Fostering Communication Using Scales

Early childhood trauma has affected every aspect of my life but one of the hardest to overcome has been communication.  I have difficulty really discerning what someone means.  I have always questioned the meaning behind what was said, not to mention the mood of the person or the tone that they use.  This is not abnormal for a trauma survivor.  Being able to predict what would happen based on the words, tone and body language that was used, kept me safe in a lot of situations.  It doesn’t foster close relationships however.  Since I was looking through the lens of a victim, I was apt to find danger in even the most inane comments.  I have since found that the easiest way to communicate with my wife and kids (externally or internally) is through a scaling system.

Most importantly, there HAS TO BE 100% honesty. This isn’t about making someone feel one way or another.  We base our “number” on our own wants and feelings ONLY.  If I am asked, it is my responsibility to be truthful about my feelings, no one else’s.  The same is true for the other person.  They have to own their own feelings.  Whatever their response, I have to take them at their word.  I have to believe that they are being honest with me.  This takes some practice.  It was harder than I was expecting to learn how to speak my truth when I had to hid it for so many years.  It took practice for my wife and kids too but every time we used the scale we learned to trust each other more.

Let me explain how it works.  So we use a 0 – 10 scale. 0 being the lower end and 10 is the upper end. For example: I would ask my kids, “Do you want to go to the zoo today?” No matter how they reply (yes or no) I then ask, “where are you on your scale?” On this scale,

  • 0 means “I’m not going if you drag me there.”
  • 5 means “I really am okay either way” or “I don’t care.”
  • 10 means “I’m going to go even if you don’t want to.”

So if one of them says, “I’m at a 5”, I know they really don’t care and will be okay whether we go or not. If one says, “I’m at an 8 or a 9,” I know they really want to go and will be super disappointed and may even pout if we don’t go. If one says, “I’m at a 1 or a 2,” I know we’ll have a pouting puss the whole time and I might have my hands full.

This has been a wonderful way to communicate without wondering “what do they want me to say?” or “will they be mad if I don’t want to?” The only rule is that your scale has to be your truth. Each person feels heard and we eliminated the need to do something or not do something based on how the way the other person/people feel about it. It has changed the way we communicate and has saved so many arguments and hurt feelings!

Here is a .pdf for you to download and use!  Click here:  alifeaftertrauma-decisionscale

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!


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