from -5 to +5

Any time you are evaluating your preference (like or dislike) for something, you should rank it on a scale from -5 to +5. This applies to everything from parties to movies to sex partners.

It will make your life easier, and in this post I will prove it to you.

Drinking Games At The Bar

At some point in your life, you’ve done it: you’ve been out at a bar with your friends and rated the attractiveness of people around you.  Don’t pretend that you haven’t. Most of the time when people do this, they rate the hotness of guys or girls on a scale from 1 to 10. But I have a recommendation: you should always rate hotness on a scale from -5 to +5.

RatingsWhy? Ask yourself this: on the scale from 1 to 10, what is “meh”?  What is the score of someone who is neither attractive or unattractive, but just plain? Are they a 5?  In school, we learned that a “passing” grade is 65%, so would someone who is neither attractive nor ugly be a 6.5?  But in school we also learned that a B is average, so would “average” or “normal” be an 8 out of 10?

There’s no really clear answer. It’s not obvious.  People might disagree. In fact, I’ve asked a bunch of people about this, and most of the time they do disagree. But if you use a scale from -5 to +5, there is a very clear psychological anchor that you can use for “neither attractive nor unattractive”, and that is zero.

This also makes conversations about rating people easier. When you rate someone as a 7 and your buddy rates that person as a 5, you still don’t know whether the two of you really disagree on how hot the person is, do you? Because it’s possible that your buddy thinks that 5 is “just barely good enough to be non-ugly” but you think that 7 means the same thing… so you might actually be agreeing with one another. But if both of you used the more sensible scale from -5 to +5, when both of you would have rated the person as zero and you would have your answer!

Finally, using the scale from -5 to +5 for rating how hot people are makes it easier for you to explain to people exactly how desperate you are. For example, it’s perfectly reasonable for any human being to say, “I’m lonely and horny tonight, so I’d be willing to go home with a +1 or a 0,” but once your friend starts telling you that they’re willing to settle of a negative number you know it’s time to bundle them into cab and send them home alone.

What movie would you like to watch, honey?

Suppose you are settled down in a committed relationship, so you’re not the bar-hopping, hotness-rating person that you were in your youth. That’s fine, you still have plenty of opportunities to use the -5 to +5 scale.

For example, some acquaintances invite you and your partner to a party. It’s last minute and they are not close friends, so there is no real social obligation to go. In other words: whether or not the two of you attend is completely and entirely up to the two of you. You partner asks you, “Do you want to go to the party?”

This can be an amazingly complicated question… especially if you are on the fence. Suppose, for example, you are slightly inclined to stay home because you are feeling a little tired, but on the other hand it could be fun and so if your partner wants to go, then you definitely want to go to make you partner happy. You know that you could have a good time if you went… you just need to get yourself geared up for it a little.

So what do you say? In my experience, most people in this situation say: “I don’t care, honey, what do you want to do?”

This, of course, is the worst possible answer, because all it does it put the other person in the same position that you were in a moment ago. Moreover, it might feel (to the other person) like a deflection, and trust me the last thing you want is to get side-tracked into the whole “Oh come on, why don’t you ever have an opinion about anything!” conversation.

But you don’t want to say “I’d rather stay home,” either. You feel like your partner, out of politeness, might concede to staying home when they really secretly did want to go to the party, but they are saying they’ll stay home just to make you happy. The reason you don’t want this to happen is because you know that your preference for staying home is only very slight, and that in reality you’ll be just fine either way.

So how to solve this dilemma?

It’s very simple!  Just use the -5 to +5 scale!

If both of you rate how much you would like to go to the party on a scale from -5 to +5, then you add the two scores together, that determines whether you go or not! If the total is positive, you go; if the total is negative, you stay home! Nothing could be easier.

So, in the example above where you only slightly wanted to stay home, you might say your desire to go to the party is -2.  Now, if your partner comes back with +1 or zero, then the two of you can safely agree to stay home, and even though your partner “sort of” wanted to go, you know you don’t have to feel bad because your partners preferences was not as strong as yours. On the other hand, if your partner comes back with a +3, you can start going through the mental steps that you need to go through to get yourself psyched up for the party, and you can be happy about doing it because you know that you are doing it out of love for your partner, who really wants to go.

Or at least, your partner wants to go more than you want to stay home… which is what matters, right? Because it is all based on numbers, there is no ambiguity.


More people should use math to decide things in their personal, social and sexual lives. More common use of the -5 to +5 scale is but one example. I encourage you to promote the -5 to +5 scale with all of your friends.