Asking vs Guessing

Are you from an ask or a guess culture? You may be unfamiliar with these concepts. If you’re like me, you’re already putting the pieces together of what ask culture and guess culture are. I’ll give you a short explanation and for further clarity, you can read about these concepts at 99u, The Guardian, or the original concept at ask.metafilter.com. These articles came across my desk this week and I had a need to share them. For me, it explained some otherwise nuanced things in my relationships with others. I think it will also explain some relational pain points to you in regards to asking vs guessing cultures.

First, the differences:

  • Ask Culture – You ask for things. No is assumed to be an OK answer. When no is OK, then asking is OK.
  • Guess Culture – You don’t ask for things, unless you’re 95% certain the answer will be yes. You need to develop other soft-skills in order to put out feelers for sensing if a person is leaning towards yes or no. If you feel they’re leaning towards yes, then you ask.

OK, so those are simple differences, but can make a lot of people very uncomfortable. The problem comes when someone from an Ask Culture meets someone from a Guess Culture (or vice-verse) and they don’t understand the other culture. Neither side of this is write or wrong. They’re just different. Both have strengths and pitfalls. I come from a more Ask oriented culture, so you know my bias as you read.

Ask Culture:

  • Strengths
    • You ask for things. No really, this is a strength. You have the ability to ask for things, take risks, and see movement because of that.
    • You don’t mind speaking up. You don’t mind letting your voice be known in meetings. If the worst someone can do is say no, then speaking up isn’t that bad. Right?
    • You’re OK with a level of risk that would make most uncomfortable. As a Leader, Manager, Entrepreneur, Pastor, etc…as with life, risk is required. Risk is required to live and asking teaches you to risk and be comfortable with the possible outcomes.[Tweet That]
  • Weaknesses
    • You ask for things. No really, this is a weakness. You have the ability to ask for things, take risks, and sometimes can bit off more than you could chew.
    • You don’t mind speaking up. You don’t mind letting your voice be known in meetings. Speaking up is good, when tempered with wisdom. If you’re an asker, I’m certain you can think back to a time that your ability to speak up has backfired on you.
    • You’re OK with a level of risk that would make most uncomfortable. Risk is required to live and sometimes the possible outcomes end in disaster. Be wise and think about acceptable risk and what that looks like for you.[Tweet That]

Guess Culture:

  • Strengths
    • You can sense how people are feeling about things. This is excellent when needing to communicate ideas or move projects along.[Tweet That] You already know what they’re thinking and can communicate to them from that place.
    • You are more careful with your words. This is an excellent quality. You know how to say things in such a way that they communicate exactly what you mean.
    • You are careful when choosing which risks you would like to take. This insulates you from making bad decisions that can impact you or others negatively.
  • Weaknesses
    • You can sense how people are feeling about things. This can be a bad trait if you end up playing to much to the wants and needs of others. This also can have the tendency to make people feel manipulated if used incorrectly.
    • You are more careful with your words. This can cause you to not speak up when you need to speak up. Have you ever walked out a meeting feeling like you didn’t say what you wanted to?
    • You are careful when choosing which risks you would like to take. This can cause you to be paralyzed by perfection. You’ll never make the perfect decision 100% of the time. Hindsight is 2020 and you’ll never be able to tell the future. Be careful not to get paralyzed by unknowns.[Tweet That]

As I’ve already said. I come from a primarily ask based culture. (I think my mom might have been a bit of a guesser, while my dad’s statement to me growing up was “The worst they can do is say no.”). I’ve tended towards asking, and have learned as I get older that it’s OK to ask. I got two free drinks at Starbucks last Friday night due to this. I also ask for 10% off every drink I order. Even though I’ve never gotten 10% off, I’ve gotten countless drinks for free. I’ll keep asking till I do. It’s counter intuitive that the bigger the request, the better the chance for a yes answer. I’m sure that rule diminishes as the requests get larger.

I’ve also seen this backfire a few times. Time that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew and asked for more than I can handle. With that, I have to always keep in mind that in this day and age it’s very hard to starve to death on the street. You may not be completely happy, but even that has to do with perspective. This is why I am able to take risk and ask questions. This is how I’ve been trained by family, friends and environment. If you’re on the opposite side of this, you have your own strengths that it’s hard for me to speak to. On either side of this, I’m reminded that if you don’t ask you’ll never know the answer. So, as an experiment, when is the last time you asked for something awesome? Think of something you’d like and ask for it. How’d it go?

 

 

 

 

  • Grant Imbrock

    This is interesting. I am definitely more of a guess person, and to have that put into words means I can recognize what my normal response would be and when a different course of action might be needed. I think that some of that culture for me comes from growing up in another country which is mostly guess. I’ve tried to explain this before unsuccessfully and this has given words to thought.

    • Definitely helped me understand some things. Glad it did the same for you. 🙂