see only as an opportunity.

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