It’s a sad day when a presidential candidate publicly rates women on a scale of 1 to 10.  Are we really saying to our girls, who might one day run for public office, that what matter is the flounciness of your hair, the size of your breasts, or the poutiness of your lips?

Is this how we rate a woman’s ability to run a company or a country?

As sick as this kind of rating might be, his words remind me that we’re living in a rating-crazy world. With one anonymous click we can rate almost anything: the singer, the dancer, the eyebrow tweezer, the speech we are listening to or the restaurant meal we are still eating.

With one rating, we create celebrities and decide who gets thrown off the boat.

I can’t shop these days without checking the reviews. Instead of going to the drug store and buying a hair dryer, I spend an hour googling what others have said. And I do that before I use an auto-mechanic, buy a pencil, go out to dinner, or buy my granddaughter a Tee-shirt.

Rate and run

With a click we can rate and run. I know because I’ve done it. After arguably the worst customer service I have ever experienced, I took ratings-revenge in the Verizon Store. I found a bank of Ipads sitting quietly in a section of the store marked: “Amuse-yourself-checking-out-our-products-on-line” (because-you-were-so-dumb-you-actually-came-into-our-store). Voila – the perfect weapon! How thoughtful to provide me with a tablet I could use to send a scathing review to Yelp – describing, real time, the service I was not getting. After that, I left the store.

Does anyone escape ratings?

We can rate doctors, lawyers, and pet sitters. I just learned that you can rate university professors on-line. Feedback is important, but the long-term benefits of a course may not be immediately apparent. So what do you rate: How much you liked the prof? How easily she graded? How amusing the class was?

Good thing I left university teaching 15 years ago! I can’t even stand the pre-fab evaluations I have to pass out after classes and workshops that I conduct. (Understandable, given that I have rate-ophobia – typically defined as “an acute fear of being rated or judged by anonymous others.”)

The people who create those mandatory two page evaluations look for what they can measure, when the really important stuff – such as long-term change and transformation – can’t be quickly rated. After one of my leadership classes, I passed out an evaluation and spotted the question, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how accurate was the spelling and punctuation on the handouts?” What a creative measure of long-term leadership development!

The rise of Survey Monkey

Of course, a human may not have created said evaluation form. It may have been created by a troupe of simians throwing random questions on a page. With the advent of Survey Monkey, anyone can create an online survey in five minutes.

Survey Monkey, used wisely, is a great tool. But it can just as easily be used to create garbage.

Is there anything we can’t rate?

Why not rate:

  • The conversation you are currently listening to before it is over.
  • This blog (oh, no!)
  • Your sex life (with ten being a fantasized coupling between two young nubile bodies.)
  • That product you bought but never tried.
  • How your wife puts the toilet paper on the stand.
  • Your wife/husband/best friend.

What ratings can’t do                 

The thing about ratings is that they ask us to stop listening and being present with a situation, in order to fit it into a five or ten-point scale, a yes/no answer, or some kind of fixed choice scenario. I want my world to be more nuanced than that.

Can’t we let people or situations grow on us – and be interpreted in more than one way?

Many ratings challenge us to act fast, (I’ll be willing to rate your product if I can do it in five seconds or less), and not stay with a situation, a person, or an experience long enough to allow it to act upon us in wonderful, unpredictable ways.

Remember how your friend who was stalled out at “3” miraculously became a “10” when you got to know him? Or how your future husband’s score went off the charts the moment you fell in love with him?

To love something is to be willing to be with it – discerning, but open, suspending judgment, inviting it to reveal its inner essence and to move you.

But not on a ten point scale.
(Although in grateful contradiction – if you’ve read this far – you get a TEN with me!)