The person who is questioning always takes control of a conversation.   

Probing is the skill of asking important questions, which is essential in consulting, selling, negotiating, problem-solving and managing conflicts. All great solutions have emerged from asking quality questions at the right time. The persuasive power of probing consistently aids in problem-solving and making informed decisions.

What does the term probe mean?

  • To open or examine wounds or other body parts using hands or a blunt instrument.  
  • A hand-held tool connected to a thermometer or other devices to measure any material’s temperature or other attributes.
  • Asking the right questions during an investigation to uncover the truth.

The word probe is derived from the Latin word probare meaning to test and in late Latin proba which means proof.

To test or to prove a concept we need information. To learn and to know the required information, we need to ask the right questions. To ask the right questions we need to learn the art of probing.

Art of Probing

Effective probing is the key to positive outcomes in all our interactions.  Consider the following questions:

  • Would you like a job interviewer who sells the role but does not want to know about your skills?
  • Would you prefer a doctor who treats you without diagnosing, by asking questions about your symptoms?
  • Would you like a salesman who boasts about their products and services and does not understand your needs?
  • Would you prefer a counsellor who advises and does not investigate?
  • Would you like to make decisions without researching by asking others and yourself for opinions and feelings?
  • Would you want to believe in something without clarifying by asking questions?
  • Would you get the right response in Generative AI the likes of ChatGPT without the right prompt?

It is obvious that the response to all the questions above would be negative which tells us the prominence of probing as a skill.

If you have observed, I have asked too many questions in this blog. Well, questions help in engaging with your audience. Astute questioning can foster divergent thinking, leading to creative ideas and innovation. A single question can alter the direction of your conversation, potentially leading to either a favourable or unfavourable outcome.

So, getting acquainted with probing skills is crucial across roles, at all levels, from being an individual contributor to senior management positions. The good news is that we can develop probing skills through training and continuous practice.  

Whether you are a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, or any profession you are in, it would be helpful to undergo training in probing skills.

The Persuasive Power Probing – A quick video

Different types of questions

It would be helpful to understand the type of questions that would be appropriate to ask, based on the scenario and the purpose of interaction. While interviewing, it is better to ask Competency-based questions than Hypothetical questions. While consulting or selling, it is better to ask a few problem questions than a lot of situation questions. When coaching, ask more Divergent questions.

During an interview ask more Competency-Based Questions

If you are facing an irate customer, what will you do? (Hypothetical question)

In your current role, give me an instance where you have managed a difficult customer and what was the outcome? (Competency-Based Question)

While consulting or selling ask more Problem Questions

How long have you been working on this project? What is the overall budget of this project? What does the future of your organization’s digital landscape look like? (Situation Questions)

Do you find it difficult to reach out to your customers? Do you have challenges with the security of your digital infrastructure? (Problem Questions)

While coaching, ask more Divergent Questions

What is another way of looking at this? What are some of the possibilities for increasing our customer base? What different strategies can we use to resolve this issue? (Divergent Questions)

There are many types of questions, open questions, closed questions, high-gain questions, leading questions, evaluation questions, convergent questions etc. Getting to understand all these types of questions and their usage can help us structure our conversation to get the desired result.

It is important to practice asking questions wherever possible and observe the outcome of each question.

One can then script and document the good questions that have given good results. Then eventually a database of good questions can be built and referred to as a ready reckoner.  It is the best ammunition that you can have for all your meetings.


Remember, questioning and listening are the two main pillars of consulting. Questioning supports and reinforces listening and vice versa. When you are solving problems for your customers, it would be advisable to lean on these two pillars for better results. Ask those good questions, listen for great answers and then build your robust solutions.

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