scalingNote – this article follows on from Solution Focus – How To Use The ‘Miracle Question’

Think about something you want to achieve, or even some (minor) problem that you are currently facing. How would you rate where you are in relation to this issue on a scale of 0-10 – where 0 is the worst it’s ever been, and 10 is how it’s going to be when it’s exactly how you want it?

This seemingly simple question does a number of useful things and opens the door to even more. Let’s have a look in more detail at how it works:

  • Unless the rating is zero, it helps you realise that not everything is bad in the current situation. When we focus on solving a problem, that tends to expand to fill our awareness until all we see is the problem. Rating the problem on a scale helps us to realise that some things are already working, and some components of the solution are already happening.
  • Having a scale implies that it’s possible to move. If we view the current situation as ‘the problem’, and contrast that with our ideal solution, it can seem like there’s no bridge between the two – particularly if we are prone to black and white, either/or thinking. The scale builds a bridge between ‘problem’ and solution – and obviously implies that we can move along it to get closer to the solution.
  • Do you ever give yourself a hard time about not achieving enough? As you know, that will most likely demotivate you. Instead, you can use scaling to remind you of what you have already achieved with this supplementary question:

(given that you are at n on the scale now) How have you got there from n-1?

Or: How do you stop yourself sliding back to n-1?

Notice how these questions acknowledge and validate what you have already been doing to make the solution happen, and provide behavioural reinforcement to your unconscious mind, encouraging it to do more in that direction.

  • You can use scaling to begin to move towards your ideal solution, like this:

(given that you are at n on the scale now) What will be different when you are at n+1?

Notice that the question is not asking ‘How are you going to get there?’ – just ‘What will be different?’. This begins to build an image in your mind of how things will be when they are just a bit closer to how you want them, and what you will be doing differently – a form of mental rehearsal which makes it more likely that you will take action.

Of course, if you are using scaling to coach someone else, you can equally well use these questions to assist them in moving towards their solution. You can also ask, for any action that they tell you they are going to take: ‘On a scale of 0-10, how committed are you?’ For anything they expect to happen: ‘On a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that this will happen?’

Normally I give sources for any research that I quote. Here’s an additional snippet I recall reading somewhere, but the source escapes me – so it’s up to you if you believe it or not: when we assign a numerical rating to a problem, this engages the left hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with more positive emotions. So just by scaling a problem, we may start to feel better about it. If anyone is aware of the research which backs this up, do let me know!

I have learned a lot about scaling from The Solutions Focus: Making Coaching and Change SIMPLE – an excellent book by Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow (US readers order it from here). It’s highly readable and practical, and adapts the solution focused approach from its origins in therapy to coaching, management and organisational change. I’ve reviewed the book here.

Solution Focus (2) – Scaling

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