Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

A new theory (created by Andrea Donderi) is that there are two separate kinds of  “ask” cultures you can be raised in. Neither is wrong or right, just different ideologies, but when opposing cultures meet, it ends in disaster. As Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote, recently wrote, you’re either an Asker or you’re a Guesser.

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.

The problem lies in an Asker asking a Guesser, or a Guesser tip-toeing around an Asker.

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 can figure out which type your counterpart is, it can really help you to make a smooth transaction. Guessers asking Askers can relax, knowing there’s a lot less pressure put on their question, and Askers can strategize to approach a Guesser without inducing anxiety.

Read the rest of the article here.

  • rcarzo

    Reading this immediately brought to mind an excerpt from Simon Sinek’s newest book, Leaders Eat Last. Though the book focuses on the context of leadership, I think you’ll see the connection. “Intent vs. permission”:

  • Sarah Peterson


  • Tom

    Edward Hall in 1959 talked about the difference between low context (=askers) and high context (=guessers) cultures… Great to see his classic work reinvented under a new name

  • Robyn McIntyre

    I do always wonder why it’s either ‘this’ or ‘that’ – are people really that simple to break down into categories?

    • justdiealready

      You’re requiring a yes/no answer that doesn’t address the complexity of the topic. 😀

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