When I was nineteen, I had a sociology professor that reminded me of Phoebe from the television show, Friends. My professor may have seemed flaky, but she gave me an amazing tool to use that has helped our marriage tremendously….
Most of us have heard someone say, “On a scale from 1 to 10…,” but I haven’t met many people who use this rating scale in daily life. Let me tell you, it’s awesome! You can save yourself from wondering what the other person is really thinking on many occasions using this system.
For example, let’s say you ask your boyfriend or girlfriend if a particular restaurant sounds good for dinner. He or she may answer, sure, but this doesn’t give you much indication of how good it really sounds to him or her. If you ask him or her to rate how much he or she would like that restaurant on a scale of 1-10, you may find out that he or she really wants it (by rating high), that he or she really doesn’t want it (by rating low), or that he or she is somewhere in between.
It may sound like a silly system at first, but we have loved it and it has saved many long, tedious, unproductive discussions. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it helps us quantify our responses when our tone of voice cannot.
A few years ago, I was invited to a party. Deep down, I really didn’t want to go; but, just a few days prior, Eric told me that he wanted us to spend more time with other couples. I knew there would be several couples there, so I assumed he would want to go. When I told him about it, he said we could go, but I still didn’t want to go. I was probably hoping he’d say no so I wouldn’t have to admit that I didn’t really want to attend.
Then, I remembered it! The rating system my Phoebe-like professor had told my class all those years before in Marriage and Family Sociology. So, I asked him to tell me how much he wanted to go on a scale of 1-10 (1 being not at all, 10 being wild horses couldn’t stop him). He said, “About a 3,” and I was relieved! I rated in at a 2 and we stayed home. He thought I wanted to spend time with my friend at her party. I thought he would want to spend time with other couples. Had we not used the rating system, he would’ve gone for my sake and I would’ve gone for his. Neither of us would’ve been happy, simply because of a lack of specificity in communication.
Since then we use this scale constantly. We use it when deciding where to eat, whether or not to make purchases, after trying a new recipe, and on how to spend our free time. Different personalities have a harder time than others admitting how they really feel and by rating your feelings numerically, you give them a useful measure.
If someone makes you an apple pie and a banana cream pie, you are likely to act appreciative of both, even if you love the apple and just kind of like the banana cream. If the person asked you to rate how much you liked each pie on a scale of 1-10, it would give them a clear picture of your preferences, which would be useful information to have next time they wanted to bake you a pie.
With this system, there are a few rules:
- Do not use it to manipulate each other. If your girlfriend rated 8 for Thai food, don’t automatically choose a higher number for your restaurant so you can “win.” You have to be honest to make this work.
- The highest number does not always get what they want. The purpose is to objectify your feelings for better communication and then to make an informed decision as a couple – especially if one person’s number is stronger than the other consistently.
- Reserve 1’s and 10’s for very special instances. We recommend not using them more than three or four times a year. If you use the extremes (1 or 10) constantly, the system loses its reliability and effectiveness (think normal bell curve – keep your distribution close to that).
- Also use 2’s and 9’s sparingly (about 12 to 20 times per year – think once or twice a month, depending on how much you utilize this rating technique).
- Above all, be honest.
The longer you are with your life partner, the more ways you will find to communicate. We have found this rating system to be invaluable to our communication. We hope it helps you as much as it has helped us. If you are already using it, let us know how it’s helped you in your relationship in the comments below. If you have another system you use to aid in communication, we’d love to hear about it and how it works!
How do you reliably express your opinion for preferences in your relationship?