In Transactional Analysis, ‘drivers‘ are the behavioural patterns we unconsciously and repeatedly fall back on, particularly in times of stress. They are the elements which drive our behaviour.

As with our script, these patterns are laid down very early in our lives and are shaped by our reactions to the people and events around us. For example, in our early years we may come to the conclusion that ‘I am only okay, if I do things perfectly’.

Then, with reference to strokes (the attention and acknowledgement we seek and need), if we conclude that we are more likely to gain positive strokes when, for example, we do things perfectly, then that is what we strive to do. If that conclusion is reinforced because we actually receive positive strokes for doing things perfectly, then our pattern of behaviour becomes more entrenched.

There are five drivers:

1. Be Perfect

This person can produce high quality work, but can also get lost in detail and waste time in perfecting things unnecessarily. Their high expectations and high standards can cause problems in their work and their relationships.

Practise accepting that mistakes occur and take note of the consequences of imperfect work. The world does not end if things are not perfect.

2. Try Hard

This person will take on all jobs and do their best to complete everything, showing great enthusiasm and motivation during the initial stages. The downside is that he or she may take on too much and not be able to complete anything. Their enthusiasm tends to wane before the end of a task and they become more interested in starting something new. They also have a tendency to overcomplicate tasks. When someone says, ‘I’ll try…’, they are setting themselves up for failure as well as providing a ready-made excuse because, when it doesn’t work out, they can always say, ‘Well, I tried.

Practise seeing tasks through to completion, stop volunteering, and don’t do more than is required of you. ‘Try Hard’ means that the person tries hard but does not actually complete things.

3. Please Others

When given clear instructions on what is expected of them, they can produce excellent results. However, in the absence of clarity they will try to second-guess what other people want. Also, their need for harmony means opportunities for critical feedback and/or healthy confrontation are often avoided.

Practise asking questions instead of guessing what people want. Please yourself more often and know that it’s okay to tell people what you think.

4. Be Strong

These people are very good in a crisis when emotions have to be ‘ignored’, but they often find it difficult to ask for help or support as they see this as a weakness. Others may perceive them as difficult to get to know, and their lack of emotional response may make it hard for others to connect with them.

Practise asking for help, and make time in your schedule for yourself.

5. Hurry Up

This individual does things quickly, which is great when it is required, but can lead to mistakes which end up costing more time and energy to rectify. They are able to achieve a great deal in a short space of time and have an ability to think fast. They often seem impatient and in a rush, which can prevent them from connecting effectively with people.

Practise listening carefully to others and allow them to finish. Plan your work, and relax more.

Generally, we all have aspects of each of the five drivers, but normally display two or three main ones. Mine are 1, 3 and 5. When we identify our drivers we learn more about who we are. When we do the same with other people we gain insight into our environment:

  • How am I likely to react?
  • How is the other person likely to react?
  • Whose help can I enlist to do a perfect job or to do a job quickly?
  • Who will shine when given the chance to serve others?
  • Who do I need to keep my eye on with their workload?
  • Who can I turn to in a crisis?

All these questions, and many more, can be answered when we become aware of our drivers and those of others. It leads to more effective and more harmonious teamwork, as well as providing the foundations for personal growth.

With these and other tools, we can understand our behaviour. Understand who we are. Do this and we automatically create the possibility for growth. And when done with the support and awareness of others it becomes powerfully effective.

Related post: Training Day: Games & Drivers

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