If you’ve read my about page, then you know I like Star Trek not Star Wars. During my life coaching training, I decided to see if Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) character Deanna Troi asks life coaching questions.
If there’s one thing I learned during a year’s worth of training towards becoming a life coach, it’s that asking a good question at the right time can change a client’s perspective in a heartbeat. And sometimes – just sometimes – Deanna Troi indeed does ask a question that alters perspective.
That said, I think Guinan is better at helping Enterprise crew see different perspectives. Rather than asking “life coachy” questions, though, Guinan tends to tell stories that elicit changes.
What Is A Good Life Coaching Question?
A good life coaching question makes you stop and think. I know I’ve asked a good question when the client can’t respond with a snappy answer.
There’s even a book with hundreds of powerful questions that a life coach might ask – questions like:
- What are some of your core values?
- What kind of structure can you place around yourself to make sure you remember to do that consistently?
- What’s the dream that calls you here?
- What makes this significant to you?
- What would it take for you to get to the bottom of this?
- What does this look like from the other person’s perspective?
These are the kind of questions that aren’t easy to answer. You really do have to pause and reflect before responding. The response can really change your perspective on whatever you happen to be exploring with your coach that day.
And Then I Watched Star Trek
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the entire seven year run of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But then I got obsessed with the whole idea of Deanna Troi asking life coaching questions, and found Chrissie’s Transcript Site that has most TNG scripts.
And THEN I scanned all scripts on the website for questions asked by Deanna Troi.
Why did I do that? Because someone noticed how many roving potted plants there are on TNG, so – why not how many life coaching questions Troi asks?
It’s remarkable how few lines Troi has. On some shows it’s one or two lines, while on others (The Hunted, Season 3) she has many. And there are even fewer scenes in her (decidedly 80s-styled) office.
Let’s get to the questions.
Deanna Troi’s Questions
My excel spreadsheet shows 887 questions. Yes, I did put them into a spreadsheet. How else could I figure out if they were good coaching questions?
319 of those questions are about what I’ll call “outer space problems.” These are topics that your average life coach will never need to ask:
- Is there any indication of temporal displacement?
- Captain, do you exist in combination with this entity?
- Are we at war with the Ferengi yet?
- Did you ever spend time in the nacelle control room while it was under construction?
- How are we going to know whether the pulse reboots Data’s ethical program?
- Hekaras Two is inhabited, isn’t it?
- If we have established that the Romulans were not responsible for the destruction of the Yamato, would it not be prudent to withdraw?
- Mister Tarmin, are all Ullians able to read memories?
- Is there any evidence at all that they’re sentient?
There are around 63 questions that are not even remotely appropriate for a coach to ask:
- Come in for a drink?
- May I join you?
- Wouldn’t you rather be alone with me? With me in your mind?
- Data, have you been in my quarters?
- You don’t remember us falling in love and getting married?
- Can you deal me in?
- Why didn’t we do this a long time ago?
Here are some of the questions that definitely aren’t coaching questions. But then again, maybe they could become coaching questions if they were restructured a bit:
- Memory or nightmare?
- You have no idea who she is?
- Can’t you intensify that emotion?
- Why do you have all this anger toward me?
- Where are you?
- Should I?
- Why should you care whether I trust you or not?
- Why can’t you turn your disadvantage into an advantage? (I really wish the line had been “How can you turn your advantage into a disadvantage?” That would be a great coaching question!)
- Are you ready to cooperate?
- Do you think you’re the only one in pain?
- Do you think you have the monopoly on loss?
Good Coaching Questions, Deanna!
There are more than 300 questions that are ‘good’ coaching questions:
- Captain, if I may recommend? (Here, she’s asking permission to recommend. This is important in coaching.)
- But did we tell them anything they want to hear?
- How did you manage that?
- Now what?
- Mmmm? (This is a good question, I swear. It allows the client to expand on the topic.)
- When was the last attempt made?
- What do you wish you had said?
- Why are you so hard on yourself? (this one’s questionable – it might put the client on the defensive.)
- What do you mean?
- What is it you’re looking for?
- May I make a suggestion?
- What do your feelings tell you?
- Why not?
- May I ask how?
- What have you discovered?
- How are you feeling about this now?
- What is your plan?
- How’s it going?
- What’s wrong?
- How does it feel being with people again?
- Is that what you’ve decided to do?
- If you had to give this feeling a name, what would you call it?
- What’s wrong?
- What were you trying to do?
- What happened next?
- How so?
- May I ask why?
- Is there a solution?
- Do you have any idea why that might be?
- And from these specifics, what general conclusion can you extrapolate?
Did you notice anything about the “good” coaching questions?
They’re all open-ended questions. They all invite the client to continue to add to the train of thought, or expand their perspective. The questions start with What, Who, How.
The questions usually don’t start with the word “why.” In fact, asking “why” puts the coach in an aggressive position, and entices the client to defend themselves.
It’s fairly well known that the writers of Start Trek: The Next Generation didn’t really know what to do with Deanna Troi and her “empathic” abilities; she was there for sex appeal.
Fortunately over seven seasons, the character did grow and change – and even became a bridge officer. Along the way, Deanna Troi also asked some good life coaching questions.