Active listening – Activity 2

Clarifying questions versus probing questions

Activity type:
Experiential exercise

Learning goals:
This exercise aims to make practitioners tell the difference between probing and clarifying questions and see in practice how these questions act as motivators for the client to talk about events and feelings that a person wouldn’t feel at ease expressing. With these the client becomes capable of defining the causes of a problem and finding solutions to it or solving a life dilemma because he is made to think deeply over difficult issues with more precision and clarity.

The activity can be done individually, but it works better in groups. The trainees can categorize the type of questions alone or in small groups and then come back in one group to reflect upon their experience over the activity.

30 minutes

Material needed:
The list of questions (online form)


In the following exercise choose if the question is clarifying* or if it is probing**.

*Clarifying questions are simple questions of fact. They clarify the problem or dilemma. They have brief factual answers and do not provide food for thought to the user. One can tell the difference between a clarifying and a probing question because to answer a clarifying question the client does not have to think beforehand.

**Probing questions are open-ended questions which intend to make the client think more deeply about the issue at hand. If a probing question does not have that effect, it can be considered an inferred piece of advice by the practitioner or a recommendation: for example: Don’t you think you should…

A good probing question should allow for multiple responses, empower the client to solve the problem or dilemma and stimulate reflective thinking.
click the right answer. choose among Probing (P) and Clarifying (C) answers. Can be done with Forms questionary.

Questions for reflection:

  • How easy was this activity?
  • Did you have any difficulties in distinguishing between probing and clarifying questions?
  • What did you learn?