Coert Visser recently posted a wonderful video about “scaling questions“, an essential tool in solution-focused practice.
I found out that scaling questions are a very useful tool for thinking through many different situations.
Self-evaluations, for example.
A case in point, drawn from my own personal experience.
Last weekend I had to initiate a difficult conversation with a person I needed to confront.
I was not really happy with the results of the conversation: I came home feeling I should have said more and in a different way. I was pretty disappointed with myself.
Instinctively (professional habits have a way to get into your blood), I started coaching myself: I wondered how I felt about the progress on working out that specific situation on a scale from 0 (no action taken) to 10 (situation totally resolved, ideal solution for me).
I found myself rating my progress at a solid 3, 3-and-a-half.
What was there between 0 and 3? Or, framed it differently, why not 0?
Well, to begin with I took action: I went to confront the person; I did establish a positive relationship; I did mention my concerns; and we agreed on a follow up conversation. Not a bad start!! (writing about it now, I almost feel like upgrading my rating to a 4… :).
Just thinking of “scaling” introduced in my self-evaluation shades of grey and glimmers of hope.
Scaling allowed me to overcome the all-or-nothing bias that so often pervades our thinking.
I also find that scaling is a powerful tool to shift perspectives in conflict situations.
Again, drawing from my own personal experience: the moment I perceive that the other party has actually done something, even a little bit, to take into account my requests or my concerns or my point of view… that is the moment when I can exit the confrontation frame of mind, us vs. them, and engage in more constructive ways. I feel seen. I feel validated.
That is why in my conflict management workshops I introduce scaling as a very powerful tool.
The “us vs. them” frame of mind can be represented on a scale as 0: you did nothing for us, you never listen, and so on.
Being able to see even a 1 can change the dynamics in a very powerful way: it makes us realize that the other party has done something; there is an “exception” to work on; the other party has some positive intentions; the other party sees us, even if only in a very blurred way.
But that single step on the scale can become a solid platform for building a negotiated and mutually satisfying solution.