Slack Blog discovers Ask v Guess May 26, 2016 3:19 PM   Subscribe

Slack blog on Ask v Guess Culture in the Office. Link to the original thread in the first paragraph, along with a clarifying interview with Metafilter's own tangerine. The author of the post appears to be someone who has some familiarity with Metafilter community norms.
posted by matildaben to MetaFilter-Related at 3:19 PM (40 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

So... How did he get the interview?
posted by ODiV at 3:47 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Heh, I just introduced someone to the concept of Ask vs. Guess culture earlier. I love it. I wish the blog post got into more specific examples of how these styles are exemplified in chat, especially in companies where Slack is the workplace. But definitely fun!
posted by limeonaire at 3:57 PM on May 26, 2016


Matt Haughey is 100% guesser, but emailing Andrea out of the blue for this piece was total asker behavior.
posted by cgc373 at 3:58 PM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


BOOM SHAKALAKA

The funny thing is the missing examples in the original are fleshed out in all of the ensuing posts where it's been mentioned and commenters bat the idea around in myriad contexts.
posted by rhizome at 5:53 PM on May 26, 2016


Matt Haughey is 100% guesser

Explains so much!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm on the receiving end of a lot of requests from our department that I have to either approve or... encourage in another direction, and this paradigm has really helped the way I do business while relieving some guilty feelings. Because I come from a "guess" culture, for a long time, I assumed that requests came in with the same level of methodical self-reflection and social consideration that I grew up with, and I would spend a lot of time considering how I would rationalize with some of the stranger or more inconvenient requests. It was a light bulb moment (prompted by tangerine's comment) to realize that some people just throw a lot of requests against the wall to see what will get approved over time. Or, they don't have the same level of emotional investment in a request that I might have. So now, sometimes I wait a little while (especially if I know a particular person), and some requests will sort of resolve themselves without instant action, if the request wasn't as carefully considered. It's given me a lot of freedom to not interpret everything through a lens of urgency. I've gotten a kick talking these things through with my colleagues, because it's amazing how quickly it resonates with the experience of working with large groups of people where you have to make decisions.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:03 PM on May 26, 2016 [17 favorites]


The author of the post appears to be someone who has some familiarity with Metafilter community norms.

Initiate standard contact & communication protocols. If they're alive, we're gonna get them home safe, goddammit.
posted by quinndexter at 9:19 PM on May 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


direct vs indirect communication
posted by aniola at 11:57 PM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


My husband (ask) just reminded me (guess) of the time I freaked out when he wanted to get a quote for some extensive landscaping. I definitely used to think that asking for a quote was some kind of commitment to doing the project (even though I knew that this wasn't true factually).

He had never heard of ask vs guess before today but when I showed him this he got a distant look in his eyes and said, "this explains so much."
posted by CMcG at 3:53 AM on May 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


The biggest difference between mostly Askers and mostly Guessers is how much tension they feel about "no."

The myriad discussions about this that I've seen/participated in, on Metafilter and elsewhere, have all focused on whether the *asker* is an asker or a guesser. But this sentence from the Slack piece nails it even more. It's all about the answer, not the question. If I'm a guesser, then saying no is agonizing to me even if the asker is an asker and hearing no is easy for them.

Last week I casually invited friends to meet up at a local festival. On the morning of, a person who couldn't go said "if anyone catches the such-and-such performance, can you record it for me?" Immediately I tensed up, thinking now I have to plan the day better, look at the performance schedule, make sure I'm at that side of the park at that time, but what about the people I'm with, what if there are long food lines, am I a crappy friend if I don't do this, her kid is sick, she'd do it for me....

Because *I* wouldn't ask unless the thing was really important to me. So therefore another person asking means it's really important to them. So answering caused me time/mental energy even though hearing "no" was no big deal to her. I guess I am a guesser after all.
posted by headnsouth at 5:59 AM on May 27, 2016 [18 favorites]


GUESS METAFILTER
not bothering the hive mind

MAY 27

Hey!
Oh sorry I can see you're busy. I'll figure it out myself. [no more inside]
.posted by Nemo to Miscellaneous at 2:55 PM - 0 answers +

Yo
Hmm. Ah, actually I'll come back to you about this one at a better time. No problem. Hope you're good. [no more inside]
.posted by John Smith to Miscellaneous at 2:23 PM - 0 answers +

