The life-changing magic of knowing whether people are 'Askers' or 'Guessers'

My husband and I own a short-term rental, and last year a woman rented it for a couple of months straight. She was friendly, personable, and overall a lovely guest. But she asked for things, a lot. Like, all the time. Big things, little things—it seemed like pretty much anything she thought she could possibly ask for, she asked for.

My husband, who manages the property and requests from guests, found himself getting irritated that she was asking for so many things.

"I don't think she expects you to actually say yes to all of these things," I finally told him. "I think she's just an extreme asker."

He looked puzzled. That's when I pulled up this Atlantic article I'd read years ago about how some people are "Askers" and some people are "Guessers" and read it to him.

"Wow," he said after I finished. "That is seriously life-changing."


"Life-changing" is how practically I share this concept with describes it once they understand it. When you hear it explained, it seems so obvious, but it's not something people articulate often.

It's also not particularly scientific. The original Askers vs. Guessers explanation appears to have come from someone's AskMetafilter answer in 2007, but it's since been expanded and expounded upon by various people throughout the years.

Here's the gist of it:

Some people are Askers, and in "ask culture," it's normal and expected to ask directly for the things you want. It's also normal to say no to such requests. Asking culture is upfront, direct, and generally okay with saying no and being told no. If you want something, you simply ask for it without an expectation of any particular answer.

Other people are Guessers, and in "guess culture," you don't ask for things unless you're quite sure the answer will be yes. You might drop hints or make vague allusions to what you want as you try to gauge whether the person would say yes, or even to get an offer without having to ask. If you think the answer might be no, you simply don't ask.

Where Askers and Guessers clash the most is in the saying no part. Askers know sometimes the answer will be no, but they ask anyway. Because Guessers won't ask if the answer might be no, they might assume Askers expect all of their asks to be answered with yes. Saying no is uncomfortable to a Guesser, so being put into the position of having to say no to someone's ask feels rude.

I've had coworkers, family members, and friends say this concept totally changed the way they see and interact with people. Guessers tend to struggle with the bluntness of Askers and feel put off by their directness until they understand that Askers always just ask—the answer doesn't always have to be yes. Askers tend to struggle with the seeming passive aggressiveness of Guessers and get frustrated by their pussyfooting until they understand that asking directly feels rude to them—Guessers just hate putting people in a position of saying "no."

Much has been made about whether Asking vs. Guessing is a family upbringing thing, a cultural thing, or a personality thing, and also about whether one is better than the other. Certainly, some cultures around the world tend to be more direct, while others tend to be less so. The same goes for families, and even certain regions of the country. In my experience as an American, I'd say the U.S. is fairly evenly split between the two tendencies.

Of course, people don't always fit neatly into two distinct categories, and th e relationship we have with people can impact all of this greatly. With people we are close to, we might be more of an Asker than with people we don't know all that well. But overall, understanding the difference between Askers and Guessers can make social situations so much easier to navigate.

For example, let'ss ay you have a coworker who constantly seems to be asking for things or throws ideas your way all the time. They're probably an Asker. They don't necessarily expect you to act on all of their ideas or say yes to what they're asking for. Or let's say you have a neighbor who starts talking about their vacation plans and mentions they're worried about their plants not getting enough water while they're gone. They might be a Guesser who wants to ask you to water for them. They just don't want to ask you directly.

The woman who rented our place was an extreme example of an Asker, and after my husband (who is a Guesser) got that, he found it so much easier to interact with her. He understood she wasn't expecting a yes with every ask, so her questions didn't feel so rude. And sure enough, when he was clear about what we could and couldn't accommodate, she was totally unfazed by the things he said no to.

Life-changing, seriously.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

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Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

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According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

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Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

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Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

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