Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ask or Guess

May 23, 2010

Wow! We had a great workshop on Friday. Thanks to everyone who came. If you couldn't fit it in, we'll see you next time!

I often tell my students that there are two kind of people in the world: those who put people into two categories and those who don't.

Lately, I have wondered about a different demarcation: people who ask for favors and are willing to hear either "yes" or "no," and those who will only ask if they are relatively sure the answer is "yes."

People in the first category could ask almost anything: Will you give me $100? Can I stay at your house for six weeks while my landlord repaints my apartment? Will you dog-sit my six poodles? They ask without remorse and are perfectly willing to hear "no" without hard feelings.

People in the second category don't want to put someone in the position of saying "no" so they go to great lengths to figure out what they think the answer will be before ever asking. If they think the answer is no, they won't ask.

That these two categories of people exist (I think they do, but you may or may not agree) is not a problem per se, especially when "askers" are dealing with "askers" and "guessers" are dealing with "guessers." Trouble can arise, however, when the two groups interact.

I think a "guesser" finds herself in agony if an "asker" asks too big a favor. The "guesser" probably thinks the "asker" is expecting a "yes" and will be sorely disappointed with "no" (thinking to herself, they wouldn't have asked if they didn't believe the answer would be "yes"). She might also think the "asker" is rude for asking, while all the "asker" wants is to hear "no" and move on. An "asker" might not read the signals of a "guesser" trying to discern the answer in advance without having to ask.

Why do I know about this? As a child, Davis was an asker. Erin was a guesser.


  1. Wow, this post got me thinking. Let's see, of my kids, Hannah definitely was an asker but I see a guesser coming out lately, as she invariably tries to over/out-think her parents' logic (not too difficult). Max was a pure asker, but with his sweet, high squeaky voice it was generally hard to say no. Nic's a guesser, especially after hearing a 'no' he goes to great lengths to retract and recast his request to some point in the future.

  2. I think Elle is an asker, but Hans is a guesser. I'm an asker, but I bet you some people would guess I was a guesser with the things I think I can get away with asking!

    I'd have done anything Erin asked of me. She would have made the best President!