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Askers and Guessers/Requesters and Diviners which are you? from Isabel Swift

March 24, 2011 by in category From Isabel Swift tagged as

I have always enjoyed reading advice columnists, a pleasure which has increased with the advent of the net and the ability of others to post comments on both their opinion of  the advice as well as responses to the LW (letter writer in advice column parlance!).

My brilliant friend and sf writer, Ellen Kushner, shared this link, which links to this link, which offers the following paradigm that  presents and explains the two different, and occasionally contentious cultures of the Asker (Requester) Vs the Guesser (Diviner).  It’s a facinating–and I found very helpful–insight into how differently people react to the same stimulus.  Here’s an exerpt from one of the links that lays out the paradigm in a response to a query:

“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.

“All kinds of problems spring up around the edges. If you’re a Guess Culture person — and you obviously are — then unwelcome requests from Ask Culture people seem presumptuous and out of line, and you’re likely to feel angry, uncomfortable, and manipulated.

“If you’re an Ask Culture person, Guess Culture behavior can seem incomprehensible, inconsistent, and rife with passive aggression.

“Obviously she’s an Ask and you’re a Guess. (I’m a Guess too. Let me tell you, it’s great for, say, reading nuanced and subtle novels; not so great for, say, dating and getting raises.)

“Thing is, Guess behaviors only work among a subset of other Guess people — ones who share a fairly specific set of expectations and signalling techniques. The farther you get from your own family and friends and subculture, the more you’ll have to embrace Ask behavior. Otherwise you’ll spend your life in a cloud of mild outrage at the Cluelessness of Everyone.

“As you read through the responses to this question, you can easily see who the Guess and the Ask commenters are. It’s an interesting exercise.”

posted by tangerine at 11:38 PM on January 16, 2007 [859 favorites]

You will indeed be able to determine which are Ask and which Guess as you read the comments.  Though I hate to call them “guessers” as this type works hard to read the signals so they aren’t guessing.  What seems particularly poignant is that even after the two positions are explained, some of the responders are still on their moral high horse of outrage, excoriating the hapless requester as being poorly brought up and horrifyingly rude.

This is what diversity training is all about! We tend to work from our own experience and make assumptions about behavior based, naturally, on ourselves.   And I must say it makes me nervous when people are vilified for behaving differently.  For, as Hamlet notes to his friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5)

So if you are a Diviner/Guesser, try to avoid feeling pressured by a request.  Channel your inner Asker and realize you can Just Say No.  Really.  They will likely not hate you forever.  They were just asking!  And by the same token as a Diviner, work on asking more, hating people forever less, and finding a reasonable common ground.

If you’re an Asker/Requester, try to avoid putting pressure on with a request if you don’t know the person well–or even if you do.  Try to offer a face-saving out or reassurances.  There are mine fields, and whether you choose to be aware of them or not, you may lose limbs and/or friendships!

I hope you found this as insightful as I did.  I confess to being a diviner, but have close family members who are askers.  I work on responding in kind and trying to channel their straightforwardness when I need it!

So…are you a requester or diviner?

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