Askers, Guessers, and Personal Finance

A while back, I came across a fascinating article at The Guardian discussing askers and guessers:

This is the “disease to please” – a phrase that doesn’t make grammatical sense, but rhymes, giving it instant pop-psychology cachet. There are certainly profound issues here, of self-esteem, guilt etcetera. But it’s also worth considering whether part of the problem doesn’t originate in a simple misunderstanding between two types of people: Askers and Guessers.

This terminology comes from a brilliant web posting by Andrea Donderi that’s achieved minor cult status online. We are raised, the theory runs, in one of two cultures. 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.”

I’m unquestionably a Guesser by nature. For me, the reason is simple to explain: I naturally don’t like it when people make enormous demands of me out of the blue. I tend to avoid further contact with these people. And, thus, I don’t want to make other people feel that way.

In the end, I want to be able to help people when they ask, and I do not like it when people merely view that as an easy thing to milk to get whatever they need from life. An extreme example: a neighbor that I’ve helped with small things in the past leans over a fence and says, “I don’t want to cook supper. Will you make it for me?” I feel as though that person is trying to blatantly take advantage of my willingness to help.

If you flip it to the neighbor’s perspective, it looks like the worst thing that can happen is that I’ll say “no.” But the truth is that the mere presence of such a question makes me tend to like the neighbor less and want to avoid him or her. My perspective is why would that person possibly ask me if he didn’t expect me to go make him dinner, and what kind of person would just expect that out of the blue?

The real difference is the expectation of the question. An Asker doesn’t expect a “yes” answer when they ask – they figure, “why not throw it out there?” A Guesser does expect a “yes” answer when they ask, so they try to keep their queries polite and reasonable and don’t like it when they’re asked unreasonable things.

The problem comes about when Askers assume, by default, that they’re talking to Askers and Guessers assume, by default, that they’re talking to Guessers. An Asker will ask for something big, assuming that the person they’re talking to is also an Asker and will simply answer “no” if that’s not cool and think nothing else of it. A Guesser will rarely ask for anything and when they do, they fairly expect a “yes” response because their requests are infrequent and modest and are usually already clear. Guessers can usually ask things of Askers without too much trouble (usually, the answer is “yes” because the requests are minor) but Askers usually have a lot of trouble asking things of Guessers.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being an Asker or a Guesser. I think it’s just a mix of how people are wired and what culture they grew up in. It’s just important to recognize the difference between the two. The article explains it pretty well:

Neither’s “wrong”, but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. 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’re a Guesser, you’ll hear it as an expectation. This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too: Brits and Americans get discombobulated doing business in Japan, because it’s a Guess culture, yet experience Russians as rude, because they’re diehard Askers.

My policy for diving through this is simple:

If I’m in a commerce situation or interacting with someone I probably won’t ever meet again, I assume they’re an Asker. In that case, I don’t hesitate to just ask for big things. I’ll haggle on some items. I’ll ask for a big discount. I’ll ask for a “comp” meal at a hotel.

If I’m in a potential long-term social situation where I’ll have to interact with people in the future, I assume they’re a Guesser. I don’t ask for big things until I know the person very well, unless…

If I can, I try to identify Askers from the people I know. That way, I understand where they’re coming from.

So, rewind to my neighbor. When he leans over the fence and asks for dinner, I can realize right off the bat that he’s an Asker and I can tell him “no” quickly if I want without feeling guilty. I also learn that he’s a person I can ask stuff of without hesitation in return.

In short, act like an Asker in commercial situations, act like a Guesser around people you’ll socially interact with over time, and only act like an Asker around people you know who are also Askers. That way, you avoid destroying any social relationships just as they’re beginning to bloom while also being able to haggle and negotiate with the best of them.

