By now, if you’ve been keeping up with our series on Active Listening, you should be getting very good at it. And so, you’re ready for an advanced technique called “Probing”, you listening rockstar you! Probing is an approach using hypothetical questions to elicit more conversation related to what the Speaker is communicating. This allows you, as the active listener, to draw them out and get deeper and more meaningful information!
For example, you could ask things like: “What do you think would happen if you. . .?”, “what do you think the worst outcome could be?”, “Do you have other options? What are they?”. In a further refinement of last week’s blog on “emotional labeling”, you can ask the speaker how the feelings of others involved may be impacted.
An allied technique it is important to employ during probing questioning, is called “Validation”. When you get answers to those questions, acknowledge the speaker’s individual problems, issues, and feelings. Above all, listen openly and with empathy. Your speaker should never feel judged or diminished in any way by your reactions or responses to their answers. And, be sure to respond in an engaged and interested way — for example, “I appreciate your willingness to talk about such a difficult issue. . .”, or “I know this isn’t easy to talk about…”.
Finally, always bear in mind that validating a spouses problems, issues and feelings does not mean you are in agreement with them in any or all aspects. That’s why it is so important to retain an objective, yet involved position during these sometimes difficult conversations. After all, being objective and yet deeply and emotionally committed to your spouse is a delicate balancing act. It is also one that we must master in order to continue to show them they are loved, respected and valued, no matter what they may be going through.