How to Make a Pros vs. Cons List

Your friend Deb just got out of rehab, and she’s in need of a place to stay while she gets back on her feet. She’s reached out to a few friends and family, but there have been no takers. On one hand, you love Deb and really want to be there for her in a time of great need and see her continue her successful recovery. On the other hand, notoriously messy Deb living in your small two-bedroom apartment is going to flip your life upside-down. You go back and forth in your head. It’s a really tough call. There’s only one logical thing to do…

List out the pros and cons of Deb moving in.

A “pros and cons” list is a common way to make a tough decision. Whether it’s as major as a recovering drug addict friend moving into your home, or simply debating whether Mr. Pookie makes a good name for your new guinea pig, the answer always lies at the end of a list.

Need a little backstory first? A “pro” is something good that will come of your decision, while a “con” is something bad that will come of the decision. To simplify, you could consider simply saying “good” and “bad”. In some more complex lists, a third “neutral” column could be added. Regardless, you can make your list just about any old way you want!

  • Start by finding something to write on, and write with. This could be a piece of paper and a pen; the back of an envelope and a Sharpie; or, for the technologically inclined, a blank Word document on your personal computer.
  • Divide the page into two columns. Label the left side “pros” and the right side “cons”. Leave room to write. You might come up with a lot of variables as you begin to brainstorm.
  • Finalize precisely what you are debating. In this instance, the chart could be titled “Deb Moving in With Me.”
  • Begin thinking of possible items that will sway your decision one way or another. If you’re doing this in a group setting, ask participants to begin verbalizing some ideas. An example could be “Deb takes really long showers” or “I only have one parking space” or “Deb is a great wingman.”
  • Begin placing each idea into a column. “Deb is great at cooking, so that’s a pro! She could cook for me!” Paraphrasing is perfectly fine at this point. Simply write “Deb good cook” in the “pro” column.
  • Continue thinking of as many items as possible that have a real impact on the decision until you’ve exhausted all thoughts.
  • Remember, some pros and cons carry very different weight. “Deb getting her life back together” in the “pro” column should probably not count equally as “Deb has sharp toenails” in the “con” column. It could be helpful to group some of the smaller items together. “Let’s put ‘sharp toenails’, ‘long nose hairs’, and ‘bad breath’ all together and just say ‘bad hygiene’.”
  • If you have a gut feeling what the right answer is, you may find yourself skewing the results of the list to end in a particular way. This is essentially cheating. But, hey, it’s your life.
  • Tally up the final numbers. Whichever column has the most tallies is the decision you should probably make, no matter how hard. “Well, I do feel bad about this, but there were 20 cons and only 14 pros. It’s clearly in my best interest to tell Deb she can’t move in with me.”


If you really feel bad about your decision, revisit the list a few more times. Ask others to weigh in. The decision is yours. But the list is nonetheless very revealing and should not be taken lightly. Five weeks from now while you’re pulling a wad of Deb’s pubic hairs out of the tub drain, you may wish you’d have stuck with the results of your “pros and cons” list!

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My Hot Take:
Yes, I have made many “pros and cons” lists. I made one when I was debating leaving my last job, considering important items like commute distance, pay, vacation time, job security, and friendships. In the end, the decision to move on to a new job won out thanks to the carefully designed list.

Tough decisions can be made by listing out pros and cons of a matter.

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