Are you an Asker or a Guesser? It’s an important distinction

I am always fascinated by personality tests that divide humankind up into different types by our strengths, talents, abilities and challenge areas. I feel that these quizzes and screeners help us to better understand both ourselves and those around us.

I’ve flirted with the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI – take a free version here) and many similar stratifiers over the years. I’m an ENFP, in case you hadn’t guessed.

I am also a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies (take the quiz here); her Rebel tendency is me to a T.

Many people I know like the Enneagram personality test, which gives you a number result. I’m a crystal clear 7.

And now I’ve found yet another way to identify and categorize our unique human qualities: it turns out most people are either Askers or Guessers.

This dichotomy springs from a blog post, on Tumblr of all places, about the difference between Ask Culture and Guess Culture.

It all goes back to our original family and how they did things. We were basically taught (either through observing and modeling, or through being taught outright) to be an asker or a guesser.

In Asker families, you grow up being comfortable asking for absolutely anything at all and knowing that you might get a no for an answer. Askers are more direct and less bothered by a no.

Guessers, on the other hand, grew up learning never to ask for anything unless pretty confident the answer will be a yes. Guessers rely on putting out delicate feelers and paying attention to subtle social cues and signaling techniques until they’re sure enough to put a request into words. For guessers, a no can feel fairly traumatic.

In hindsight, the guesser way is fairly dysfunctional and seems almost passive-aggressive at times. It’s also very British, and since I was brought up by British parents, it’s not surprising we were a family of guessers.

The asker way seems much more American to me – very direct, straight-forward and maybe even blunt at times. It also seems more honest and authentic, somehow. I wish I was a better Asker but I’m having to learn it as an adult.

When askers and guessers collide

Interesting conflicts can arise when there’s an Asker and a Guesser in a couple – like my hubby and I.

In raising our kiddo, it’s hard to put into words how complicated and confusing it can get when kiddo wants something and I want them to go the guessing route but hubby wants them to just ask outright.

I’ll give an example: Xage always used to want to play with the kiddo next door. It made me super uncomfortable when they would just march over there every day after school to ask if their friend wanted to play.

I realize that it was probably fine for them to do this once in a while, but it happened every single day after school. I would squirm uncomfortably every time. Hubby was fine with Xage asking every day.

But I didn’t want the family next door to feel obligated to either let Xage in or let their kiddo out to play – after all, they may have had other commitments or simply may not have wanted their child to play with Xage that particular day. I hated the feeling of putting them out or causing them discomfort by having to say no repeatedly to a young child.

My hubby always felt there was no harm in Xage asking, but I felt so awkward and uncomfortable about it. I’m feeling embarrassed and anxious even now just remembering and writing about it!

There are so many other examples I can think of. Now that Xage is older, often I’ll interact with their friends’ moms about a sleepover or other get-together. I’ll text the mom to ask, and then Xage will want me to text again before I’ve gotten a response.

This is a big no-no in my mind! Like, we’ve already texted the mom and put the ask out there – now we just have to wait, no matter how long it takes.

Xage will want to text again as a reminder or to check and see if there’s an answer yet, and I’m cringing with awkwardness and refusing to do so. Hubby would be fine with texting one more time. As a Guesser, I just feel more comfortable waiting until I hear back – even if that takes days or a week.

What do you think – are you an Asker or a Guesser, and do you have awkwardness and uncomfortableness around simple social situations like the ones I’ve mentioned? It can really be enlightening once you figure out which one you are and which one your partner or friends are.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or over on Facebook! And if you ever have any questions of me, feel free to ask away. Even though I’m a Guesser, I certainly never mind being asked anything – I’m an open book.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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