Are you an asker or a guesser?
Why not be both?
Haley Nahman’s great newsletter, Maybe Baby, recently introduced me to the dichotomy of Ask Culture and Guess Culture. Ask Culture is essentially the idea that it’s OK to ask for anything, but you have to accept that the answer could just as likely be no as yes. In Guess Culture, you avoid making a request until you’ve gleaned from context clues that the answer will probably be yes.
In the example she uses, one acquaintance asks another if they can stay over while visiting New York for a couple days. The would-be host is caught off guard because they think the asker should have known (or guessed) that the request was too much of an ask to even put on the table.
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As a guesser myself, I’ve been in the shoes of the host, and hemmed and hawed while trying to think of a reason to say no. Never once did it occur to me that I could just say no and leave it at that. Because as I played by my set of rules, I couldn’t see that someone else was playing by another.
With the benefit of a hypothetical situation, it’s clear that reciprocating the directness would be the best move for the host and the acquaintance. But I’ve also seen firsthand how a little tact softens even the most unexpected requests. Instead of finding ourselves in one camp or the other, why not combine the virtues of both?
For the guessers, this means no longer assuming answers to questions that haven’t been asked. It also means getting used to the idea that a no (whether given or received) is often just that, no hard feelings attached.
For the askers, incorporating some of the contextual awareness that guessers pride themselves on can dull the bluntest requests. Considering a person’s feelings and circumstances will never hurt your delivery, and knowing when to ask a question is just as important as knowing what to ask.
No matter which style you lean towards or who you find yourself talking to, every conversation relies on giving and taking a mutual trust. When you ask a question, you’re really asking for honesty. When you answer a question, you’re really asking for belief.
Not so sure? Ask me anything.