You’d be surprised how often this all shows up in personal finance. Take wedding registries, for example. Askers don’t hesitate to say something like “give me cash as a wedding gift,” and other Askers consider that completely fine. People who are Guessers consider it rather rude because you’re making a demand of a gift ungiven. The best solution is to just please both sides of the coin – don’t have a registry at all (and just tell your mother, who people will inevitably call, that you just want cash, putting the onus on the gift-givers to ask) or have a registry that allows you to sift through the received gifts and keep what you actually need after the wedding, returning the rest. In other words, I basically assume that the invitation recipient is a Guesser (either they’ll have to ask with no registry or have choices that are easily returnable with a registry) and that an Asker will ask what I want.

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  1. Jess says:

    Very thought-provoking post, and you summed up exactly why “It never hurts to ask” is a misleading motto.

    I agree with your distinctions between Guessing with social ties and Asking in commercial situations, with one exception – professional services, both because it tends to be a long-term interaction and because your relationship with them directly impacts the results you get (often unconsciously on their part). That can be a very quick road to being branded as “that client.”

    I’m a Guesser by nature but I’ve also found that with weak, distant social ties you’re not expecting to see often, sometimes Asking is just the thing to do.

  2. AndreaS says:

    I guess I would have to think really hard to come up with a situation where someone made an outrageously huge request of me. Once a friend asked me to refinish her table. There was an assumption that I would just love to do this for her just because. I WOULD do this for an important friend, but she was not one. I thought about it for a while and suggested we barter favors. She knew how to weave reed seats, and I had a curb-gleaned rocker in need of a seat. So I proposed this barter where I would be trading more of my hours for fewer of hers. I refinished her table within the month, but it took her many months, and reminders from me, for her to complete my rocker. After that I never swapped favors with her again.
    I think a wedding registry is asking, even though is is socially acceptable. Why is asking for a specific gift at a special store less tacky than asking for a cash gift? A cash gift is easier for the giver. But the recipient is also able to use that cash to buy yard sale items for his home. So why is it socially acceptable to receive only expensive new gifts, than cash to be spent frugally?
    I navigate the sticky social situations by first offering goods or services to new people in my life. Usually we offer garden produce. But if my neighbor is painting his house, I might offer an afternoon of help. Once an individual accepts something from me, it is fair of me to ask small easy favors in return. With the right people we have developed very rich relationships where there is much trading. My neighbor is constantly here borrowing some tool from my husband. He asks us to watch his house when he is out of town, and let his dogs out if he is not going to be home in time. We have also given them our garden produce and on a couple occasions watched their kids. They have called asking if I could do a quick sewing repair. In return, he is a vet and has taken care of our numerous animals for free for many years.
    In some cases, I very directly tell new friends, “Do not be afraid to ask something of me. If it something I can’t spare, or have time to do, I will just tell you.” It just kills me when one of my kids’ adult friends buys an item, when I had an extra I really wanted to get rid of.

  3. Carrie says:

    Sounds to me a lot like Myers-Briggs personality types of “Thinking” (Askers) vs. “Feeling” (Guessers).

  4. Fidget says:

    The one thing the main article missed, while covering cultural differences, is the gender difference implied here. Maybe it’s stronger because I grew up in the south, but even with “askers,” it’s much harder for a woman to just say “no.” You have to sweat out the best excuses to say no, and (as the article did point out), askers will tend to take those excuses at face value. Asker or guesser, we’re more expected to defer to the wants of another and at least make them feel validated for having asked; it’s similar to when men speak in a classroom setting, women speaking afterward are more expected to comment positively on the prior speaker (and if you don’t think this is true, watch the look on everyone’s face if you DON’T validate the other person). I just generally resent people who are so obtuse as to force someone else to be blunt when they’re obviously uncomfortable doing so. It doesn’t seem to be asking too much to suggest that “askers” learn to be more perceptive when given excuses instead of a flat, harsh “no.”

  5. anne says:

    i loved this post, trent- i really did.

    i am SUCH a guesser. and i still remember about 15 years ago a friend asking me to make her spaghetti for dinner. she was SUCH an asker. i felt offended, but i did it anyway.

    there are some people in my life i crinch when i see coming- i know they want something from me. i don’t want anyone to feel that way about me. so even in commercial situations, i am generally very unassuming- i want them to be happy the next time they see me come into their restaurant or shop.

