I can’t say “no.” Actually, I can say “no” but I’m not very good at it. It makes me squirm to have to turn people down. Just yesterday I found out I was paying for someone else’s electricity for the past two months, a mistake that was made by the new utility company we recently joined. They immediately returned the erroneous payment and offered to re-enroll me in the program and start fresh. The deal was the same and, in spite of this horrible experience, I couldn’t say “no.”
This also means that I’m not good at asking for things that may make others feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to put them in a position to have to turn me down, so I may never ask. If you sell Amway products or pest control door-to-door you should hear a siren going off in your head with flashing arrows pointing to me and a sign that screams: SUCKER.
According to an article in the Guardian, a British publication, what I’ve described above are the tell-tale signs of being a “Guesser.” There are two classes or cultures of people: Askers and Guessers. Askers are characterized by asking for what they want, assuming they will be rejected or declined if the other party doesn’t consent. For example, an Asker would have no problem asking a waiter for a different table because “this one doesn’t have a nice view.” Likewise, Askers tend to ask for raises, time off, and favors from others more often than Guessers. An Asker wouldn’t hesitate to ask you to cover their shift, assuming you would simply decline if you didn’t want to.
Guessers, on the other hand, avoid asking for things that may lead to rejection…they are generally intuitive and rely on that intuition to guide them in the things they ask for, even if their intuition may be misleading or incorrect. Guessers would typically not ask for a new table at a restaurant because they would assume that the waiter would have seated them at a different table if it were available. Guessers avoid articulating a desire or need unless they’re almost certain the answer will be “yes.” According to the article, Guessers are hardwired with “delicate feelers” that can be sent out to hint at what is needed, ideally prompting an offer without having to ask. Guessers pick up extra shifts because they may not be able to say “no,” but rarely cash in a similar favor, preferring to not “rock the boat.”
It is important to note that there is no right way to be: there are benefits and drawbacks to both. Askers could be viewed as fearless or as bullish. Guessers could be marked as intuitive or spineless. As with anything, your style depends on what you do with it.
So why is this important? This theory, if true, could change the way you see the world. In fact, your type could enhance or undermine your opportunities for success. As an Asker, you may be more prone to ask for what you need and go after it. In contrast, as a Guesser you may never go after something that is attainable, believing that it would find its way to you if it was meant to be. I have suffered from this from time to time. In fact, I still have a difficult time being self-promoting or selling services that could be valuable to others, believing they would ask for it if they wanted it.
In addition, this theory could also explain how you can more effectively navigate the relationships around you. For example, my wife is an avid Asker and I am a prolific Guesser. For us, this means that I rely on her to make the difficult phone calls, like canceling contracts and requesting favors from service providers. She seems to relish in the awkward moments, perpetually asking for a handout or kickback, while I hang embarrassed in the background, fidgeting and looking for an exit. (For example, in Chicago last week my wife asked for a free room upgrade…uncomfortable. She got denied, but ended up with two free workout passes valued at $15 each.) Likewise, as a Guesser, I am hyper-aware that I have to ask for what I need in our relationship. This may also mean that I can sense the mood of a business encounter before my wife enters the awkward realm, and even have a good idea of the direction the conversation may go.
Lastly, this knowledge could be integral to leadership. If you’re an Asker leading a group of Guessers, your people may never say “no.” This could result in burnout or lack of accountability. Your followers may also struggle with a sense of ownership, mindlessly fulfilling your requests without ever offering ideas or tapping creativity. On the flip side, a Guesser leading Askers may never ask for what is needed to move an organization or initiative forward, assuming their followers are intrinsically motivated to contribute what is needed.
So which one are you? (Realistically, we are all probably a bit of both depending on the circumstance, but we probably also have a dominant style.) How has this played out in the past, say, 24 hours?
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Hi! I'm Dustin.
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