Friday, June 4, 2010

Asker or Guesser?

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??


Meg Benjamin said...

A guesser, absolutely! It would be interesting to see if this has any gender identification--I'd guess a lot of women (particularly Midwesterners like me) are guessers.

Leah Braemel said...

I'm absolutely a guesser. Was taught not to ask outright.

Viv Arend said...

First Asker up to the plate. Yup, I'll ask anything and if you say no, I'm not offended at all.

But to add your the last paragraph, Guessers can be really annoying :D Like... what exactly do you mean when you ask in your hinting around way: "Do you want to stop for a coffee?" I think for a second then say "No." Then I find out later that my hubby (a guesser) is upset because there was something cool at that coffee shop he wanted to see.


Seriously? Then pull over dude. :D

Kelly Jamieson said...

Fellow Guessers, Meg and Leah!

Viv, I so get your comment! I know I've done that myself and I KNOW it's annoying!

Leah Braemel said...

Viv, I wish I could "ask" outright, but it seems drilled into me to 'hint' which may explain why I figure everyone else works the same way. So I'm constantly trying to figure out what someone 'really' means when they say something, looking for subtext. So when I meet an "asker" I don't know what to think, LOL.

Really interesting topic, by the way! (Heard there's a difference like that between menspeak and womenspeak)

Ingela F. Hyatt said...

I'm definitely an Dad taught me to "question" everything which also includes asking questions...I'd rather know about a situation outright, then having to guess...guessing drives me crazy! LOL

And yet, I love to speculate...go figure... LOL

PG Forte said...

Wow, fascinating topic. I think I'm an asker who grew up in a predominantly guess culture. I remember asking for things as a child (on more than one occasion) and being told it was rude.

So I suppose a lot of my guess behavior is "learned" behavior rather than part of my core personality.

Kelly Jamieson said...

Ingela, thanks for stopping by!

And PG yeah, makes you wonder how much of it is innate or whether it's learned... my sister grew up in the same household, and she's much more of an Asker.

Debra St. John said...

Oh, I am definitely a guesser!

Meg Benjamin said...

Hubs and I are both guessers, which means that in situations like now (where we're on vacation), we can drive each other crazy. "Would you like to hike to the Falls?" "Would you like to?" "Maybe. How do you feel?" AAAAAAAAAAA