  6. Rachel says:

    This hit home for me. I am such a guesser. Askers offend me quite often, because I feel that they are presumptious and rude. How do I get over this?

  7. Tammy says:

    As a Guesser, I’ve been startled by the unexpected audacity of several Askers, but the worst was one who pretended not to hear my ‘no’ regardless of how many times I said it. I had to get angry to get then to understand that I really meant NO.

  8. Rob says:

    Trent — I know you copped some flak for it in the other post – I’m going to give you some here as well. Maybe it’s because I don’t live in Rural Iowa, but I buy stuff from a wedding registry with an expectation that it is what the couple wants. Putting items on there with the *plan* to return them is a betrayal of social trust. Asking for cash seems much less insulting than taking a present and returning it!

    The best solution (as you mentioned) is the mothers — get them to spread the word that you are after cash.. And then have a small gift registry (of things you want and will keep) for those who feel like they can’t give cash.

  9. Robin says:

    One of your most interesting posts, IMO.

    I guess I am the first Asker to post. I am a rather blunt person, and I take what people say at face value. I will do almost ANYTHING for my friends, and I don’t mind them asking. If I can’t do it, then I say no – no hard feelings.

    My husband is a guesser.. and sometimes it’s very frustrating when I can’t figure out what he wants. Just ASK me!

  10. Johanna says:

    “An Asker doesn’t expect a “yes” answer when they ask – they figure, “why not throw it out there?” A Guesser does expect a “yes” answer when they ask, so they try to keep their queries polite and reasonable and don’t like it when they’re asked unreasonable things.”

    I take issue with the implication that askers don’t try to be polite. In an “ask culture,” it *is* polite (or at least, is not impolite) to make a request that might or might not be granted – a few-night stay at the home of a friendly acquaintance, say. What guessers need to realize is that if you’re being asked for something that you think is unreasonable, you’re either dealing with an asker (who doesn’t mind hearing “no”) or else you’re dealing with someone with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement (in which case, who cares what they think?) – in either case, you have nothing to feel bad about by simply saying “sorry, no.”

    Much has been made (here and elsewhere) about the problems that can arise when an asker asks a guesser for something. But there can also be trouble when a guesser wants something from an asker (or possibly even from a guesser who was raised in a different variant of guess culture). The guesser drops subtle hints and tries to feel out the answer without actually asking the question, but the asker, not knowing the steps to this particular social dance, won’t respond to them correctly. The guesser may then passive-aggressively punish the asker, either for “refusing” a request that the asker never knew existed (this has happened to me), or for “leading (the guesser) on” or “sending mixed messages.”

    I think the reason I’ve become more of an asker over the years (or at least, more sympathetic to ask culture over guess culture) is that I’ve lived in a city (where people are constantly asking you for stuff, usually money) and spent most of my time interacting with people from different parts of the country and the world (who all come from different, often mutually incomprehensible, variations of guess culture). So I’ve come to conclude that many aspects of a large-scale, cosmopolitan society simply can’t work under the rules of guess culture. For example, a charity that only asked for money from people they already knew would give would not stay in business for very long. And dropping subtle hints to the gas company that you’d like your connection fee waved does not work. And so on.

    Finally: Trent, I’m surprised that you didn’t take the opportunity to tie this post in with other recent posts that clearly illustrate the distinctions between ask culture and guess culture. I’m thinking, in particular, of the various posts on charitable giving (most recently, the reader mailbag question from someone who was offended by a local charity fundraiser, and the post about dealing with charities that “make you feel guilty”) and the one about issuing a “preemptive strike” against friends inviting you to parties that you don’t want to attend.

  11. Johanna says:

    One more thing:

    “act like a Guesser around people you’ll socially interact with over time…That way, you avoid destroying any social relationships just as they’re beginning to bloom”

    The implication here is that when a relationship falls apart due to miscommunication between an asker and a guesser, it is always the asker’s fault (i.e., the asker is the one who destroyed the relationship). But why should that be true?

