Ask vs. Guess Culture on Heather & ManDee Talk About…

Our topic is Ask vs. Guess Culture, and how knowing what culture you are operating in at any given time can help you respond—not react—to what is going on, so that you can be unshakable and better get what you want. Knowing which culture you are coming from, and what culture is at work can help you navigate the world with less stress for everyone.

We both were introduced to this concept as a Facebook meme several weeks ago, but it turns out the idea has been around since at least 2007. From an article in The Atlantic in 2010:

On January 16, 2007, Andrea Donderi responded to an Ask MetaFilter post that dealt with a houseguest-related situation like the one described above. Donderi’s take on the situation is as elegant as it is provocative. Basically, she says, there are two types of people in the world:

This is a classic case of Ask Culture meets Guess Culture. In some families, you grow up with the expectation that it’s OK to ask for anything at all, but you gotta realize you might get no for an answer. This is Ask Culture.

In Guess Culture, you avoid putting a request into words unless you’re pretty sure the answer will be yes. Guess Culture depends on a tight net of shared expectations. A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won’t even 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.

We have both found the lens of Ask vs. Guess Culture SUPER helpful (nearly as much as The Drama Triangle), and has reduced stress and increased effectiveness for both of us. We hope you’ll find it useful as well.