How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
When questioning someone, you may want at times to get into deeper detail about some particular issue or problem.
For example the other person may have indicated that they cannot make a decision today. This could be because they have an objection or simply that there is more information for you to discover, such as the process by which they make decisions.
Before you start probing, you must spot the signals they are sending that there is more here than meets the immediate eye. Things to look for include:
What we say is often severely abbreviated from what we intend or think. We censor our thoughts or assume that things are already known. This can come out in vague words or statements that signal that there is more here.
For example if they say "I don't know" may indicate uncertainty or doubt. What don't they know? How did they get to 'not knowing'?
The other person may well have made decisions which imply an evaluation or judgment of some kind. Either they or someone else has made a decision which can be surfaced and explored for weaknesses.
For example, if a person says "that wouldn't work", then you could explore who decided this.
Initially, you may have heard some brief comment or two that made you realize that there is more here to discover.
Use searching questions
Who? When? What? Where? Why? How? are all probing questions that can help you dig down into further detail. Using these powerful questions is covered in further detail at the 5W1H page.
A simple way of eliciting further information is just to repeat the key phrases they used about which you want more information.
Them: Afterwards, he whispered to me and I wasn't sure what
A non-verbal probe can also be used, for example by raising your eyebrows and tilting your head. This shows you are interested in a particular point and they may give you more detail without you having to say anything.
Make it easy
Make it easy for them to answer. Be nice. Be casual.
Slip the questions in without them noticing. For example you can use assumption in questions to suggest that the problem already exists. You should also beware of 'leading the witness'.
The Columbo Technique may also be used to put them at their ease and then elicit the answer you want without them realizing they have been probed.