Denv-no wait, nevermind
Going to Denver tomorrow, but actually ... I'm sure it'll be fine, I'll just get a book or something. OK ... thanks. Sorry!!! [no more inside]
.posted by L'Etranger to Miscellaneous at 2:19 PM - 0 answers +
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:19 AM on May 27, 2016 [123 favorites]


I'm watching Star Trek at the moment on The 24-Hour ST:TNG Channel, which my cable company for some reason refers to as "BBC America". Worf is such a Guesser.
posted by XMLicious at 7:51 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's probably impossible for me to figure out exactly what MetaFilter "greatest hit" has affected the way I interact with the world more, but "Ask vs. Guess" has to be pretty close. Not only has it helped me get things I wanted by actually asking them or not feel bad when I turn down others requests, but it's also helped me more empathetic to people of both types.

But then I think about how the woman in the original question was going to be visiting for TEN DAYS, and part of me feels like I'm on a completely different planet from some people.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:24 AM on May 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


ASK[CULTURE] METAFILTER
the hive mind needs you

MAY 28

Hey!
Could I crash at your place for a couple nights?
.posted by teleprompter to Miscellaneous at 2:55 PM - 0 answers +

Short notice
Could you watch my kid for a few hours? I know you probably have to get work done, but you could just sit him in front of the TV, and if you need silence we can set him up with headphones, or if you were planning to go out I don't mind if you take him with you.
.posted by BonChance to Miscellaneous at 2:23 PM - 0 answers +
posted by nobody at 8:53 AM on May 27, 2016 [14 favorites]


GUESS METAFILTER
not bothering the hive mind


This is actually pretty fun, especially since I'm on the "guess" end of the spectrum. I'd bet a lot of money that we could discern a lot of "guess" culture background by the way AskMe questions are worded. We have some cultural expectations here about what makes a good question (chatfilter, etc.), and there is a long internet history (in general) of giving people a hard time if they haven't thoroughly research an answer that is reliably retrievable in the archives of the ancient internet, where it has been safely put for all posterity. A lot of ask descriptions seem to be hedging bets against potential criticism. On the other hand, there are also a lot of AskMe questions where you can tell there is no shame (nor should there be) sharing one's innermost secrets in a transparent way, perhaps through a few different questions from different angles as things get updated, because the expectations are that it's okay to ask questions, and questions are not inherently bothersome. And, I paid my $5, which is my passport that legitimizes participation, so why not? (A guess person often still does not want to bother people with questions, even if they've paid for a service.)
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:24 AM on May 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


I need a different phrase for a somewhat unrelated phenomenon that I experience all the time: The difference between people who, when confronted with a new challenge or experience, either make some calls and do some research to see how people have responded to this challenge in the past (the aksers) or those who just go ahead and tackle it hoping they can solve it on the fly (the guessers).

Because I am in the former category, and, I swear to God, the entirety of Omaha is in the latter category, which leads to the phenomenon of people who have been doing something the wrong way for decades, but never have had anybody know enough to correct them, and, as a result, are utterly convinced they do it the right way and cannot be told otherwise, even though their approach is basically the sort of thing Jessamyn talked about a while ago, where people who aren't especially computer literate will print out an email, rescan it is, and then attach it to an outgoing email because they don't know how to forward an email and this cumbsersome workaround is the only solution they could come up with.

Is there a word for this? I need a word for it.
posted by maxsparber at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


as a result, are utterly convinced they do it the right way and cannot be told otherwise

This part is the Dunning-Kruger effect.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2016


Absolutely. I realize this is the physical manifestation of Duning Kruger, but what would we call the part where they decide a complicated and nonintuitive task is something that doesn't require any research or assistance? Ever? And how do we contrast it against people who actually do things like read the owner's manual first?
posted by maxsparber at 10:50 AM on May 27, 2016


The myriad discussions about this that I've seen/participated in, on Metafilter and elsewhere, have all focused on whether the *asker* is an asker or a guesser. But this sentence from the Slack piece nails it even more. It's all about the answer, not the question. If I'm a guesser, then saying no is agonizing to me even if the asker is an asker and hearing no is easy for them.