  12. marta says:

    I have to agree with Johanna here. I would rather have people be straightforward with me when they want something. Yes, I can read some clues, but if you are beating around the bush, you can’t assume I’ll get your message. I have more respect for people who actually *ask*. I can say “no”, but that situation will be way more clear than playing games with me. I can’t deal either with passive-aggressive behaviour when I can’t even figure out what the hell I did to upset the other person so. That can ruin relationships too, you know.

    Remember that post a while back where you seemed to be asking for donations? It didn’t go very well with me because you were anything but straightforward. You should have acted like an asker there.

  13. ysabet says:

    I’m an Asker. I’m polite about it – I don’t tend to ask for unreasonable things. If I need something, and it’s reasonable, and I think that we have a relationship where that sort of exchange is appropriate, I’ll ask. I don’t randomly ask people to buy me stuff, for instance, even though I currently have a wardrobe crisis going on. I will ask for help finding cheap clothes – but that’s about it.

    On the other hand, it drives me absolutely crazy when I hit a Guesser who expects me to magically guess what they want, do it without them asking, and then gets really annoyed when I don’t have ESP. Those sort of bullshit highschool passive-aggressive games are stupid, annoying, irritating, and just plain rude. If you need something, don’t beat around the bush hoping I’ll get the hint, just blasted well ask. It isn’t that hard to frame a polite, minimal request, and if you really need it desperately, and you’re a good friend, I’m more than likely to say yes, if I can help. If I can’t, I’ll try and find someone who can. Just grow up, get a spine, and say the actual words.

    … I have been burnt very badly by guessers. Being socially ostracised for a lack of what is to me nothing short of telepathy is an uncomfortable experience.

  14. Lisa says:

    Interesting responses from the Askers and the Guessers. As a Guesser thanks for the insight. As a learned Asker thanks for the insight.

  15. AnnJo says:

    I wish I had read this article as a child.

    As an Asker who didn’t even realize there were such creatures as Guessers until my 20s, learning how to deal with such people was a challenge. What Trent and other Guessers see as subtlety, courtesy, etc., Askers are likely to see as murky, deceptive, manipulative, passive-aggressive or entitled. Entitled because, as Trent said, when Guessers DO ask for something, they believe they have correctly gauged the reasonableness of the request, therefore expect to get it and resent not getting it. In other words, they’re not really asking, they’re demanding. An Asker accepts that the reasonableness of the request may be viewed differently by the other person and does not resent that reality.

    Over the years I’ve learned that in some situations, particularly with employees, I have to be overemphatic about what is an expectation and what is a request that may be turned down without consequences. If it would help me for the employee to stay late, but I haven’t made advance arrangements for that, I can’t just say, “Can you stay late to help me with this?” I have to say, “It would help me out if you could stay late, but if you’re too tired or have other plans or just don’t feel like it, don’t feel bad about saying no. I’ll survive.”

    To me, all that extra verbiage is already a given in the very fact that I’m asking a question, and not giving an order. I feel kind of silly stating what, to me, is the obvious — that a direct “No” is a perfectly acceptable answer to a direct question. But such is the variety of human nature.

  16. bedilia says:

    I think the whole ask vs. guess becomes very murky when the relationship is not an equal one, such as an employer and employee. The employee will almost never feel that it is okay to just say no when a question is asked by a supervisor/boss because there can be repercussions and consequences.

  17. Erica says:

    I am a guesser. I really enjoyed this article, it has given me a little more insight into understanding myself and another perspective to use when dealing with other people. Thank you.

  18. Louise says:

    As a born-and-bred Guesser, I used to be horrified by “outrageous” requests from Askers. I used to feel the need to formally decline; giving reasons or making excuses. This was a big strain on me.

    Then I noticed someone who handled these kind of requests in a humorous, very informal way. She’d laugh and say, “Are you nuts?! I can’t do your mending; I have my own mending I’m not doing!” Or she’d do a childish kind of whine, “I don’t wanna!” or say “No way, man! I’ve got plans for …” The situation was handled more the way you did things when you were kids, resulting in no tension. Everyone would laugh and move on to the next subject.

    I now use this method and it works great. If Askers are going outside the “rules” (actually, Guessers’ rules), then you are allowed to do the same when you respond to them.

  19. Wren says:

    The problem with putting people in two opposing categories it that it assumes there are only two boxes to stand in and no middle ground. I think most people are somewhere in the middle. Yeah, once in a while you’ll come across a pure “guesser” or a pure asker. Depending on your point of view, a guess can be a polite, restrained person who prefers to be sefl-sufficient until they absolutely must reach out for help or they can be a “passive-aggressive” manipulator. And an asker can be a upfront candid optimist or a completely self-centered, entitled, free-loading jerk. (Guess it’s not hard to tell what my opinion is on “pure” askers.) The reality is probably that we are all a combination of the two, depending on circumstances. The interesting thing to me is that this whole “asker/guesser” model is built on the question “What can you get other people to do for you?” It doesn’t really work when you apply it to “What can you do for someone else?”

    Oh, wait, I forgot — we’re not supposed to think like that anymore. It’s all supposed to be about getting everything we can out of everyone else with the least effort. Right. I keep forgetting that.

  20. Joanna says:

    This post cracked me up b/c it totally reminds me of my Spanish teacher, who is 100% on the ask side of the spectrum. Within minutes of meeting you (LITERALLY) she’ll be trying to figure out where your talents lie so that she can ask for various forms of assistance. I noticed this early on and (in true guesser form) have handled it passively by just not being that reliable. From the sounds of the comments, the Askers on this forum would not appreciate that, considering it “passive agressive behavior”. BUT, it enabled me to continue the relationship with her (which was financially profitable for her) whereas I have two friends who stopped taking classes with her because they simply couldn’t say no and thus ended up fulfilling her petitions/demands extremely frequently. Perhaps my method wasn’t the straightforward / above board behavior that the Askers would like, but she did end up keeping the relationship and the business.

  21. Joanna says:

    Also, after re-reading my comment, I think the thing that is most offensive about my Spanish teacher’s methods is not the request itself, but rather the fact that it comes so early in the relationship. Well, that and the frequency of the requests. She requests things that seem more appropriate requests of a friend rather than a student/someone whom you just met. On the other had, she’d give you the shirt off her back… if only you’d ask. :-)

  22. LMR says:

    The Guardian writer stated, “So say no, and see what happens. Nothing will.” This person obviously never dealt with people like my mother or one of my former supervisors with whom saying “no” would rain down holy hellfire. So I guess this theory leaves at lease one personality type out. There’s the Askers, the Guessers, and the By-God-You-Better-Do-What-I-Demand-Or-Else-ers. And good luck getting what you need if you ask anything of these people.
    No, I do not think you can just assume that a person that requests something of you is just an Asker. That person may actually be very selfish and self-absorbed, so be prepared for this possibility if you choose to say “no.” The good thing is that you only have to try it once to know. Good luck!

  23. Nansuelee says:

    Do you really think the neighbor was serious? I have certainly after a long day asked questions out loud such as this, be it dinner, the laundry or other chores. I most deffinatly did not expect the person listening to fall over me on their way to do my bidding. Sometimes folks just need to say such things, fully expecting nothing will come of it. It’s more of a way to say, “I’m pooped, there is more to do and I wish I was not the one to get it done.”
    I would rather go with Wren and be in the “What can I do for others?” group. It is a much better way to live, if you see a need you can fulfill for someone, whether they have asked or not, just do it. When you live in this way you will be surprised how many times others help you out with out having to be asked.

  24. DCexpat says:

    @15-What if you just said “no” to your teacher’s requests?

  25. AtWorkWithAnAsker says:

    This makes SO MUCH SENSE! My boss is totally an Asker and it explains so much. I am definitely a Guesser and I never understand why we have such trouble communicating. Now I know and I can go into further interactions with new knowledge – Thank you, TRENT! :-D

  26. sundog says:

    I take it then that Wall Street are Askers? I am a hard core guesser. I was raised in a very poor family, and you performed certain acts or tasks for people because they were elders or kin, or something like that. Other times you did those things as acts of charity. But I can say that I {we} became very suspicious and turned off by someone who appeared to be whole in body and mind who asked for help on matters when it was clear that they didn’t need it, they just wanted it. This is especially true if it appeared that they didn’t want to get their hands dirty literally or proverbially.
    Thanks for the excellent insight!
    This should be put in the Canon–somewhere near Genesis.

  27. Valerie says:

    This post reminds me of my mom’s favorite saying “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”. Best example, we were shopping for furniture in a store that also had some very nice silk floral arrangements($70-$100). We purchased a coffee table and end table, and my mom said “so are you going to throw in a flower arrangement for free?” response “will you tell others about our store” “yes”. I now have a beautiful arrangement. And yet, growing up with an asker, I think of myself more of a guesser. If I were shopping alone, I would have never thought or dared to ask for something for free.

  28. Michael says:

    As always, Waugh says it best, observing the cultural roots of the differences between askers and makers:

    “As we rowed back across the harbour,[...]my meditations were disturbed by a vigorous attempt on the part of the two oarsmen to blackmail me into increasing the price we had already agreed upon for the journey. They stopped rowing and we drifted about in the dark, arguing. [...] In the end they started rowing again and, when we reached the shore, I gave them their original price. It was interesting to notice that they bore no malice about it, but sent me away with smiles and bows and the entreaty that I would use their boat again. This very sensible attitude seemed to show the advantages of not having an inherited Protestant conscience. When an Englishman attempts to be extortionate and fails, he keeps up his grumble until one is out of earshot, and, I believe, does bear a genuine personal grudge against one for the rest of that day. He does not admit, even to himself, that he was “trying it on” or accept defeat with good grace. Arabs and, I imagine, most Oriental races, have no conception of the “fair price” or of absolute values of exchange. The English boatman prefers to kick his heels day after day on the quay-side, rather than take less for his labour than he has convinced himself is right. He very rarely attempts to get more, even if his passengers look rich and their need for his service acute. When he does, it is only after convincing himself that the increased demand is actually the normal one. When he is caught out his conclusion is that his customer was no gentleman to make such a fuss about a shilling.”

  29. Michael says:

    I should mention that this incident occurred in Egypt and he is from England, hence the two cultures compared.

  30. kristine says:

    You can be either is different social situations. At home, with my hubby, I am as=n asker, and he a guesser. Negotiating a deal that will save my family money? I am an asker. In business, a guesser. In friendships, a guesser. I actually dropped a friend because it seemed she wanted something from me every time I saw her-for years! A good rule of thumb- if you feel funny asking, don’t ask. Go with your instincts.

    “act like a Guesser around people you’ll socially interact with over time…That way, you avoid destroying any social relationships just as they’re beginning to bloom” This implies that making requests could damage the relationship. If the request were in line with the depth of the friendship, it would not matter. If it’s not, a better friend might tolerate it or help, but not repeatedly. IMHO, it always rude to ask an unnecessary favor of someone you know will have a hard time saying no, even if they really want to.

    #6 Rob. I agree about the “cash-back” seeded registry being a breach of trust. If you tell me you want something, but that’s not true, you are lying to me. It kind of made me wonder if that wish list of games Trent has for gifts is really a well for returns, and an indirect way to accept cash. I do not think so, but as he has no moral problem with such behavior, it makes all gift ideas suspect. As I imagine it would for anyone who was revealed to engage in this less-than-honest money-maker. People do not appreciate being unwitting participants in a scheme.

  31. Brittany says:

    Man. I like to think there’s some middle ground between being a pushy demanding “asker” and a irritating passive aggressive “guesser.” When did we stop being able to communication openly and clearly AND politely, like reasonable adults?

  32. Joanna says:

    RE: #19. I wouldn’t know, actually. I’m a tried & true guesser, thus the direct “no” doesn’t come easily (or at all). I can say “ooh, I wouldn’t know how to help you with that”, but just “no”. It’s just highly unlikely to happen at this point.

    To the poster that said “if it feels funny don’t ask”, the thing is that askers & guessers have dramatically different points at which it “feels funny”.

    Interesting post & discussion.

  33. BtA says:

    I utterly identify with the guesser! I was raised in Japan by a nanny before moving here, and I don’t remember asking anything even of my parents until I was fourteen or so, it’s so ingrained.

    I play an online game where you can buy virtual items with real cash – and I don’t often, for obvious reasons, but budget a small amount for it in my play budget. You can also trade items if you’re tired of them or bought a “mystery” item that didn’t give the result you wanted. I constantly have people popping up wanting to trade something they paid $2 for against something I paid $6 for (and gave up StarBucks for two weeks’ one-day splurge to afford), and I’m sure they’re thinking “oh, I’ll just try and see if they agree,” but they really irk me especially when I get four in a row and it *does* pain me to turn down an offer. If someone makes me a series of patently unfair offers that don’t take my needs into consideration, I will refuse their friend requests and sometimes even block them so I don’t have to keep going through it.

    Which ties straight into both the two-tits-for-one-tat research (effective relationship/games trust negotiators typically give cooperative effort two tries even if given an unfair response once, then switch to returning the behavior they are shown by the other party if the “tat” continues to be negative), and also into recent research on the dynamics of sharing that’s shown when two people are given $10 and one is told they can choose to divide it in any way they choose, the passive receiver will often reject a split which is patently unfair even if it ultimately means that neither ultimately receives anything.

    I think the Askers, if they exhibit sufficient insensitivity to their trade partner, risk both the partner switching to the same approach or the partner withdrawing entirely, so in many professions this could be a career damager. Some professions may better for Askers – like law? Some professions may attract too many of them – I think there’s a reason car dealers have a bad reputation for inconsideration of their customers’ real needs and it might be because too many are too far down the Asker scale.

    On the other hand, being as much of a Guesser as I am is certainly a handicap in this society – I often read people much more clearly than my friends and can respond to their emotional needs well as a result, great for my computer training and assistance job and probably great if I went into counseling, teaching or other supportive roles. But how does that stack up against the fact that I know I’ve lost potential raises and promotions by being too discreet about my desire for them – or by taking the time for a trip to get a genuine turquoise necklace I know will make my mother in law happy even when I know it will also make me miss the deadline to put in my resume for a new job? And it’s plain stupid to go through as much stress as I do about what I perceive as insulting, degrading, arrogant or humiliating demands to which I have to somehow explain why I don’t deserve to be insulted, degraded, provoked or humiliated – leaving me feeling really defensive. Thankfully I’ve gotten over the major passive-aggressive relationship facet of this with decades of experience and my ever-so-American husband and I have a pretty good balance, but it took a really long time to find the most comfortable boundaries between my Japanese trained side and my American trained side in a variety of areas, and it’s still emotionally straining to have to set a line and hold it when someone pushes. I’ve felt for some time that people with multicultural upbringings are best for diplomatic and international negotiation positions because of their sensitivities to multiple cultural positions on this kind of question, as long as they’re able to find that balance effectively they become better cultural translators as much as monetary or political negotiators.

  34. Brenda W. says:

    I found this post as enlightening as the Makers and Managers post a while back!

    As a through and through Asker who was born into a Guesser family, I never could figure out all the “putting out feelers” thing … total waste of time it seemed to me, plus I would never be clear on just WHAT was being asked for/wanted/guessed at.

    If I am interacting with an acquaintance or even a close friend who I feel is uncomfortable with direct requests (NOW I know why … they’re a Guesser), I preface my request with “You know me … I ask for anything, and “No” is always an option”, and then I make my request.

    And unless I’m NOT reading between the lines well, this seems to work well for both me and the person I am speaking with.

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