I came across this post on the internet last week that I thought was fascinating. In response to a sort of etiquette question, Andrea Donderi’s theory that we are raised in one of two cultures – the Ask Culture, or the Guess Culture – came up.
In the Ask Culture, you grow up with the expectation that it's okay to ask for anything at all, realizing you may get no for an answer.
In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guessers put out subtle hints, feelers, and talk around a subject, in the hopes that they won’t have to ask for what they want – they’ll get an offer.
You can see the potential for conflict here (and what writer doesn’t love potential for conflict!)
I can definitely see that I grew up in the Guess culture. If there’s a pathological Guess Culture, my mother would have been it. And her mother, too, come to think of it. It would most certainly have been considered rude to ask outright for almost anything. I still feel very uncomfortable doing that. And guess what? When someone asks me for something, I sometimes (not always but often!) find that rude. However, I also find it difficult to say no, because I don’t want to offend them. And then I feel angry and put-upon.
On the other hand, understanding someone who grew up in the Ask Culture helps with this. That person doesn’t think it’s rude to ask, and in fact, they fully realize they may get a “no”. And they’re okay with that. So I don’t have to worry about saying that “no”. And if I try to avoid it (which I confess to having done when faced with someone asking me to do something I don’t want to do) they don’t understand that – they’re thinking, don’t be so passive aggressive, just deal with it!
I loved this comment: “I'm a Guess too. Let me tell you, it's great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.” Ha! Totally relate to that!
Apparently the subtle “Guess behaviours” like hinting and talking around something, hoping it will lead the person to offer what the “Guess person” wants, only work well with other Guess people. If you’re trying that with an “Ask person” it won’t work. If you know someone’s an “Ask person”, they won’t likely be offended if you just ask for what you want. And conversely, if you’re a Guesser, when someone asks you for something, a request you perceive as pushy or presumptuous, the very fact that they’re asking is a sign that they’re an Asker. They’re half-expecting you'll say no, and have no idea you feel uncomfortable. So say no, and see what happens – likely, nothing.
So - are you an Asker or a Guesser??