Decoding Ask Culture Versus Guess Culture

In Dental Hygeine, Embracing Coworkers, Success by Lani Grass

All human endeavors depend on communication, but you could be unwittingly sabotaging negotiations, relationships, and patient connections by failing to recognize the fundamental differences between people raised in Ask Cultures versus those raised in Guess Cultures. As a communication expert I teach my clients to recognize this subtle but important distinction. Read on to strengthen your personal and professional communication skills!

Are you an Asker or a Guesser?

If you don’t know if you’re an Asker or a Guesser, you can start by answering which of these questions sounds like you:

1. Have you ever silently fumed inside when a request was suddenly made to you, and you were so shocked that you agreed to go along with it?

2. Do you ask a couple of warm-up questions to decide if it is the right time to make a request?

3. Do you believe it’s best to just simply ask for what you want?

4. Is it easy for you to ask for something even if the answer is likely a no?

If the first two questions sound like you, you are most likely a Guesser and were raised in a Guess Culture. If the last two questions resonate with you, you are most likely an Asker from an Ask Culture.

Let me explain. In theory there are two basic communication styles, or cultures; Guess Culture and Ask Culture. There is a fundamental difference in their beliefs. The Ask Culture has a belief that if you want or need something you should just ask for it with the full knowledge and expectation that the answer could be no. Guess Culture has the belief that you should feel out the situation of the other party before making a request as this would be the polite thing to do. In Guess Culture you wouldn’t even make the request unless you were fairly sure the answer would be yes.

As you can imagine your upbringing, your ethnicity and your surroundings play a significant role in whether you are in the Ask or Guess Culture.

Growing up Asian-American, my Thai mom most definitely raised me to be of the Guess Culture. I had it role-modeled and lectured to me throughout my childhood. To my mother, if I outright asked for what I wanted it was considered rude. The polite thing was to be “considerate” of others and first ask leading questions that would show my consideration and only then, if I knew with almost certainty the answer would be a yes, would I make the request.

This hardwired compulsion to Guess stuck with me through adulthood. I never understood until I read about Ask and Guess Cultures, why I couldn’t just simply make my needs known! My first thought was, “Now it all makes so much more sense!” What I had thought was just me not having confidence actually had everything to do with the culture that I was raised in.

If however, you are an Asker, you were raised with the belief that asking for anything is socially acceptable and even encouraged! You may embrace the saying, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” Your family and surroundings encouraged this mindset, even labeling it confidence.

The benefit of understanding the difference in these two mindsets is that it will help give you a better understanding on how to communicate clearly with Askers and not offend Guessers. Using the wrong approach will leave you looking either overly aggressive or passive and confusing. Be cautious attempting to stereotype people based solely on ethnic background, many Guess culture parents have American raised Askers for children. It also will help you manage expectations as you will know there are two fundamentally different schools of thought as far as asking you for what someone wants or interpreting requests you might make of them!

Here’s a quick and fun exercise:

Make a list with two columns. One has, you “guessed” it, Guess Culture, and the other is listed as, Ask Culture. Now write down a list of friends, family and acquaintances under each category. This simple exercise will likely surprise you and but also will get you clear on your interactions in the past with these individuals and may even drive future interactions.

Remember, there is no right and wrong culture here. Both have their benefits. You may even have a bit of both in you. In the end, this clarity will likely give you insight and ability to strengthen your personal and business relationships.

Lani Grass is a Career and Life Strategist and Speaker. She is the founder of and The Confidence Catalyst, First Time Speaker Series. She spends her time working with women on identifying their gifts, how they want to show up in the world and then builds a path to self-actualizing their potential. Lani is known for leadership coaching and her programs; Personal Brand Blueprint and Women of Influence in Dentistry. She and her husband own a dental practice in Portland, Oregon.

Her burning desire is to help women recognize and drop their limiting beliefs so they can create what they want in life and stop being a best kept secret.