Last week I met up with my dear friend Julia Feltham. Julia is a social innovator, host and superhuman, who co-founded and runs the Sackville Commons, a co-working and community space in Sackville, New Brunswick.
We were aware of a strong need for informal connecting space for social innovators and community developers in Mi’kmaqi/Atlantic Canada, and were brainstorming ways in which we could:
- Support informal connecting
- Host an online space for peer learning through story sharing
- Capacity-build by modelling and making transparent online hosting practices that are engaging, nourishing, and playful
- Create a Learning Space focused on transitioning our social supports and peer support into an online forum
As a result of this collaboration, we will be hosting a session on February 3rd, 2021 from 12pm – 1pm AST (save the date and send me an email if you would like to join us). Our conversation turned toward the process of burnout recovery; more specifically how we could create supportive, safe, and magical space.
While we were talking about shared agreements for safe space and practices to bring into our session, the shared agreement and practice of “ask for what you need, offer what you can” came up. We agreed that we wanted to include this practice in our session, and Julia shared that she’d recently read an article about Guessing vs Asking Culture.
I hadn’t heard these terms before and this morning I was ravenous to read more about it while eating some delicious bacon. The more I read on this topic, the more I realized that I had to write about it because I see how so much more peace could be created in relationships if couples, families, and colleagues understood the Ask vs Guess Culture dynamics.
This article from The Atlantic provides a simple summary of the difference, based on an example where a friend of your spouse had requested to stay with you during a coming visit to the area:
“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.”
I was intrigued to learn more about specific examples, so I continued searching:
Erika Hammer Smchidt provides an example of how Guess vs Ask Culture manifests in her relationship with John.
“John grew up in Hawaii, which is much more of an Ask Culture. He expects to be free to ask for whatever he wants. And to get an honest answer.
He gets annoyed at Guess Culture behaviours, like my tendency to describe a problem and wait for offers of help, instead of asking outright.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get home.”
“Oh, do you need me to come pick you up?”
“Yeah, could you please?”
“Sure! But, you know, you could have just asked.””
The Less Wrong publication writes:
“There’s a lot of scope for rationality in deciding when to ask and when to guess. I’m a guesser, myself. But that means I often pass up the opportunity to get what I want, because I’m afraid of being judged as ‘greedy’ if I make an inappropriate request. If you’re a systematic ‘asker’ or a systematic ‘guesser,’ then you’re systematically biased, liable to guess when you should ask and vice versa. “
After reading these articles, I’ve realized that I was more of a “guesser” than an “asker” as I was growing up. I still have some guessing tendencies depending upon the context, but I have been actively working on being an asker since my early 20’s.
Being an entrepreneur, coach, facilitator, community-builder, and non-violent communication practitioner has encouraged me to become more of an “asker” than a “guesser.” I definitely am participating in “guesser” patterns all the time; one signal I’m falling into “guesser” patterns is when I think “why didn’t that person…”
I’ve decided that I’m going to have more of a conversation with my partner Anne Stieger, my family, and my friends about this. We definitely have a wide spectrum of people who lean either toward guessing or toward asking. I am excited to navigate this discussion without judgement or feedback. I have a feeling it may help avoid future conflict. We’ll see…
I’m so curious, are you more of an “asker” or “guesser”?
What sparks your curiosity?
Do you miss coffee chats and fireside conversations? Year after year, we hear that from folks in Mi’kmaqi (AKA Atlantic Canada) that changemakers, community developers, social innovators need spaces for supporting each other and connecting across the region.