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.
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.
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.