112. Thinking of people as numbers can make rejection easier to understand – and hopefully less painful

This may get a bit weird, but bear with me.

We’re talking dating here, but we could just as well be talking work, friendship, etc. To make it simple, we’ll stick with dating. Ok? Let’s go!

I assume most of you will be familiar with the idea of rating someone on some kind of hotness scale.

“He’s an 8.”

“She’s a 7, and I only date 9's or above.”

First of all, if you think this way, you’re an idiot.

Second, if you do, it DOES makes a certain kind of sense. It just needs two extra steps, and then it makes a lot of sense.

The most important thing to realise is that there’s no single scale. There is no 1–10 scale. If you want to, however, you can think in a series of 1–10 scales.

So instead of saying “That guy is an 7. Way out of my league.”, you’d nuance it. Suddenly, we’re talking about a set of numbers instead of one overall number.

6 in Humor

9 in Integrity

4 in Rock-Hard Abs

7 in Charm

9 in Income

35 points total. 5 stats. 7 average.

And voila, you have your 7. Right?

Well, not really, but we’ll get to that.

The thing about this is that you can keep adding more numbers to the list. It’s a bit like looking at characters for a lot of role-playing game systems, but with more flexibility.

The original Dungeons & Dragons had six “stats”. I played it as a kid.

Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

A human had scores from 3–18 in each, and the way you created your character was to roll 3 dice for each score. This meant that most stats were around the 9–12 range and that there were very few 3's and 18's.

Other systems use other numbers, but the basic idea is the same. Take a human being (or a troll hacker in 2034). Try to look at it like a set of numbers in a way that makes sense to you. Then make a judgement call based on that.

Quite a lot, actually. At least to my way of thinking.

Let’s say you and your friend are discussing a potential date. You’re trying to figure out if this person is your type or not. You’ve managed to do some kind of analysis and have ended up with a series of numbers that make sense to you.

Smile 8

Athleticism 6

Kindness 9

Career 5

Intellect 3

31 in total. 6.2 average. If you only date 7's or higher, then it’s a nogo in your personal dating game. If you date 6's and up, it’s on!

Nice and easy, right?

No. Because humans have modifiers. ;-)

Introducing personal taste modifiers

Here’s where we’re going full game designer on this. You’ve got the numbers from before. Let’s not discuss whether they’re precise or real or anything like that. For the purpose of this exercise, they are.

Now, we need to take into account taste modifiers. We’ll use me as an example.

I’m a sucker for a warm smile, where you feel the person’s eyes twinkling at you. Let’s call it a x3 multiplier on Smile.

On the other hand, I don’t have any strong feelings about athleticism. I’ve dated women who were in incredibly good shape, and women who were significantly less so. Call it a x0.5 mulitipler on Athleticism.

I am attracted to people who are kind. The innate sense of wanting to help other people is something I value. Let’s call it a x2 modifier.

Career, however, doesn’t mean anything to me. From the poor and unemployed to hotshot career women whose salaries dwarfed my own by lengths – I’ve not cared. Call it a x0.2 modifier.

Last, but not least, intellect is something I treasure. Especially if it’s sharp, sarcastic and reflecting. We’ll give that another x2 modifier.

Now, assuming we take the potential date from before.

Smile 8

Athleticism 6

Kindness 9

Career 5

Intellect 3

Smile is a x3 for me. That’s 24 (8x3)

Athleticism is a x0.5. That’s a 3 (6x0.5)

Kindness gets x2, ending on 18 (9x2)

Career is only x0.2, giving it a 1 (5x0.2)

Intellect scores x2. This means 6 (3x2)

Now, suddenly I have these numbers:

Smile 24

Athleticism 3

Kindness 18

Career 5

Intellect 3

53 total, 5 “stats”. Out of 77 max

The maximum possible “average score” is now not 10, but 15.6 (77 max total, five “stats”). Here’s where the 77 come from.

Smile (x3) = max 30

Athleticism (x0.5) = max 5

Kindness (x2) = max 20

Career (x0.2) = max 2

Intellect (x2) = max 20

10.6 out of 15.6 max. That translates to around 6.8/10 Is that “enough” for me? Good question. But the “6.2 potential date” is for me a 6.8.

With me so far?

I have a friend, who has very different taste than I do. If we put in his modifiers (according to me – remember this is just an example), we arrive at:

Smile (x1) = max 10

Athleticism (x3) = max 30

Kindness (x1) = max 10

Career (x2) = max 20

Intellect (x1.5) = max 15

That gives a total max of 85.

Continuing with the person from above, this means that we end up like this:

Smile is a x1 for me. That’s 8 (8x1)

Athleticism is a x3. That’s 18 (6x3)

Kindness gets x1, ending on 9 (9x1)

Career is now x2, giving it a 10 (5x2)

Intellect scores x1.5. This means 4.5 (3x1.5)

That’s 49.5 out of 85. That’s 9.9/17, or around 5.8/10. The 6.2 person (who was a 6.8 for me) is a 5.8 for my friend, due to differences in taste.

If we both have an idea of only dating 6 or above, I’d say yes to the date and he’d say no.

My 6.8 is his 5.8. And yes, in our example, the woman in question was interested in dating both of us. It’s my example, so of course she was. :-)

No, of course it isn’t! Add to this whole mess that not everyone agrees on what stats to use, what the numbers mean, and what corresponds to high and low numbers. There are also negative modifiers (“If you’re famous, it counts AGAINST you, because I value privacy”).

People don’t agree on what a 7 in Humor is like. The same person might be one person’s 3 and another’s 7. And then we still need to factor modifiers in.

Damn right they’re not.

Numbers are abstractions and attraction is complex. This doesn’t change the fact, that some people will never date someone without a solid income, while others don’t date anyone taller than themselves. There are those who could never see themselves with someone without an education or with someone who was very emotional.

The main reason for this whole numbers game isn’t to make anyone better at figuring out their own taste. Wiser people than me have spent many years on that subject, and who am I to say that this makes anyhing easier?

What it does (maybe!) make easier is that it makes it very clear that when someone rejects you, they’re not rejecting YOU. They’re rejecting your numbers in combination with their modifiers. And while rejection sucks and can hurt, I’ve found this a useful way of explaining (to both myself and others) why it’s really not about you.

You can have a lot of 10's, but it doesn’t matter if the person you want to date has low modifiers on your 10's and high modifiers on your low scores. Or in other words – there are people who will date a Samuel L Jackson type, people who will date a Justine Bieber type and there are people who will date a Donald Trump type. They’re probably not the same people, though!

All this means that when someone says “No, thanks” (or worse) it’s not necessarily about you. It’s about them in RELATION to you. Now, if all you bring to the table are 1's, then you have a problem no matter what, but the idea of “There’s someone for everyone” is alive and well.

And while this may not make sense to everyone (some will probably be disgusted by the whole idea), I’ve found it a useful tool when explaining to people that rejection isn’t really about them.

If this helps you with that in some way, then I’m happy. If not, then luckily you don’t have to subscribe to the idea. And I’m pretty sure that there will be people out there who create a new category on their list after reading this blog post.

“Nerdy blog posts about dating”

Whether I get a 1, a 5 or a 10 is of course a good (and individual) question. And that’s before modifiers. I’m pretty sure that for some, that category is one with negative multipliers, but I hope it’s not true for everyone! :-)

If you like my writing, and want to free up my time, so write more, you can do exactly that, by supporting me via Patreon.


If you want to get into contact, I’m easy to find online. So if it’s worth your time, search me out. I’ll do my best to answer. ;-)

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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