Probing questions are just like they sound: they are designed to probe, examine, investigate deeper into the matter you’re talking about. Now we’re not saying that probing questions are an interrogation; it’s about helping someone find the answers that will help them approach a problem or a situation differently. Probing questions will allow the client to consider different possibilities and perspectives and those, my dear, will frankly get them out of their own damn way.
Put on the boots (not the caiman crocodile distressed cowboy boot ones) because it is going to get deep. Probing questions is also a great way to build rapport with your client.
Probing questions (as opposed to a clarifying question or a behavioral question) are all about getting your clients to think more deeply.
A side note….probing questions do fall under the category of powerful questions. However not all-powerful questions are probing.
Here are some examples of probing questions:
*What benchmarks did you use to come up with hiring a psychic to plan your retirement?
* What was the thought process you used to conclude that Jimmy Hoffa was buried at Giant Stadium?
* What’s your gut telling you about the 16 empty Twinkie wrappers in the nightstand by your bed?
* What do you think the connection is between joining the circus and your fear of clowns?
* What were the differences between six of one and half a dozen of the other?
* What would have to change for you to did actually embrace Sudoku?
Now obviously these were written after an 11 hour day of work so they were meant to be a bit funny since we were feeling kinda punchy….but you get the drift!
These questions are extremely helpful in expanding on a topic, fabulous for getting to what’s not being said, and getting to the thing behind the thing behind the thing. Take a dive – this is the deep end of the pool.
As a coach – if you are skating on the surface – the client will not find the 2% ah-ha that is required to create shift (not calculated formula).
Probing questions are like looking under the covers (which, btw, doesn’t always feel so great if there are 16 empty Twinkie wrappers by the nightstand.)
So some things to contemplate…
- If you are inserting your own agenda, leading or asking the “right: question – well sorry, my well meaning coaching friend – that would not be probing let alone coaching.· Make sure that you are probing on the right topic – and that topic would be whatever you set in the Coaching Agreement. Are you staying connected to where the client wants to focus?
- Ask several levels down. What we mean is let’s say your client says they want to work out and get healthy. Ask: “What makes that important?” Wait for answer then ask: “And what makes that important?” Wait for answer: “And what makes that important?” You get the gist.
- Think about asking questions with verbs…fear, assume, expect, thinking, etc.Here are some question starters for probing questions. Some of the question starters come from Charlotte Danielson’s Pathwise work, in which she refers to them as “meditational questions.”
* What do you think is driving…?
* What would have to change in order for…?
* What do you feel is right in your heart?
* What do you wish…?
* What’s another way you might…?
* What would it look like if…?
* What do you think would happen if…?
* How was…different from…?
* What sort of an impact do you think…?
* What criteria did you use to…?
* When have you done/experienced something like this before?
* What might you see happening in your classroom if…?
* How did you decide/determine/conclude…?
* What is your hunch about ….?
* What was your intention when ….?
* What do you assume to be true about ….?
* What is the connection between…and…?
* What if the opposite were true? Then what?
* How might your assumptions about…have influenced how you are thinking about…?
* What makes this a dilemma for you?
There is a real art to questioning and whether your style is Monet, Warhol, or Dali – it is about helping your client create a 2% shift in perspective that is going give them the awareness, results, and ah-h’s needed to make a real, bonafide change.
Next week in the last of our four part series we’ll be sharing the art of the start…the first word of a question makes a big difference.