Yes - agreed - this is excellent! As someone who grew up very, very Guess Culture, I implicitly learned these rules:
a) you must always save face
b) saying "no" is a way to lose face
c) causing someone else to lose face is worse than losing face yourself

So in other words, outright asking someone for something = potentially causing them to say 'no' = THE WORST. As someone who is still relatively new to the workforce ('12 college grad), workplace communication has been really tough for me to learn because of that.
posted by capricorn at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2016 [15 favorites]


er, and headnsouth, I know I flipped that back over to the asker perspective, but what I wanted to highlight there is the fact that this is all about the power and role of "no".
posted by capricorn at 10:59 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've internalized Ask vs. Guess culture in my life and my work-life but this was a good way to spread this knowledge around the office. There were a lot of blown minds.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:10 AM on May 27, 2016


c) causing someone else to lose face is worse than losing face yourself

Oh god, that. Even if it's a manipulative predator person in a story, there's this totally inappropriate shame-cringe I feel about a protagonist abandoning the polite shared fiction and pointing out deceit.

It's the same thing that gets 'let me help you with your groceries' guy into the apartment in the beginning example in The Gift of Fear, I think.
posted by Fantods at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I still can't funny understand Guess culture but every time it's discussed I learn a bit more. Ask vs. Guess and very similar differences have been a struggle for my wife and me. This discussion always helps. That's a good interview with tangerine and it again stresses saying "no" as the big stress point. I see that quite a bit, but for us the difference is that we both assume a bit too much that "it's the way everybody interacts" which is just obviously wrong. I re-read the ask where it first came up for the Nth time and I still got a lot out of it.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2016


The difference between people who, when confronted with a new challenge or experience, either make some calls and do some research to see how people have responded to this challenge in the past (the aksers) or those who just go ahead and tackle it hoping they can solve it on the fly (the guessers).

The latter sounds like a form of hands-on learning, or experiential learning. Some people just aren't very good at it, the same way that some people aren't very good at being able to apply research and reading.
posted by lazuli at 4:10 PM on May 27, 2016


I find the distinction really interesting and helpful. And I agree the person being discussed in the original post is probably an Ask type, both from the nature of the request and the wording. But I think there may be a slight fallacy in assuming that if Person A makes a request that Person B finds excessive, Person A is an Ask and "no" is a perfectly OK answer to them. Possibly, this is not a problem for Person B, because Person A isn't someone they want to keep getting these kinds of requests from and it's a useful screening process. But it may well be that saying "no" will cause negative feelings from the other party. People should still be saying "no" if they need to, just not, in my opinion, assuming it will not be a problem for the asker, absent information either way.
posted by BibiRose at 5:17 AM on May 28, 2016


I think part of the clash between Ask and Guess, at least for those of us who are Guessers, is that for the Guesser, the act of saying "No" to an Asker's request is itself a form of Asking.

The Guesser, as Guessers do, will not simply say No as an Asker would, but will weigh the effect of a "No" usually assuming that the Asker has the same feelings that they as a Guesser would.

So, it can be just as much work for a Guesser to say No as it would be for them to make a whole new request, and damnit they didn't even want this situation and they're not going to benefit much from all the work of saying No. In the Guess culture, the Asker should already know the answer is No, so the whole situation is just a paradox.

Regards,
A Guesser who, descended from a long line of (somewhat Angry and Bitter) Guessers, strives to be more and more of an Asker everyday....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:33 AM on May 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


nitiate standard contact & communication protocols. If they're alive, we're gonna get them home safe, goddammit.

Quindexter was eaten by a sloth whilst attempting to storm the slack offices.
posted by Artw at 8:35 AM on May 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I think there may be a slight fallacy in assuming that if Person A makes a request that Person B finds excessive, Person A is an Ask and "no" is a perfectly OK answer to them. Possibly, this is not a problem for Person B, because Person A isn't someone they want to keep getting these kinds of requests from and it's a useful screening process. But it may well be that saying "no" will cause negative feelings from the other party.

I think this is all wrong! It's actually totally fine to say "no" to a Guesser. The Guesser in fact goes out of their way to let you know that it's totally fine to say "no" and that they don't want to be an imposition, etc. You're not doing the Guesser irreparable harm by turning down a request!

The fear from a Guesser isn't that someone will actually say "no," it's -- working under the assumption that the aksee is similar to themselves -- that potentially forcing the askee to say "no" will be itself a burden.
posted by nobody at 10:59 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Or the ultimate shame - they will say yes when they want to say no, and then hate you the whole time they're doing the thing for you and forever after.
posted by ctmf at 12:47 PM on May 28, 2016 [16 favorites]


they will say yes when they want to say no, and then hate you the whole time they're doing the thing for you and forever after.

