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The Zero to Ten Question

Here is a very useful technique when talking with people, especialy when talking about their feelings. It is called the "0-10 Question"

For example:

- How ok is it if I... from 0-10? (See also "How OK)

- How ok is it if we ____ from 0-10?

- How much do you feel understood, from 0-10?

- How much do you feel respected by your ____ from 0-10? (boss, teacher, father, boyfriend..etc)

- How are you feeling, from 0-10?

- How worried are you, from 0-10?

Often in society we ask yes or no questions. Many times it would be more helpful to ask these questions in the form of 0-10 questions. We might say asking questions in this way is also more emotionally intelligent, because it gives use more emotional data.


Related Stories

Good, Thanks

How Baik? - An example from Indonesia

How Are You?

Do You Need Your Laptop Today?

Note About Abuse and Depression


Other EQI Topics

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Good Thanks

One time when I was staying with a family in Australia I asked the oldest daughter, Kate, then 13, how she was feeling. Like usual she replied with a big smile, "Good, thanks." I thought she really did feel good, but I wanted to be sure. So I said, "How good from 0-10?" She thought for a moment then said "about 5." I was surprised. I expected 9 or 10 from her enthusiastic reply a minute before. I said, "How come?" She explained she and her sister had a fight and her mother got involved and threw the hairbrush at her. She said they were late for school and everyone was unhappy.

But you would have never known it if you just accepted the answer "Good, thanks."

How Baik - An example from Indonesia

In Indonesia people often greet you by saing, "Apa kabar?" This means "how are you?".

Nearly everyone answers in the same way, nearly every time. They say, "Baik." This means "fine". In a way it is kind of nice, kind of comforting and reassuring, but we all know there is often more that is left unsaid. So one day in a high school where I had been helping the English teachers as a volunteer, I decided to try an experiment.

As usual I asked some students "Apa kabar." As usual they said, "Baik." But this time I said, "How baik, from 0-10?"

They didn't know how to answer this, so the English teacher explained what I meant. Then we got some very interesting answers. There were at least 2 "fives." One student said she had family problems at home. Another said she had financial worries.

Without using the 0-10 scale, none of us would have known about the problems and worries of the two students, and thus, none of us would have been able to offer them our emotional support.

How Are You Feeling?

I often ask my partner, "How are you feeling?" or just "How are you?" Most of the time she will say "I'm ok."

Then I ask, "How ok?" Usually she will give me a number between 0 and 10. This gives me more information about how she is really feeling and brings us a bit closer.


Do You Need Your Laptop Today?

While living in a large house with many housemates, one day I heard someone say to their boyfriend, "Do you need your laptop today?"

My partner and I discussed this question. We talked about why it might be more helpful to say, "How ok is it if I take your laptop with me to the university today?"

My partner said that asking the question this way is more of an invitation to the person to let them discuss the issue and explain their feelings about what is being asked.


Note About Abuse and Depression

If a person has been abused in any way, or suffers from low self-esteem, it may be very hard for that person to say no when asked a yes or no question.

In fact, in general, it is hard for many abused people to tell others how they really feel in an emotionally honest way and what they need. They want to avoid conflicts at all cost. And they don't want to be a burden or cause anyone else problems.

When a person is depressed it means their energy level is low. They feel weak. It is easier to say yes, when that is the response the person asking the question would prefer to hear. It is easier because saying "no" is similar, in a small but significant way, to entering into a battle, and fighting battles takes energy. Therefore, many depressed and/or abused people will say something is ok, when it really isn't, or at least when it is not ok 10 out of 10. Over time, this creates problems.

In our work with depressed pepole, we have found that asking a question in the form of 0-10 seems to make it easier for someone to answer relatively honestly. It changes the potential conflict from one of black or white to shades of grey. It also gives the depressed person more options and thus more control of their reply. It allows them to "fine tune" the response that fits them best at that moment.

If their responses are accepted and validated, it gives them a meaningful boost of energy. With that small energy boost, they may be able to explain their feelings about something which they wouldn't have attempted to do if they had just been asked a yes or no question.







History of the 0-10 Question - S. Hein

A friend helped me learn the value of the 0-10 question this while I was in the process of writing my first book, back in 1996. Before I met this friend, named Lisa, I had been using a 1-10 scale for feelings. Lisa suggested it would be better if the scale started at zero because there would be times when a person felt nothing of the particular emotion.

People from English speaking countries are more used to saying "From 1-10," so when I try to teach the 0-10 system people often replace it with a 1-10. I usually try to show them that it is necessary to say "0-10" with a simple example.

I ask them which they scale they would prefer to use if I asked them how much they hate me. In other words, would they prefer to have a scale of 1-10 or 0-10?

So far, I am happy to report that all of my friends have said they prefer to use a 0-10 scale because they don't hate me at all, so even saying "1" would be too much.







Consider the simple question of "Is it ok if ...."

One day I asked someone who was working for me to do something. He replied, "Is it ok if I check my mail first?" I said yes. But later I realized that it was not totally ok with me. I felt a need for his help right then, not 20 minutes later. By that time, I had already done what I had wanted him to help me with.

I realized it would be much more helpful to ask the question this way, "How ok would it be if I check my mail first." In that case, had he asked it that way, I would probably have said 6. This would imply that it was just barely more ok than not ok. With that more specific information, he might have then decided to help me and check his mail later.


Some people intentionally ask a question that they know is difficult for you to say no to.