What is probing?

Probing is asking follow-up questions in order to gain more understanding, such as:

  • Can you explain further?
  • Could you put it in another way?
  • Can you please tell me more about that?
  • But why, how, who, when, where?
  • Anything else?

Probing is rather like peeling away the layers of an onion The objective is to move towards the center of the onion This means that by probing the facilitator can get closer to the real reason behind something or gain as much understanding as possible.


Why is probing an important skill for a facilitator and when should it be used?

Probing has many different purposes. It can be used to:

  • Draw people out
  • Clarify questions, inputs and/or opinions,
  • Create dialogue
  • Solve problems


  • Listen actively
  • Build the next question on the understanding of the previous answer
  • Clarify information
  • Single out the problem or main points


  • Judge while listening
  • Jump from one topic or issue to another
  • Make assumptions
  • Lose track by getting bogged down in details or side-tracked

Learning to skillfully probe answers is one of the greatest techniques for discovery.  Remember to listen very closely.  If you master this skill, you are well on your way to becoming a true ‘Guide on the Side’.

Combine probing with paraphrasing to help deepen the dialogue.



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