Are you perfect?

During a recent coaching session a client began talking about her need to be perfect, although she didn’t actually use those words. This led us onto a helpful discussion of the drivers of Transactional Analysis; I thought it might be of interest to you to try and work out whether you are a ‘be perfect’ woman too!

The Books

Hundreds of books have been written on this topic and when one of the first came out in 1969 (Games People Play, still available through Amazon)it was hugely popular and was one of the first ‘pop psychology’ books readily available today.

Simply put, it’s a theory about personality, how we communicate, and how that evolves from our childhood experiences. It can be really helpful in personal development and I often use bits of it when coaching or in my seminars. But it is only a theory so if it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine.


There are several parts to Transactional Analysis (or T.A. as it is commonly known) but I am focusing particularly on Drivers. Transactional Analysis research has identified five drivers (or more simply, working styles); these can be thought of as ways in which people are sometimes motivated to behave.

The Drivers are:
Hurry Up,
Be Strong,
Please People,
Be Perfect
Try Hard

Most of us will notice a preference for some drivers more than others. There are varying interpretations but usually one is a stronger driver of our behaviour that others, sometimes two, and will be related to messages we received in childhood from significant adults in our life.
Below is what they mean. See if you can identify which might be yours from the brief descriptions! But don’t take it too seriously. Any theory is only any good if it actually helps you discover something helpful about yourself and there is masses more information on this topic. Your driver is most likely to show itself when you are feeling anxious, so if you can recognise what is happening you can take steps to do something about it and manage your anxieties a little better!

Hurry Up

The message is “I’m only OK if I hurry up”.
Individuals with a strong hurry up driver will value speed. The catch is that they will rush things and be prone to starting without thinking through consequences. Hurry up people will use words like “No time to lose”, Let’s get going”, “Come on”. Their tone of voice may be rushed with words getting scrambled, and they may be delivered in a staccato like fashion accompanied by foot tapping, checking of watch etc.

Be Strong

The message is “I’m only OK if I’m strong”.
Individuals with a tendency to a ‘Be Strong’ driver will take control in a crisis not allowing emotion to get in the way. The catch being they will perceive sharing or needing support as a weakness. Phrases like “The thought strikes me that…” Distancing words like ‘one’ or ‘people’ are used when maybe they mean ‘I’. There is usually little in the way of facial or body expression and the tone can be flat. Body posture will be ‘closed’.

Please People

The message is “I’m only OK if I please people”.
Individuals with a strong please people driver will get on with others. The catch is you can’t please all the people all the time. People with a strong please people driver will often avoid confrontation which is essential in a healthy relationship. Please others language includes lots of querying words and phrases like “Alright by you?” “It’s kind of…” “Sort of…” and their voice may rise at the end of each sentence. There will be lots of head nodding, reaching out of hands, usually palms up, and smiling. Unlike a non driver smile, the smile will be tense when in ‘please others’ mode.

Be Perfect

The message is “I’m only OK if I’m perfect”.
Individuals with a strong ‘be perfect driver’ will put effort into getting it perfect. The catch is that some things will never be perfect and these individuals will struggle to compromise. They may adopt the traditional thinking pose in gestures, like stroking their chin, counting points off on their fingers as they speak. Their tone of voice is usually neither high nor low but well modulated and adult sounding. They may often look upwards while speaking as if seeking the perfect answer somewhere on the ceiling.

Try Hard

The message is “I’m only OK if I try hard”.
Individuals with a strong try hard will tend to put in a lot effort and have a lot going on. The catch is that they will take on too much and have a tendency to fail to recognise opportunities to work smarter instead of harder. Their language will often make frequent use of the word try. “What I’m trying to tell you is…” “I will try and do that” What they are saying is “I’ll try to do that “rather than “I will do that”. They may tense their throat so they sound slightly muffled. Their body language is generally hunched, leaning forward with a crumpled face.

More Than Meets the Eye

I hope you’ve found it interesting to speculate on your driver but do remember there is no one single reliable indicator. Just because someone uses the phrase “I’ll try” doesn’t mean they have a try hard driver!

And if you’d like to find to find out more, and work directly with me, click here now!


Posted on August 25th, 2009 by

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