* light bulb *
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:15 PM on May 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Surely one's culture is not a matter of personality?
posted by Coaticass at 1:56 AM on May 29, 2016


Cultures are basically groups with similar characteristics, so yeah, it's ok to divide people into two groups and call those "cultures" without any harm done to the other potentially overlapping groups they fall into
posted by aydeejones at 11:17 AM on May 29, 2016


Can someone please explain to me the difference between ask vs. guess and the already-established direct vs indirect communication?
posted by aniola at 11:46 AM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can someone please explain to me the difference between ask vs. guess and the already-established direct vs indirect communication?

I don't think there is one.
posted by lazuli at 12:38 PM on May 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also High- and Low-Context cultures.
posted by lazuli at 12:40 PM on May 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just found this and love it. The Impact of Direct and Indirect Communication by Cynthia Joyce, University of Iowa.
Some of the conflicts we see as ombuds are rooted in different communication styles. At The University of Iowa, we have found that differentiating between direct and indirect communication has been especially useful to our visitors. In our organization, we draw faculty, staff and students from across the country and around the world to a small city in the Midwestern region of the United States. No one informs people that they are coming to a place dominated by indirect communication. Indirect communicators from elsewhere, nationally or internationally, are adept at picking up nuances in communication, even if the underlying culture isn’t familiar to them. But direct communicators may not understand the expectations for communication, and they may not realize that their style can be seen as abrasive and sometimes even threatening. Providing visitors with this frame for seeing their situations can be very helpful.
posted by lazuli at 4:02 PM on May 29, 2016 [11 favorites]


This makes a lot of sense: I come from Guess Culture and my work is all about the Ask Culture. It has to be, really. But I get so sick of all the direct questions I get asked all the time, that I can't say no to. "Can I ask you a question?" (a) You just did, (b) No, I don't want you to, actually, but (c) yes, please, go ahead and ask because I can't tell you no! I get asked things all the time I wish people would just...not. It's so uncomfortable! I can't say no to any request and I get so many damn requests that feel like orders and...ugh!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:54 PM on June 2, 2016


My father had a motto: "Let them tell you no!" What that meant was that if you aren't sure what the answer to a request/hope/desire might be, don't tell yourself the answer is "no." Ask the person you'd make the request of—the worst case scenario is that they will tell you "no." And sometimes the answer might be "yes"!

This did not mean, by the way, refusing to take "no" for answer, or hectoring/hounding someone until you get what you want, or making unreasonable demands. It just meant that you shouldn't let your own fears and doubts get in the way of your desires.

At least, that's how I have internalized it. My dad was quite self-centered and took this attitude too far, undoubtedly rubbing many people the wrong way. But it's been useful advice for me. Example: I did poorly in college but did well on the LSATs. I applied to a few higher-ranked law schools anyway (luckily, I was able to afford the application fees), in spite of my weak GPA. One of them accepted me. I didn't tell myself "no"—I let them tell me. Most of them did. But one of them said yes.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:54 PM on June 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I had a grad school professor who told me similar advice and it was really helpful! And at the same time, it seems like it works better for work stuff than for interpersonal relations. Like I'd prefer if someone were to ask me out (I'm not single and haven't been for a while, so this is academic for me at this point in my life) I'd like there to be SOME reason why they think I might say yes (we are friends, we share interests, we have been flirting) and not just a shotgun approach.

Because otherwise you wind up with relentless "Well she can always say no!" attention that borders on harassment, if everyone took this approach. And since some people don't have that good "I'll back off immediately and completely if she says no" approach, even the interaction starting up can be concerning to the askee.

Which is funny, upon reflection, since I am the askiest asker that ever asked an ask, but I can see how sometimes the "Fish around a bit to see if you might get a yes and don't make this a problem for the askee" context is actually what I would prefer and I would advocate for this position. And so it's challenging because optimally you determine if Ask/Guess or Direct/Indirect makes sense within the context you are in and in groups of nerds that really prefers the flowchart approach to interpersonal interactions (it me!) it seems awfully... indeterminate.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 8:49 AM on June 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Absolutely, Jessamyn. That's why I chose the example I did—didn't exactly have to worry about the feelings of Random Law School Admissions Board! In a way, my father's phrasing is almost inadvertently helpful. He would always say "Let them tell you no," not "him" or "her." If the target of your request is really more of a "them" (a company, a school, etc.) versus an individual, then the advice makes more sense.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:29 PM on June 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older Wrestling Entrance Theme Music MetaTalk   |   Say hello to our new tech person, frimble! Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments