Probe Challenges

What You'll Learn
  • Understanding why probing may not be working
  • Strategies to overcome probing challenges

What if Probing isn’t working?Caution tape

“Why” and “Why not” can feel like an attack.

How else can we ask Why to engage rather than interrogate? Four approaches:

1. Direct the question to the circumstance and NOT the person

Perceived attack: Why do you, Why did you, Why can’t you…All about the person

Rephrase: Ask “Why” about the situation rather than the person


  • Why are the invoices being paid so late?
  • Why is low volume penalized when the whole market is suffering?

2. Give context to your “Why” question

Perceived attack: Why does Engineering want to be paid for a prototype?

Rephrase: Add context with facts and circumstances that are the unspoken basis of your inquiry


  • Given that we haven’t paid for prototypes in the past, and do such a large volume of business with you, why is the Engineering group asking for payment for this prototype?
  • We understand the supply base has consolidated and there are fewer players, but one would think that would allow for cost reductions. Help me understand why you are increasing prices?

3. Use language that demonstrates your sincere curiosity & empathy


  • Help me understand why…
  • Can you tell me more about why….
  • It sounds like you don’t trust the simulation. Is there something I don’t know?
  • Can you share why this is important or who this is important to that might help me better understand the need?
  • If we were able to do this, what would you do with the prototype?
  • If I knew more about the reason behind your request, I’d have a more fruitful discussion with my team

4. Intermix or rephrase with other open-ended questions - What, How, Who

You want to ask: Why is this important to you?

Ask instead: What makes this important to you?

Other Examples:

  • How can we overcome this challenge?
  • Who else has ideas on this?
  • Where have you seen this work?

Still no response to your Why question? What do you think is wrong?

  • There hasn’t yet been sufficient rapport/bonding – no trust
  • They aren’t allowed to say or don’t feel authorized to reveal
  • They fear the reason will curtail their leverage
  • They are difficult to deal with
  • They like the feeling of being a powerful customer/supplier/Stakeholders
  • They don’t need you – so not negotiating in good faith



If You Like This Content, You’ll Love Our Training Workshops

We provide in-person and virtual training workshops to companies, government agencies, universities, and other organizations. The content of this Learning Center is a small sample of what we deliver to your teams during our live interactive classes.

To learn more, send us a note and we will be in touch soon!