Saturday, 27 April 2013

On a Scale of One to Twenty-Three

"On a scale of one to ten" is boring. It's overused, and it's a cliché. But worse than that, it's predictable, and everyone just spits out a seemingly random number between one and ten when asked. It doesn't require you to actually think about what you're saying.

Sure, some people will actually think about their answer, but more often than not, people spit out a pre-determined number based on a generalisation. Like, if it was good, they'd say six, seven, eight, nine or ten. If it was average, they'd say five, and if it was bad, they'll say anything else. The number doesn't really matter, it's generalised to three or four "areas" that provide little distinction within themselves.

For example, a quick answer to "on a scale from one to ten" might result in a seven or an eight. Whether the answer is seven or eight doesn't matter. It was "good". The distinction between seven and eight is meaningless unless the person spent a good amount of time thinking about it. You mat as well ask them on a scale of one to three.

Next time someone answers that question; consider how long they took to think about their answer. It's a good bet they didn't give you a number, but rather a generalised word: "good", "bad", or "average".

I like the idea behind it. I think it's a good concept. I just think it needs to be fresh. Pick a number people aren't familiar with and all of a sudden they have to think about what they're saying. If I say "on a scale of one to twenty-three"; no one has a predetermined answer so I'm not going to just get a generalisation spat out at me.

When you pick a number like twenty-three; people suddenly think and concentrate, getting a much more precise answer from them.

Word ideas work well too. "On a scale of one to disaster..." "It was Chernobyl." "Damn. I was hoping more like a minor tsunami." ...lines from a play I'm currently rehearsing. It sounds ridiculous but it gets a legitimate answer.

More suggestions include:
"On a scale of brussel sprouts to chocolate mudcake..."
"On a scale of Shrek 1 to Shrek 4..."
"On a scale of red to violet..."
"On a scale of Twilight to Terminator..."
"On a scale of Mercury to Neptune..."



You see, regardless of how important the question is; most people will take less than three seconds to answer if they've heard the question hundreds of times before. You know they have to think about their answer if it's something they're not used to.

Next time you're about to ask the question. Change the number from ten to something higher. Odd numbers work well because the answer can't automatically be half of the maximum, and don't pick something divisible by ten because it doesn't leave much to the imagination.

Even better, change the minimum as well: "On a scale of sixteen to thirty-eight..."

Why not?

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