Ask Culture, Guess Culture, and the SLP
Ask Culture, Guess Culture, and the SLP

Ask Culture  vs. Guess Culture: the basics

About 10 years ago Andrea Donderi wrote a MetaFilter reply that, somehow, has not turned into a best-selling self-help book: Ask Culture vs Guess Culture. (Here’s the original link, please be aware that the rest of the page may not make appropriate work reading. What’s the middle ground between FU and Welcome?)

To quote:

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.

Guess culture is more about knowing the other person, not being presumptuous or taking others for granted.  

A terrific example of guess culture  SLPs may know is on the CASL 2 (I think.) Grandmother announces it’s cold in here, what do you do?  (The correct answer, as I recall, is bringing her a blanket or something.) My own grandmother, very much a guess culture person, would have asked me if I was cold, which was supposed to tell me that she was cold, that she needed a blanket, and that I was the person who should get it for her.  If it wasn’t too much trouble.

The asker in me found this passive-aggressive and strange.  Was this her generation? A lack of self-worth? She thought she didn’t deserve to be warm? Just a flat-out pragmatic failure on my part? Was I too selfish? If I wasn’t so selfish would I have known what she meant? Why take this labyrinthian approach instead of asking? 

Ask Culture and Guess Culture for the SLP

An SLP workplace can be challenging whether you subscribe to ask culture or to guess culture.  A lot of us work in large bureaucracies (schools, hospitals, skilled nursing). Whether you’re an asker or a guesser, things get complicated.

Sometimes asking is way too much trouble.  Yes, I could send two emails and fill out a form to request that thing that costs $5, then get it in a few weeks, or I could just buy my own right now.   Yes, I’m pretty comfortable in ask culture–but I’m also impatient.

Guessing on the other hand–guessing seems safe.  Hoping our supervisors will notice untenable treatment areas. Dreaming of the parent who will say “How DARE they treat my child in a closet under the stairs!  I demand his SLP have an office immediately, or you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!” Thinking “I’ll just buy this small thing, and this one, and this one, and this one.”

(Some thoughts on how a similar idea relates to gender among teachers is in a great post here:

Asking comes at the risk of looking presumptuous or tactless.  Worse, it can look like favoritism when you get things others don’t.  “Umm… I asked?” is not the most convincing answer to “How did you get this thing everyone else was told they can’t have?” 

As part of ask culture, it doesn’t occur to me that asking, for many people is a BIG DEAL. They feel vulnerable and uncomfortable and wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important.  As a tool for shifting my perspective and considering others’ feelings, I’ve found this useful.

Books could be written on this, so I’d best stop myself now and maybe revisit it later. What do you think? Comment below or find us on facebook by searching SLBeeps.