Via Captain Awkward, I would like to present this perfect, succinct definition of Ask vs. Guess culture
, which I am going to rename the Ask-Guess Continuum because why have a dichotomy when it could be a continuum?
Given the choice, I think I'd push my culture further towards the ask side. And yet, my immediate response to this article was to list the ways Ask culture is terrible. I think what I'm actually reacting to is the fact that people can be jerks under both systems, and either ask-jerks are more obnoxious, or I've just run into them more recently.
First, there are the people who say (implicitly or explicitly) they are participating in ask culture, but get really mad when they don't get the answer they want. Presumably they would be just as mad about not getting what they want under a guess culture system. Given the guess level of the current system
, saying direct nos to these people feels worse than indirectly refusing guessers. This is on my mind recently because there is someone out there who is very angry at me, and phrases it as a reaction to me being rude and uncommunicative, when I in fact very clearly and respectfully communicated something they didn't want to hear. Okay, fine, I communicated it imperfectly but way clearer and more respectfully than they are giving me credit for. And it hurts, knowing that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone a bit, and it was taken so poorly.
Second, there is the issue I talked about here
, in which my main thesis was that when you are operating outside a social norm, you incur some extra obligation to engage in smoothing behaviors, even when the norm is stupid. That holds true for ask/guess culture.
Third, no matter how far on the ask continuum you are, there is always information in the asking. Take this letter
from Carolyn Hax. A woman asked her fiance if they could shorten a date so she could catch up with a friend. He said yes, but later expressed unhappiness that she had even asked. On first glance, it looks like he expected her to be psychic, which is unfair. But on second, I think he actually had a reasonable point. First, his complain wasn't "I said yes and you believed me", it was "you asked." Hax unpacks how this unfairly places the decision burden this places on him, and it's all true.
But there is also the fact that the asking contains information
. She isn't definitely saying she values her friend more than him, but it that is one reasonably possible condition that could lead to that question, and she isn't doing anything to alleviate it. [date proceeds without being questioned] > [Fiance blows off date to talk with friend] > [Fiance honors date, but you know she's rather be talking with her friend] is a valid preference set.
Another angle: asking to reschedule communications potential data on three things:
- How much he would enjoy spending that time with her
- His perception of how much she enjoys spending time with him
- His perception of how much she values his time
Even the most graciously accepted no would only remove questions about #1, leaving #2 or #3 in doubt. Which doesn't mean you can never ask, or never reschedule. But it does mean that if you don't take time to address *all* the issues asking brings up, they're justified in drawing some data and having feelings about it.
More generally, both foot-in-the-door
techniques are real phenomenon. Asking a question has an effect independent of the answer, and I want to keep that in mind as I personally transition into a more ask-oriented world.