The Askers and the Guessers

The Askers and the Guessers

Andre Donderi introduced terminology that shows we’re raised in one of two cultures:

In Ask culture, people grow up believing they can ask for anything — a favour, a pay rise — fully realising the answer may be no. In Guess culture, by contrast, you avoid “putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes… A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t have to make the request directly; you’ll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept.”

Here’s where it gets interesting:

See also:
Peter Drucker compares readers and listeners among others in “Managing Oneself”, 1999

Neither’s “wrong”, but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won’t think it’s rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. Your boss, asking for a project to be finished early, may be an overdemanding boor — or just an Asker, who’s assuming you might decline. If you’re a Guesser, you’ll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too: Brits and Americans get discombobulated doing business in Japan, because it’s a Guess culture, yet experience Russians as rude, because they’re diehard Askers.

Recount some of the stalled questions in your inbox, slow-moving relationships, and confounding exchanges over the past few weeks. There may be Asker and Guesser theory at work.